USA Official State Flower Official Ohio State Flower

Scarlet Carnation

(Dianthus caryophyllus)
Adopted in February 3, 1904.

The red carnation, Dianthus caryophyllus, was adopted as Ohio's state flower on February 3, 1904 in memory of President William McKinley, who always wore a red carnation in his lapel.

Native to Eurasia, first being mentioned in use in garlands by classical Greeks and Romans. The flower was named for the Greek dios refering to the god Zeus, and anthos meaning flower, refering to the "flower of the gods".

Originally beginning on Long Island in this country in 1852 with imported French carnations, the industry was centered in the Northeast until the middle of this century.

Dr. Levi L. Lamborn was one of the prominent residents of Alliance. One day he was eager to reveal the first carnation to bloom in America to his close friend and political opponent, William McKinley. Being an amateur horticulturist, and also a physician and politician, Dr. Lamborn had successfully propagated one of the six carnation seedlings he had imported from France. He was very excited and proud of this beautiful scarlet carnation and later aptly named it the "Lamborn Red" carnation.

On noting how impressed William McKinley was with this scarlet flower, it is reported that Dr. Lamborn removed the fragrant blossom from the its stem and placed it in his friend's lapel. From that day forward, McKinley was a devoted enthusiast of carnations. When William McKinley became the twenty-fifth President of the United States on November 3, 1896, he proudly wore a "Lamborn Red" carnation in his lapel.

In September of 1901 while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, President McKinley was again wearing his favorite scarlet carnation in his lapel. It was there that he would give a shy young girl his very last "Lamborn Red" boutonniere. For as history records, it was also there just seconds later that President William McKinley was shot by an assassin's bullet and later died.

It wasn't until after President McKinley's death that the Ohio General Assembly passed a joint resolution on February 3, 1904, naming the scarlet carnation the official Ohio floral emblem. Fifty-five years later, on April 8, 1959, the Ohio Legislature named Alliance, Ohio the "Carnation City, for truly it is the home of Ohio's State flower.

  • Flowers: Generally terminal to 2-3" across, double, most colors or where colors don't exist (green, blue, black) white flowers are dyed often to create bicolors (tinted) with different colored petal edges; most popular are red, pink, white; strongly fragrant
  • Harvest: When still tight or barely open, life is related to sugar (carbohydrate) content which is highest in midafternoon--best time to harvest; sensitive to ethylene which causes "sleepiness"--failure to open-- so STS helps; can be stored dry for several weeks at 31F in bud stage
  • Foliage: Linear 4-6", narrow, green to glaucous blue with waxy covering
  • Growth habit: Perennial, up to 2 feet tall depending on the strain
  • Uses: Probably the most popular cut flower.
  • Production: Cuttings
  • Propagation: Propagation is by cuttings or seed. The seed germinates in 2 to 3 weeks at 65 to 75 degrees. Carnations are not fully hardy in northern climates and so are sometimes treated as annuals
  • Cultivars: Many hundreds are available. Popular standard series include the Sims and Sidney Littlefields. Considered by many the finest ever was the original 'William Sim' named after the Maine breeder in 1938.
Ohio Revised Code declaring the carnation our state flower: 5.02 Floral emblem of state The scarlet carnation is hereby adopted as the state flower as a token of love and reverence for the memory of William McKinley. (1953 H 1, eff. 10-1-53; GC 29) 5.021 State wild flower The plant Trillium grandiflorum, commonly known as the large white trillium, found in every Ohio county, is hereby adopted as the state wild flower. (1986 H 763, eff. 3-5-87)

Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass Caryophyllidae
Order Caryophyllales
Family Caryophyllaceae Pink family
Genus Dianthus L. pink
Species Dianthus caryophyllus L. carnation