NEW YORK (PIX11) — New Yorkers can get the chance to decide which native wildflower will become the city’s next official flower in a new contest.

WildflowerNYC is a campaign that hopes to connect residents with the flora surrounding New York City. The campaign was launched by the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Friends of the High Line, New York Botanical Garden, Queens Botanical Garden, and Staten Island Museum.

Each institute from the five boroughs nominated their favorite wildflower. The contenders are: Butterfly Weed, Pinxter Azalea, Giant Sunflower, Wild Columbine, and Spicebush. 

Wild Columbine

Brooklyn’s pick, nominated by the Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn’s Wild Columbine. (Photo by Etienne Rossard. Courtesy of Marielle Anzelone)

“We are proud to select Wild Columbine as our borough’s candidate. We love its unique scarlet
drooping flower, its five petals evoking the five boroughs,” said Rashid Poulson, the director of
horticulture at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The wild columbine is a woodland flower, with thin stems cushioned by blue-green foliage and captivating red, and yellow petals. It can grow in shady conditions and has been called “a plant for the masses.”

Butterfly Weed

Manhattan’s pick, nominated by The High Line

Manhattan’s Butterfly Milkweed. (Photo credit: Uli Lormer)

“We love Butterfly Milkweed because it so successfully represents the unique aspects of the
High Line’s naturalistic gardens: colorful beauty, ecological function, and four-season interest,”
said Richard Hayden, the director of horticulture at Friends of the High Line.

Butterfly Milkweed is hard to miss with its bright orange clusters. The plant attracts butterflies and is an important host plant for Monarch and Queen butterflies.


The Bronx’s pick, nominated by New York Botanical Garden

The Bronx’s Spicebush. (Photo credit: Marielle Anzelone)

“Spicebush has long been a part of the history of Eastern North America, and it’s particularly
close to our hearts here in the Bronx, where in early spring you’ll spot its abundant flowers
punctuating the trails of our old-growth Thain Forest with clouds of gentle yellow petals,” noted
James Boyer, the vice president of children’s education and senior director of education.

Spicebush’s name comes from the spicy aroma the petals give off once they’re crushed. The bright plant has a trail in the New York Botanical Garden and Spciebush berries taste like allspice and pepper.

In the summer the leaves smell “pleasantly of citronella, making it a fan favorite of children,” according to the campaign’s site.

Giant Sunflower

Queens pick, nominated by Queens Botanical Garden

Queen’s Giant Sunflower. (Photo credit: Marielle Anzelone)

Giant sunflowers provide food for bees, birds, butterflies, beetles, and humans. It’s not common to spot it in the city, as it usually grows in woodland swaps and at the edge of wet meadows.

“Because sunflowers are so internationally recognized and hold different meanings across cultures, we at Queens Botanical Garden felt Giant Sunflowers captured the power of New York City’s diversity and how we are all interconnected,” said Evie Hantzopoulos, the executive director at Queens Botanical Garde.

Pinxter Azalea

Staten Island’s pick, nominated by Staten Island Museum

Staten Island’s Pinxter Azalea wildflower. (Photo credit: Marielle Anzelone)

Staten Island is the only borough with its own official wildflower. The Pinxter Azalea has flashy pink flowers and supports many pollinators, including hummingbirds and butterflies.

“In the 1980s, Staten Islanders voted for the Pinxter Azalea to represent our borough and we are
proud to support it! One of our native azaleas, Pinxter Azalea grows wild throughout the city and is especially abundant in Staten Island’s Greenbelt,” said Colleen Evans the director of natural science at Staten Island Museum.

Voting has already begun and will continue until Nov. 7., for more information check out WildflowerNYC’s website.

Charline Charles is a digital journalist from Brooklyn who has covered local news along with culture and arts in the New York City area since 2019. She joined PIX11 News in 2022. See more of her work here.