There is no set criteria for deciding upon a state’s tree or flower – sometimes it’s based on looks, sometimes on how prolific the tree or flower is in the state and sometimes it’s more symbolic, having to do with the plant’s outstanding qualities. Some states share their state flower or tree with other states, some states have more than one state flower or tree, some states decided their state flora and fauna as far back as the 1800’s and some as recently as the 2000’s.
So how about New Jersey? Our state tree is the Northern Red Oak and our state flower is the Common Blue Violet. Here’s a little info on each:
New Jersey State Tree: Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
On June 13, 1950, Governor Alfred E. Driscoll and the State Assembly selected the Northern Red Oak as the state tree to represent New Jersey for its strength, dignity, structural beauty and long life.
There are dozens of red oak species, and Northern Red Oak is one of the most common red oaks in the U.S. It’s easy to recognize by its bark, which features ridges that look like they have shiny stripes down the center that reaches all the way down to the trunk.
Leafing for the Northern Red Oak is linked to a photoperiod, meaning it will take place regardless of air temperature, and happens when the length of day reaches 13 hours. Catkins also appear at the same time leaves emerge. In cooler regions, Northern Red Oaks can lose their flowers to late spring frosts, eliminating the seed crop for that year. Leaves will begin to drop when day length is under 11 hours. Northern Red Oak acorns are fully ripe and release in early October. They need a minimum of 3 months exposure to temperatures below 40oF to germinate and need two years of growing on the tree before development is completed. Seedlings emerge in spring when soil temperatures reach 70oF.
The Northern Red Oak is a good street tree, with a relatively deep (18”) and wide (4-7X the width of the tree’s crown) root system that allows it to tolerate both pollution and compacted soil. It is a fast grower, (which the Arbor Day Foundation defines as any tree that grows more than 24 inches in a year) and reaches its full height of between 60-75 feet and a 45 foot spread in about 30 years.
Northern Red Oaks typically live about 200 years, but can live up to 400 years in favorable conditions. It prefers north or east-facing slopes and is naturally found in coves, ravines and well-draining valley floors that slope with deep, well-draining loamy soils or lighter, more sandy soils. It likes full to partial sun, and in its natural environment, has a symbiotic relationship with various fungi, which provide the
roots with added minerals and moisture. It is recommended to dig generous amounts of compost and manure into the soil before planting a Northern Red Oak in your landscape to ensure the tree has the nutrients it needs, and may be lacking in urban soils.
Spring or fall is the best time to plant a Northern Red Oak, so roots can develop before the advent of summer’s heat and drought. Allow plenty of space around your tree – at least 20 feet in each direction – to ensure the tree won’t interfere with power lines, your home, garage or other buildings as well as other trees or plantings.
As with most shade trees, care is minimal once they are established, but adequate water is essential for new plantings. Newly planted Northern Red Oaks need a total of 10-15 gallons of water per week, or about 5 gallons every 3-4 days. As always, fewer but deeper waterings are preferable to encourage deep root growth. Check the soil moisture a few inches below the soil of the surface of the root ball to make sure there’s adequate water.
New Jersey State Flower: Common Meadow (Blue) Violet (Pictured above as the main image)
It took 58 years for the Common Meadow Violet to finally achieve its status as the state flower of New Jersey. It was originally designated as the state flower by a resolution of the Legislature in 1913, but was short-circuited by the start of the 1914 legislative session. Fast forward to 1963, when an attempt was made to have the Legislature “officially” designate the violet as the state flower, but the legislation apparently failed. Finally, in 1971, at the urging of New Jersey’s garden clubs, legislation designating the Common Meadow Violet, (Viola sororia,) as the state flower was enacted! New Jersey shares the violet’s status as a state flower with Illinois, Wisconsin and Rhode Island.
The Common Meadow Violet is a short-stemmed, herbaceous perennial known by a number of common names, including Purple Violet, Woolly Blue Violet, Hooded Violet and Wood Violet. Violets prefer partial sun to light shade with soil conditions that lean towards a moist environment. They can tolerate full sun if they receive sufficient water, but their leaves can turn yellow under sunny, dry conditions. Violets also like a soil rich in organic matter (think forest floor). Violets are easy to grow and spread under the right conditions.
In mid-spring, 1-inch, blue-violet or white blooms appear on leafless stems that rise slightly above the foliage. The lower petal is marked with dark purplish veins. Violets are typically 4-6 inches tall with an equal spread, are deer and pest-resistant, and work beautifully in rock gardens, containers, cottage gardens and perennial borders.
Main Image Photo Credit: NPSNJ.com