This is a short guest post by Dr Peter Bernhardt who recently retired as a professor at St Louis University and continues to be active in pollination biology.
Each of the 50 American states has its own flag. On Election Day in November 2020 the citizens of the state of Mississippi will vote on whether they want a new flag featuring the flower of their state tree, the southern magnolia or bull bay (Magnolia grandiflora). Of the eight Magnolia species native to the continental United States six have natural distributions including the state of Mississippi.
By voting in the magnolia flag Mississippians drop its 126-year old predecessor, which incorporated an emblem (the stainless banner) adopted by southern states during the American Civil War (1861-1865). This will also mean that Mississippi will be the only state with a flag depicting a flower in which tepals, stamens and carpels are all arranged in a continuous spiral and is pollinated by beetles (see Leonard Thien’s study published in 1974).
The popularity of M. grandifora far exceeds silviculture in the American south as successful exports stretch over two centuries and its cultigens are found as far as China and Australia.
Politics in America have turned floral in the last months of 2020: kamala, as in vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, is an Indian word for sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera).
To which Jeff adds: the flag above is the one that Mississippi citizens will be voting on – follow the link at the start to get the full story of the competition that was run to select a new flag.