The state flower of New Jersey, one of the states that comprise the United States of America, is the common blue violet, which is known scientifically as Viola sororia. Belonging to the genus of flowering plants in the Violaceae family known as Viola, the common blue violet is native to the eastern part of North America, where New Jersey is located. The state flower of New Jersey has several alternate names, which include common meadow violet, hooded violet, purple violet, wood violet and woolly blue violet.
Long before New Jersey became the third state of the Union on 18 December 1787, the inhabitants of the area relied on the common blue violet for sustenance and medicinal purposes. The flower itself, plus the leaves and possibly the roots, can be eaten. The Cherokee, who formerly lived in the southeastern United States, used the plant to cure their headaches and colds. Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz, an early 19th-century American polymath of French and German descent, recorded in his book, Medical Flora, a Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, that some people used the violet to treat constipation, coughs and sore throats. The state flower of New Jersey is best known today, however, as a decorator of lawns and gardens.
The journey of the common blue violet to become the state flower of New Jersey began in 1913. The state legislature put forward a resolution to designate it as such that year. The force of resolution, however, ended when the legislative session for 1914 began; this halted any action on making the flower one of the state’s official symbols. Another attempt was made in 1963, but it also ultimately failed.
In the meantime, garden clubs in New Jersey had taken a liking to the common blue violet, and they pushed to enact legislation regarding its status as the state flower of New Jersey. This was finally accomplished in 1971. Ironically, the common blue violet is no longer widely used in lawns, fields and gardens in the state.
New Jersey is not the only state in the United States that has officially adopted the violet as its official flower. Wisconsin preceded New Jersey in making the flower an official symbol as early as 1909. Illinois had made the Viola sororia its state flower the year before that. Schoolchildren in Rhode Island voted for the common blue violet as the state flower in 1897, but it was not until 1968 that this became official.