But there’s one more option. In the later 19th century, a number of US coins were designed using wreaths made, not of olive or laurel, but of US crops. Probably the prettiest is on the Flying Eagle Cent of 1857–1858, the first small cent (close to the size of cents today, as opposed to the earlier Large Cents). The reverse has a wreath made of (starting from the bow at the bottom and working upwards on either side): tobacco, wheat, corn (maize), and cotton—the idea being to display crops from both the North and the South. Brits, like Americans, don’t really see anything odd about their flag being used in bikinis, duvet-covers, T-shirts or anything else. And don’t mind who buys them. Ferris Bueller had a huge Union Flag hanging behind his bedroom door – don’t know why. Don’t mind why.
So I like the idea of a crop plant going on the flag—promoting the idea of the US as a land of plenty, a fertile land that can feed the world. (Yeah, I know, but this is propaganda here, OK?) I don’t know if putting tobacco on the national flag is a great idea, and while cotton is certainly useful, advertising on our flag that we grew tons of the stuff will inevitably raise the question of how it was historically actually grown, which could get awkward. But Zea mays is perfect. It was grown by the Native Americans when the Europeans came, unlike wheat or cotton; it’s not addictive and carcinogenic, unlike tobacco; we grow and export vast amounts of the stuff; and we apply modern industry, technology, and ingenuity into growing it. So if we have to pick one “plant badge” for the United States, it might as well be Zea mays. How about this as a Canadian-style US flag?