USA Official State Flower Official Massachusetts State Flower


trailing arbutus

(Epigaea repens)
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 pink.
  • 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, evergreen, hemicryptophyte, subshrubs, autotrophic, monoclinous, with adventitious roots and with fibrous roots, 0.02-0.4 m tall, with rhizomes.
  • 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 and Florida.
  • Part used: The leaves, gathered at flowering time.
Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta ? Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta ? Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida ? Dicotyledons
Subclass Dilleniidae ?
Order Ericales ?
Family Ericaceae ? Heath family
Genus Epigaea L. ? trailing arbutus
Species Epigaea repens L. ? trailing arbutus