Adopted on May 1, 1918
The Mayflower, Epigaea regens,
also commonly known as the ground laurel
or trailing arbutus, has ovate hairy
leaves and fragrant, pink or white,
spring-blooming flowers with five
petals. It grows in woods, preferring
sandy or rocky soil, under or near
evergreens. It was adopted as the
official flower of the Commonwealth by
the General Court on May 1, 1918.
Unfortunately, since 1925 it has been on
the endangered list.
The mayflower, or trailing arbutus, was favored for adoption as
Massachusetts' state flower at least as
early as 1893. Two previous bills were
introduced and defeated prior to 1918,
when Representative Myles A. O'Brien,
Jr. introduced the third mayflower bill.
Consequently another bill was introduced
to designate the water lily. Other
flowers were then also proposed.
With this turn of events, the Department
of Agriculture given the responsiblity
for selecting the state flower.
Unwilling to do, they passed it on the
State Board of Education.
So, Massachusetts school children were
given the chance to vote for their
favorite state flower. The mayflower won
with 107,617 votes, and the water lily
was second with 49,499 votes.
It was adopted as the official flower
of the Commonwealth by the General Court
on May 1, 1918. Unfortunately, since
1925 it has been on the endangered list.
Mayflower -- Named by the Pilgrims
"who saw in the rise of the new leaves
over the brown of last year's foliage a
parallel to their own rise over great
hardship." (Hussey, 1974).
- Other common names:
Gravel plant, Mayflower, shadflower,
ground laurel, mountain pink, winter
- Description: This plant,
generally referred to in the drug
trade as gravel plant but more
popularly known as
''trailing-arbutus" spreads on the
ground with stem 6 feet or more in
length. It's native, perennial,
subshrubs, autotrophic, monoclinous,
with adventitious roots and with
fibrous roots, 0.02-0.4 m tall, with
- Flowers: The flower
clusters, which appear from March to
May, consist of fragrant, delicate,
shell pink, waxy blossoms. They
formed on short shoots, monomorphic,
with sepals and petals readily
distinguishable from one another,
unisexual, flowers red or white or
light red, 0.6-1.4 mm long, 3-5
flowers per inflorescence.
- Leaves: It has
rust-colored, hairy twigs bearing
leathery, evergreen leaves from 1 to
3 inches long and about half as
wide. Alternate, 1 per node, spaced
evenly along stem; petiolate,
petiole 0.4-3(-5) cm long, hairs
short and unbranched, erect.
- Fruits: Purple, about the
size of a large pea. Fruits ripen
four to six weeks after pollination.
When ripe, the fruit splits open and
ejects most of the seeds, which are
embedded in a sweet, sticky pulp.
Ants gather the nutritious pulp and
carry it back to their nest. The
ants eat the pulp but discard the
seeds in their underground chambers,
which provide ideal conditions for
the seeds to germinate and grow.
This is a classic example of
mutualism, in which both the ants
and the trailing arbutus benefit
from each other's actions.
- Habitat and range:
Trailing- arbutus spread out on the
ground in sandy soil, being found
from Newfoundland to Michigan and
Saskatchewan and south to Kentucky
- Part used: The leaves,
gathered at flowering time.
||Plantae -- Plants
||Spermatophyta – Seed
||Ericaceae – Heath family
||Epigaea L. –
Epigaea repens L. –