Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Helen Hornberger  Search this
Copper, oil paint
Overall: 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm)
Stem: 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm)
Flower: 5 1/2 in. (14 cm)
Artificial flowers and trees
United States
Artist, Helen Hornberger, revived the techniques of French tole to create naturalistic representations of the state flowers. The artist used thin copper sheets as her base, and painted them with oil paint in the natural colors of the blossoms and leaves of Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum). There are two clusters of white berries nestled among the squat, cupped leaves.
Label Text:
The Congress of Representative Women at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago proposed that each U.S. state and territory select a flower to represent their state in the “National Garland of Flowers.” This resulted in the National Floral Emblem Society. Each state has adopted to represent the state and its people based on their importance to the state’s history, economy, folklore, or native varieties. Tole artist Helen Hornberger created each artificial flower representing each state to create for a bouquet displaying America’s floral diversity.
OKLAHOMA: Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum) was designated the official state floral emblem in 1893. It is one of the oldest of Oklahoma’s symbols because it was adopted 14 years before its statehood. Their selection was prompted by the “National Garland of Flowers” that was to appear at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. It is believed that Mistletoe was selected because its evergreen leaves were symbolic of the perseverance of the early settlers. There were objections to the selection because the plant is parasitic, attaching itself to trees and draining their water and nutrients. Despite this it was chosen as the floral emblem. Mistletoe is very common in southern Oklahoma. Its green leaves and white berries show up brightly during the otherwise dull fall and winter months, when the deciduous trees have shed their own leaves. Objections to the parasitic Mistletoe continued over the years, particularly by the garden clubs who wanted a state flower they could grow in their home gardens. To pacify the people the Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) was designated the as the official state wildflower in 1986. However, many were still unsatisfied, and the Oklahoma Rose (Rosa ‘Oklahoma’) was designated the official state flower in 2004. Mistletoe remains the official state floral emblem.
copper  Search this
tôle  Search this
Artificial flowers  Search this
crafts  Search this
emblems (symbols)  Search this
flowers (plants)  Search this
Oklahoma  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Helen Hornberger.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens