Celebrating Statehood!

  • Posted on: 2 April 2019
  • By: msmolins

"No state can match the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay, our beaches and farms, or the mountains of Western Maryland, the Port of Baltimore, or the historic charm of every corner of our state." -Governor Larry Hogan, State of the State Address 2015

Did you know, in April 1788 Maryland became a state? To celebrate our statehood the campus Arboretum and Botanical Garden wants to inspire Maryland pride and celebrate the Old Line State with an informative article that goes beyond listing our state symbols. We invite you to continue reading to learn more about the symbols of the state of Maryland and the efforts made on campus to celebrate our statehood and important historical figures.

Rudbeckia hirta, commonly named the Black-eyed Susan is the Maryland state flower. Take a moment to think about this flower’s colors, yellow seemingly gold petals and dark brown nearly black, hairy centers. Gold and black characterize Maryland; just think about the state flag, the plumage of the male Baltimore Oriole our state bird, or the fur of the state cat the Calico, even the wings of the state insect the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly. Let’s not forget the University of Maryland’s core colors are black, gold, white, and red. But where does the yellow and black color fascination come from?

George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, received a royal charter from King Charles I for land located around the Chesapeake Bay. George’s oldest son, Cecil, served as the second Lord Baltimore and founded Maryland in 1632, naming the colony after the king’s wife, Henrietta Maria. Yellow and black come from George Calvert’s paternal family’s heraldry while the colors white and red come from George Calvert’s mother’s family, the Crosslands. After the Civil War, the banners from the Calvert and Crossland families were combined to create the state flag we have today.  

Now that we know the history behind the gold and black, let’s talk about growing our state flower. Black-eyed Susans are an herbaceous perennial well adapted for zones 3-7 and can reach 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. This member of the Asteraceae family loves the sunshine and the butterflies love it. Rudbeckia hirta is low maintenance and adds a beautiful pop of color to any landscape. They self-seed, but regular deadheading can prevent their spread in the landscape. They tolerate drought and heat but do not perform well in poorly drained, wet soils. As you drive through Maryland, you will likely see these beauties blooming along roadsides or out in open fields. As you roam the UMD campus, look for Rudbeckia hirta in the Chemistry Courtyard, https://www.arboretum.umd.edu/things2do/gardens/ChemistryCourtyard, or the Guilford Run Bioretention Facility, https://www.arboretum.umd.edu/sustainability/GulifordRun, or in Frederick Douglass Square in Hornbake Plaza. We encourage you to keep an eye out for these beautiful golden blooms as you walk throughout the entirety of this magnificent campus.

To keep on our theme on color and plants, let’s take a moment to talk about the state insect, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, Euphydryas phaeton, named after George Calvert the first Lord Baltimore again because of his family’s heraldry. The Baltimore Checkerspot boasts a 2.5 inch wingspan with majestic black wings adorned with white and orange markings. This butterfly can be found anywhere from Canada to the eastern United States, west into Virginia and even the Great Lakes, and south to North Carolina. Euphydryas phaeton’s population once spanned across 15 Maryland counties but today breeding colonies are found in only 11 sites in 7 counties in western and central Maryland. The Baltimore Checkerspot enjoys habitats that are wet and boggy, with trees, shrubs, and tall herbaceous plants scattered throughout the landscape. This insect is rare in Maryland and is considered imperiled due to significant population declines as a result of wetland succession, deer pressure on the butterfly’s host and nectar plants, and habitat degradation and loss. There are conservation efforts in place. Go to the following link to explore some of the conservation efforts for the Baltimore Checkerspot, http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/plants_wildlife/rte/rteanimalfacts.aspx?AID=Baltimore%20Checkerspot.  If you are interested in helping sustain the population of Maryland’s state insect you may want to incorporate some of their favorite plants into your landscape.


White turtlehead, Chelone glabra, is the primary host plant for Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars, which feed on this plant almost exclusively. Other food sources sought by the caterpillars include narrow-leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata), arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum recognitum 'Fernald'), and penstemon (Penstemon spp. Schmidel). Once the caterpillars have matured into butterflies, they seek out nectar sources from plants such as common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), wild blackberry (Rubus), dogbane (Apocynum), and mountain mint (Pycnanthemum). The white turtlehead is not only a favorite snack for the larvae of Baltimore Checkerspots, deer love to snack on it as well. To help deter deer you can practice companion planting with deer tolerant plants like the mountain mint, which deer do not like to eat. This has been practiced in one of the rain gardens on the University of Maryland Golf Course, were volunteers planted mountain mint as a protective barrier for the white turtleheads in order to provide a conducive environment for the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly. As you explore campus, look for milkweed and mountain mint planted in some of the rain gardens and bioretention areas around campus.

When you think about the UMD campus the STAMP, Eppley, McKeldin Library, and McKeldin Mall are probably some of the first landmarks that come to mind. If you look around, even around some of these landmarks, you will begin to notice all the landscaping, gardens, and rain gardens that help define our campus. For example, we have the state flower incorporated in some gardens and throughout some of the landscape and we plant the host and nectar plants needed by the Baltimore Checkerspot to complete its life cycle. But the campus honors the state of Maryland in another significant way, by recognizing important historical figures of Maryland.

Perhaps the most significant honoring of an historical figure on campus is Frederick Douglass Square in Hornbake Plaza. Frederick Douglass, born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland in 1818, is known as being a powerful orator, leader in the abolitionist movement, and advocate for equal rights for men and women despite their race, sex, religion, or nationality. Frederick Douglass Square is viewed as a physical representation of UMD’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by helping people understand the roles slavery and freedom have played in America. This space also serves as a reminder to students that they truly belong here and that they are more than a statistic. The location of this space is important to note. Frederick Douglass Square is centered on Hornbake Plaza, a prominent hub for student activities. This space, centrally located on campus, provides the opportunity for contemplation and celebration. Students walking to the STAMP or the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center cannot avoid catching a glimpse of this magnificent statue. Right up the steps and through the doors of Hornbake LIbrary, a plethora of knowledge about Frederick Douglass’ life can be accessed.

The statue of Frederick Douglass is a replica of the one in Ireland. Sculptor Andrew Edwards pulled inspiration from artwork of Moses and President Obama. The statue beckons you to look around; Douglass’ words are etched in the stone pavers and cut in the steel wall. Something you may not realize about Frederick Douglass Square is that  this space is actually a rooftop garden incorporated into the first green roof on campus. Below the plaza is the basement to Hornbake Library. The steel wall is situated into a planter containing plants native to both Ireland and Maryland, serving as a representation of Douglass’ Maryland roots and supporters in Ireland. The garden’s soil ranges from 8 to 18 inches deep.  You may notice catmint, daffodils, black eyed susans, and blue switchgrass scattered throughout the garden, adding pops of color against the steel wall that meanders through this significant space. Next time you pass through Hornbake Plaza, spend a few quiet minutes in Frederick Douglass Square and think about the history representated by this space.

Our staff here at the campus Arboretum and Botanical Garden hope this article has inspired within you more pride for the state of Maryland. We hope you have enjoyed learning the history behind some of our state symbols and the state flag. We encourage you to explore this phenomenal campus, our beautiful gardens, and you might join us as a volunteer to become more involved in spaces like Frederick Douglass Square.

Written by Lydia Printz


Please explore our sources below to learn more about the gardens on campus, Frederick Douglass Square, the state flower and insect, and more about the history of the Calvert family.

Quote from Gov. Hogan:



The Calvert Family:





State Flower and Insect:







Campus Gardens, Frederick Douglass Square: