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Mistletoe

February 14, 2001

Historian's Notes

This segment came about in an odd way. I was really stuck for a topic and, as usual when I'm in such a predicament, I went searching through the Angie Debo Papers. This mistletoe topic struck me as being interesting. I never knew why such an undesirable, parasitic plant was chosen as our State's official flower. Now I do and it makes perfect sense. I searched around online and found the rest of our "official" state list. For the official state soil, I was in a bit of a quandary. I found both "Fort Sill" Loam and "Port Silt" Loam. Anyone out there know for sure?

Resources

The Angie Debo Papers are held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives.

Almanac Transcript

Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you to the Oklahoma Audio Almanac where we turn the pages of history to bring you the stories of our state's past.

Ah! the Mistletoe, poisonous and parasitic, catalyst of many an unwanted holiday kiss. These are the qualities that come to mind when most people think of mistletoe, but it was in this week of 1893 that the second legislative assembly passed a law making the Mistletoe the official floral emblem of Oklahoma territory. Why, such an odd plant was chosen as a symbol for the area is easy to understand when the history behind the choice is explored.

For the participants in the land run of 1889, the first of the Oklahoma land openings, the winter months proved bleak and barren with the landscape being one dull pallet of beige and brown. Mistletoe with its bright green leaves and white waxy berries not only provided chromatic relief but was used extensively for holiday decorating. Perhaps more dear to the settlers was the use of the Mistletoe for decorating fall and winter grave sites. The bright green and white provided for the pioneers a cheery contrast to their brown deadened surroundings.

Despite its appeal to the settlers of central Oklahoma, in 1893 the Mistletoe was little known in other portions of the territory. At the same time in Indian Territory, the eastern half of what is now Oklahoma, a great fight was under-way to prevent the unification of the two separate territories. Indian Territory leaders and most of the residents of eastern Oklahoma wished to remain an independent state and saw in the Oklahoma Territories adoption of the Mistletoe a symbolic gesture. The Mistletoe, Indian Territory leaders claimed, is a parasite that lives off of other living organisms, how appropriate, they thought, that Oklahoma Territory which feeds off of Indian lands should claim the Mistletoe as its symbol. The complaints and cryptic symbolism imparted by Indian Territory mattered little to the separate Oklahoma Assembly, and on February 11th 1893 the Mistletoe with few complications became the territory's and soon the state’s official flower.

The Mistletoe as official flower was soon joined by other official state symbols, the Scissor tail Flycatcher as the state bird, the Redbud as the state tree, Chicken Fried Steak as the state food, and Fort Sill Loam as the official state dirt.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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