Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Helen Hornberger  Search this
Copper, oil paint
Overall: 16 in. (40.6 cm)
Stem: 11 in. (27.9 cm)
Flower: 5 in. (12.7 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 the Yucca Plant’s flower (Yucca glauca). Six bell-shaped blooms with white star formations in their centers attach to a kinked stem with brown nodes. The artist signed vertically at the midpoint of the stem.
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.
NEW MEXICO: The blossom of the Yucca Plant (Yucca glauca) was designated the official state flower of New Mexico on March 14, 1927. This flower was selected by the state’s school children after a recommendation by the New Mexico Federation of Women’s Clubs. The Yucca Blossom was a favorite because of its connection to the state and because it is a symbol of sturdiness, as well as beauty. Early settlers to New Mexico called them “Lamparas de Dios” or “Lamps of the Lord” because they would catch the desert moonlight and seem to shine at night. Yuccas were also very useful to settlers. Many Yuccas have edible parts such as fruits and seeds and sometimes the flowers, stems, and roots. The roots of Yucca glauca or Soapweed Yucca and the Yucca elata or Soaptree Yucca was an excellent substitute for soap and shampoo. It was also desirable for starting fires because dried Yucca wood has the lowest ignition temperature of any wood. The Yucca is a member of the Lily family and consists of 40-50 different species of perennials, shrubs, and trees, but the state does not specify a particular one. While species do differ, Yucca plants share tough, spiky evergreen leaves that fan out from the plant’s center. In early summer the Yucca Flowers bloom in clusters of ivory blossoms atop towering, fibrous stalks that reaches 30 feet in height. The bell-shaped blossoms of the Yucca Flower give off a sweet, delicate fragrance that attracts their only pollinator, the Yucca Moth. The Yucca Flower grows in abundance on the plains and deserts of New Mexico, and stand out again the open arid landscape. Yuccas are also native to the hot and dry parts of North and Central America, as well as the West Indies.
Hornberger signed verically at the midpoint of the stem
copper  Search this
tôle  Search this
Artificial flowers  Search this
crafts  Search this
emblems (symbols)  Search this
flowers (plants)  Search this
New Mexico  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