Garden Forever

From Flowers to Flags: An Introductory Lesson to State Symbols

Everybody knows the names of the different US states, their capitals, and the associated abbreviations commonly used. What many do not know, is that each one of the 50 states has certain symbols specifically associated with it. These symbols represent the culture and the natural wonders unique to that state. The official bird, flower, or plant may be a species that is found exclusively in that particular state. Most state symbols are chosen following dedicated research efforts by citizens, organizations, and students. After a particular symbol is identified and well-researched, a request for a bill is made. The bill then goes through a specific legislative procedure and if approved, the state receives another new symbol. All states have their own flower, bird, fish, flag, and tree while some also have their own gem, stone, vegetable, and even fossil! Let's look at a few examples of the different states and some of their individual symbols.

The state flag of Arizona is split into two different halves with the top portion displaying 13 alternating yellow and red rays of the setting sun, this represents America’s original colonies. The lower portion is blue and displays a large, copper-colored star which is overlaid in the center of the flag. Arizona’s state flower is the Saguaro Blossom which is white in color and is derived from the giant Saguaro Cactus, indigenous to the state with a lifespan of up to 200 years. One unusual symbol of Arizona is the Bola Necktie which was adopted in 1973 as the state neck wear. Similar to a necktie, it has a cord made of braided leather held together by a decorative clasp and was invented in Wickenburg, Arizona.

Adopted in 1925, the state flag of Oregon displays a shield of the state seal on one side while a beaver is portrayed on the reverse. The first flag was made by Portland’s Meier and Frank Company. The Oregon Grape (mahonia aquifolium) was officially chosen as the state flower in 1899, following its nomination by the Oregon Horticultural Society. In 1999, the Pacific Golden Chantrelle (cantharellus formosus) was declared the state mushroom after being initiated by Oregon Mycological Society member Kevin Winthrop.

The state flag of Washington, adopted in 1923, has the state seal in the center of a dark green bunting. In 1893, the Coast Rhododendron was selected as the state flower by the women of the state and in 1959, the native species Rhododendron macrophyllum was designated as the official state flower. The Columbian Mammoth was designated as Washington states official fossil in 1998 after a four-year concerted effort by students of Windsor Elementary School near Cheney. These prehistoric elephants became extinct about 10,000 years ago and their fossils have been found on the Olympic Peninsula.

On February 16, 1895, the Alabama legislature adopted the official state flag. The state flag has the cross of St Andrew against a white background. The diagonal bars of the cross are required to be six inches wide and extend from each side. A lesser known state symbol is the official reptile which is the Red Bellied Turtle of Alabama. This species has been on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species List since 1987.

Idaho, the 13th largest state in the United States and has a silk flag with a blue field. The state seal is in the center with the words State of Idaho written in gold block letters below the seal. It was chosen by the legislature in 1907. The Syringa was declared the state flower in 1931 and is a shrub that can grow up to 12 feet tall. It was also in this same year that the Mountain Bluebird was designated the state bird.

Armorial bearings in white silk over azure blue silk is how the state flag of Connecticut is commonly described. The design features natural colors and the border of the shield is embroidered in white and gold. This flag was first introduced on May 29, 1895 while an official description was provided in 1897. The Mountain Laurel (kalmia latifolia) is the state flower of Connecticut and was accorded this honor in 1907. The world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, is the state ship of Connecticut. It was given this designation in 1983 and is permanently berthed at Goss Cove in Groton.

There is a wide variety of flora and fauna to be found in the different regions of the United States and many of these have been honored as state symbols. Each one of the states is unique from others in its cultural and natural beauty. Yet, each one of these is an integral part of one country, one nation.

To discover more about the 50 states and their official symbols, please visit the following links.