|Branches and cones of a white pine.|
Maine is a US state located in the country's New England region. The state covers an area of 35,386 sq mi and has a population of approximately 1.3 million, ranking as the country's 12th smallest state by area and the 9th least populous. Maine was incorporated into the Union on March 15, 1820, as the 23rd US state. The state is bordered by New Hampshire and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick. Maine has several official state symbols, including a state animal (moose), berry (blueberry), cat (Maine Coon cat), fish (landlocked salmon), insect (honey bee), and bird (black-capped chickadee). Nicknamed "The Pine Tree State," the official state flower of Maine is the white pine cone and tassel.
Selection of the State Flower
Maine is the only US state with a state flower that is not actually a flower. The state's official flower is the white pine cone and tassel, which comes from the eastern white pine tree. Named as Maine’s official floral emblem in 1985, the selection of a state flower was inspired by the "National Garland of Flowers," an exhibit in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, which invited states to choose a flower for inclusion. After the fair, residents of Maine were asked to vote on a state flower based on three options: the white pine cone and tassel, apple blossom, and goldenrod. Although the white pine cone and tassel is not an actual flower, it was the obvious choice for Maine, given its role and history in the state.
Eastern White Pine
Botanically, the white pine cone and tassel is not a flower, but rather a gymnosperm, as it does not have true flowers. Classified under the family Pinaceae, the white pine cone and tassel comes from the eastern white pine, which is Maine’s official state tree. The white pine cone and tassel blooms in spring, but is not ornamentally significant. The cone has staminate flowers held in clusters of green and blue needles. Male flowers are about 8 mm long and are located at the base of new shoots and older lateral branches in the lower crown, while female flowers are located on the upper crown. The cones are brown and slender, and grow alongside needles at the end of branches. Male flowers or cones fall off almost immediately after pollination, while female cones take months or even years to fully mature and fall. The cones have a fragrant gummy resin and contain thin scales that rarely prick.
Significance of the Maine State Flower
The Eastern white pine is a conifer plant that grows abundantly across Maine and has historically been associated with the state’s lumber industry. The tree has long dominated the state’s landscape, from the thick inland wilderness to its rocky seacoast. Wood from the white pine tree has been a major source of the state’s economic growth since the 1600s, and its uses included shipbuilding, wagons, flooring, furniture, and fences. The tree is also used in Maine for reforestation and landscaping. Tree trunks of the white pine were also used to make ship masts during the colonial period.
By Sophy Owuor
•culled from www.worldatlas.com