February 14, 2001
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?
The Angie Debo Papers are held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives.
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