Greenville led movement to change state flower to city#039;s own

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2006

If you are over 50, you might recall the days when Alabama had another state flower – the goldenrod. On September 6, 1927, Alabama adopted the goldenrod as the official state flower, and so it remained for more than 30 years.

However, Greenvillians had other ideas.

After billing itself as &#8220The Camellia City” for 20 years, the city wanted to see their beloved city flower become the state flower.

The Men's Camellia Club of Greenville promoted a bill to adopt the camellia as Alabama's official state flower.

It was argued camellias were commercially important, earning millions of dollars for growers. They produce fine blooms during nine months of the year, especially winter when few other plants blossom. Even when not in bloom, the plant, with its glossy green leaves, make fine landscape plants.

Camellias also helped the economy by attracting tourists.

In addition, it was hoped elderly people would grow camellias in their retirement.

The camellia lovers of Greenville got their wish. On August 26, 1959, the camellia was officially adopted as Alabama's new state flower.

No specific variety of camellia was designated. Since Alabama's official colors are red and white, some consider the red camellia to be the official state flower. Camellias can also be white, pink, or a mixture.

The camellia, which hails from Asia, is the only symbol not native to the state.

Camellias are named for G.J. Kamel, a Jesuit priest who traveled in Asia in the 17th century.

Interestingly, it is thought Kamel never saw a camellia.

Oriental green tea and the tea grown today in Australia come from the camellia plant. The flower is regarded as a symbol of longevity, fortune, victory, happiness, perfection and supreme loveliness.

It speaks of a love bond or a happy marriage. It denotes admiration, and is considered a good luck gift to a man (no doubt the members of the defunct Men's Camellia Club would agree with that sentiment).

If you would like to learn more about growing and caring for camellias, talk with one of our local experts, such as Paul Langford or Ed Jernigan, or visit the American Camellia Society's website,

– Angie Long