Pennsylvania, with more than 3,400 species of trees, flowers and other plants, can brag of its diverse plant life. When the first European settlers arrived in the state, it was almost totally covered in forestland; today, half the state is still forested. The most famous tree in Pennsylvania is the state tree, the Eastern hemlock. The state also has a number of "big trees" which were designated by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association's Big Tree Committee as champions. In addition to these well-known trees, the state's most famous flower is the mountain laurel.
The Eastern hemlock is Pennsylvania's state tree. The Eastern hemlock is an evergreen tree with needles about 1/2-inch long and egg-shaped pine cones about 3/4-inch long which hang from the twig's tips. The twigs are slender and vary in color from yellowish-brown to gray-brown; the egg-shaped, reddish-brown buds are 1/16-inch long. The tree's bark is gray-brown to reddish-brown. The Eastern hemlock is a large tree that lives to be quite old.
The Pennsylvania Forestry Association's Big Tree Committee published a book in 2006, Big Trees of Pennsylvania, listing the state's "champion" trees. One of the biggest is an American chestnut that stands 105 feet tall and has a circumference of 57 inches. Almost twice as wide is the Japanese chestnut located in Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, with a circumference of 103 inches and a height of 53 feet. Pennsylvania Bigtrees.com is also working to identify trees that date back to when William Penn arrived in the state in 1682.
Pennsylvania's state flower is the mountain laurel; its botanical name is Kalmia latifolia. The mountain laurel's delicate--looking pink and white flowers bloom from late May through June. The plant is an evergreen with dark green, glossy leaves. It is a shrub that grows to be 4 to 10 feet tall. The mountain laurel is a part of the heath family, as are the blueberries, cranberries, huckleberries and rhododendrons.