15 Delightful Official State Symbols
Any state can have an official flag, motto, and tree. It takes a particularly delightful kind of place to have its own government-endorsed donut, dinosaur, or marine animal.
1. Virginia is for (Bat) Lovers
In 2005, the endangered big-eared bat became the only state symbol that sleeps upside down in a cave.
2. Wyoming Takes a Three-Pronged Approach
Most states have official fossils, and a few have their own dinosaurs. Wyoming has both, but they're not the same animal. Knightia, the world’s most frequently excavated fossil fish, isn't that impressive. But Triceratops, official state dinosaur since 1994, is the coolest horned quadruped to ever roam the Great Plains.
3. Lightning Bugs Strike Twice
The majority of state insects are butterflies, honeybees, or ladybugs, but some states are flashier. Literally. Pennsylvania and Tennessee put the lightning bug in the spotlight in 1974 and 1975, respectively.
4. Iowans Love Glam Rocks
Iowa's official state rock isn’t outwardly impressive, but if you crack one open the geode reveals beautiful quartz and calcite crystals. The state’s senate was reluctant to adopt a state rock back in 1967, with some senators referring to the bill's proponents as "state nuts." But when beautiful geode specimens were passed around, the legislators were so dazzled they changed their minds.
5. Oregon Is a Little Nutty
Oregon actually does have a state nut—the country's largest crop of hazelnuts. They got the respect they deserve in 1989.
6. Louisiana Makes Lots of Dough
If you find yourself in Louisiana, it's only proper to order a few dozen beignets, which has been the state donut since 1986.
7. New Mexico Is a Baker’s Paradise
New Mexico was the first state to select an official cookie in 1989. It chose to honor the bizcochito, a lard or butter-based treat flavored with anise and cinnamon.
8. Massachusetts’ Muffin Choice Is Corny
In case you're wondering, there are no official state cupcakes ... yet. But Massachusetts gave the corn muffin the nod as its official muffin in 1986 after the state’s schoolchildren asked for it by name. (Minnesota and Maine prefer blueberry muffins, while New York claims the apple muffin.)
9. Delaware Is Delightfully Crabby
The horseshoe crab may be one of the most ancient animals on Earth, but it's only been Delaware's state marine animal since 2002. The Delaware Bay is home to the world’s largest population of Atlantic horseshoe crabs.
10. Utah’s State Bird Crosses Borders
It may sound funny that Utah’s state bird is the California gull, but the species earned its distinction. The California gull supposedly saved early Mormon settlers’ first harvest from being devoured by insects in 1848. The settlers’ ancestors repaid the favor 107 years later by making the California gull Utah’s official state bird.
11. North Carolina Shells Out for Symbolism
The Eastern box turtle was one of the first state reptiles, earning North Carolina's shell of approval in 1979. The Secretary of State's website explains the decision: “The turtle watches undisturbed as countless generations of faster ‘hares’ run by to quick oblivion, and is thus a model of patience for mankind, and a symbol of our State’s unrelenting pursuit of great and lofty goals.”
12. It’s Reigning Cats and Dogs in Maryland
Dogs are Maryland's best friend. The Chesapeake Bay retriever became the first state canine in 1964. Almost 40 years later, cat fanciers evened the score when Maryland appointed the calico the official state cat.
13. Maryland Boasts Hot Summer Knights
Maryland also declared jousting the first official state sport in 1962. The state has hosted tournaments for men, women, and children since colonial times.
14. Oklahoma Makes Eating Your Veggies More Fun
Who says a state vegetable has to actually be a vegetable? In 2007, Oklahoma's House of Representatives gave the watermelon the coveted title, explaining that it belongs to the cucumber and gourd families.
15. Hawaii Grows Its Own Gems
Meanwhile, black coral—designated Hawaii's state gemstone in 1987—is technically an animal.