8 Flora is a large, bright main-belt asteroid. It is the innermost large asteroid: no asteroid closer to the Sun has a diameter above 25 kilometres or two-elevenths that of Flora itself, and not until the tiny 149 Medusa was discovered was a single asteroid orbiting at a closer mean distance known. It is the seventh-brightest asteroid with a mean opposition magnitude of +8.7. Flora can reach a magnitude of +7.9 at a favorable opposition near perihelion, such as occurred in November 2007. Flora may be the residual core of an intensely heated, thermally evolved, and magmatically differentiated planetesimal which was subsequently disrupted.
Flora was discovered by J. R. Hind on October 18, 1847. It was his second asteroid discovery after 7 Iris.
The name Flora was proposed by John Herschel, from Flora, the Latin goddess of flowers and gardens, wife of Zephyrus (the personification of the West wind), and mother of Spring. The Greek equivalent is Chloris, who has her own asteroid, 410 Chloris, but in Greek Flora is also called Chloris (8 Χλωρίς).
Lightcurve analysis indicates that Flora's pole points towards ecliptic coordinates (β, λ) = (16°, 160°) with a 10° uncertainty. This gives an axial tilt of 78°, plus or minus ten degrees.
Flora is the parent body of the Flora family of asteroids, and by far the largest member, comprising about 80% of the total mass of this family. Nevertheless, Flora was almost certainly disrupted by the impact(s) that formed the family, and is probably a gravitational aggregate of most of the pieces.
Flora's spectrum indicates that its surface composition is a mixture of silicate rock (including pyroxene and olivine) and nickel-iron metal. Flora, and the whole Flora family generally, are good candidates for being the parent bodies of the L chondrite meteorites. This meteorite type comprises about 38% of all meteorites impacting the Earth.
During an observation on March 25, 1917, 8 Flora was mistaken for the 15th-magnitude star TU Leonis, which led to that star's classification as a U Geminorum cataclysmic variable star. Flora had come to opposition on 1917 February 13, 40 days earlier. This mistake was uncovered only in 1995.
On July 26, 2013, Flora at magnitude 8.8 occulted the star 2UCAC 22807162 over parts of South America, Africa, and Asia.
In the 1968 science-fiction film The Green Slime, an orbital perturbation propels the asteroid Flora into a collision course with Earth.