The state flower of Georgia is the Cherokee rose, or Rosa laevigata. The flower grows on an evergreen climbing shrub with many glossy leaves. It originated in China, but has long been found in gardens throughout the state of Georgia. The Cherokee rose is also tied to the history of Georgia and the Cherokee Indians for whom the flower is named. It has been the state flower of Georgia for many years and is a treasured part of the culture of the state.
The Cherokee rose is a small white flower with a yellow center that grows surrounded by thick thorns and leaves. It can grow as a mounded shrub or a climbing plant that will cover fences or trellises. It is a hardy plant that once established will continue to grow for a very long time and can survive drought conditions. The blooms appear in spring but, on very hardy plants, may bloom again closer to the fall. The shrub has its origins in China but became a common sight in gardens in the United States during the early 1700s.
The state flower of Georgia got its name from the Cherokee Indians who lived in the area and were known for distributing the flower. The Cherokee rose is also tied to the story of "The Trail of Tears," the name for the forced migration of the Cherokee out of Georgia and onto designated reservations. The trail was so named because of the tears that the Cherokee women were said to have shed along the way, giving rise to the legend that a Cherokee rose sprouted along the trail for each tear that was shed. The Cherokee believed that these flowers were a gift in response to their prayers asking for a sign of hope. In 2011, Cherokee roses still grow along this historic trail and are remembered as part of the story of the Cherokee people.
The Cherokee rose was designated the state flower of Georgia in 1916 and was supported by the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs as the favorite choice. There are numerous businesses in the state that use the Cherokee rose as part of their slogan, name, or logo. Its name and likeness are also used for many cultural events in the state including pageants, festivals, and contests. The plant is fast-growing and is abundant in gardens and landscaped areas all across the state, just as it has been since it was first introduced to the area.