Florida is a state located in the Southeastern part of the United States. It is an extensive and thickly settled state. The capital of the state is Tallahassee, the largest city is Jacksonville. This article will tell you about the state symbols of Florida.
Florida is the only state to have two official state fish symbols.
The mockingbird is also the state bird of four other states; Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.
A wide variety of habitats exist in Florida, that support a rich flora and fauna. The Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de León who came in contact with the state in 1513 recognized Florida for its beauty. He named it La Florida which means “The Flowery.” United States took over the state in 1819, after which Florida became the 27th state of the United States in 1845.
At present, Florida is called the Sunshine State. Owing to its natural resources, state legislators have distinguished several state symbols.
Most of the symbols were designated after 1950 except the two oldest symbols like the state flower and the state bird.
Florida State Flower – Orange Blossom
The orange blossom (Citrus sinensis) was chosen as the official state flower of Florida in 1909 by the legislature. It is observed throughout Central and South Florida. It is known to be one of the most fragrant flowers in Florida. Citrus fruits like tangerines, grapes, and especially oranges, are an important source of income in Florida.
Florida State Tree – Sabal Palm
The sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) was designated as the official state tree in 1953. It is widely found in Florida. It grows in any kind of soil. The sabal palm is also called the cabbage palm and is there on the Florida state seal. The tree does not look like a tree, but more like grasses. Previously, Floridians used sabal palm for many purposes like food, medicine, and landscaping. The tree bud is edible and is called the heart of palm or swamp cabbage. The tree trunk were used for shelter.
Florida State Wildflower – Coreopsis
In 1991, the wildflower of the genus, coreopsis was chosen as the Florida state wildflower. It is also called tickseed at times. The designation was due to the extensive use of the flower in roadside collection of plants and highway beautification programs in Florida. The flower heads are a food for seed-eating birds. These flowers occur in many colors ranging from golden to pink.
Florida State Animal- Florida Panther
The students throughout Florida voted the Florida panther as the official state animal of Florida in 1982. It is one of the most endangered species of Florida. Today, there are only about 100 living panthers in the wild. Hunting is considered illegal and it would require strict management and public support to preserve this animal. The animal is a large, long-tailed, and light brown in color. It grows six feet or longer and needs large lands to survive. Its main diet is the white-tailed deer. A relative of the cougar family, the Florida panther plays an important role in the ecosystem.
Florida State Bird- Mockingbird
In 1927, the mockingbird was designated as the official state bird of Florida. The songbird is found across North America. It can survive in a wide variety of habitats. The bird has extraordinary vocal abilities. It can sing songs for hours and mimic the songs and calls of other birds. It is gray in color and has large white patches on its wings and tail. It is about 9 to 11 inches in size. The mockingbird eats fruit, insects, spiders, and other small animals like snails, lizards and snakes.
Florida State Butterfly- Zebra Longwing
The zebra longwing butterfly (Heliconius charitonius) was chosen as the official state butterfly of Florida in 1996. It is found in hardwood hillocks, brushes and gardens. It is particularly common in the Everglades National Park of Florida.
Elongated black wings with distinctive thin yellow bands, a long antennae and a graceful flight characterize the zebra longwing. Its size is about three to four inches. It feeds on nectar and pollen.
Florida State Reptile – American Alligator
The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) was designated as the official state reptile of Florida by the Florida legislature in 1987. Alligators are found in Florida and in some parts of southeastern states of the U.S. They occur in lakes, freshwater ponds, rivers, swamps, canals, and other wetland habitats. They have a broad, light-colored rounded snouts, and protruding teeth. They eat fish, turtles, and other animals. Male adult alligators can grow up to 15 feet in length, and weigh up to 999 lb. Females can grow up to 10 feet.
Alligators were on the verge of extinction due to hunting and so are listed as an endangered species in 1967. However, later their population improved and now they are found in plentiful in Florida. It is no longer on the endangered species list.
Florida State Shell – Horse Conch
The horse conch, also called the giant band shell, was chosen as the official state shell of Florida in 1969. The word, conch, is derived from a Greek word that means shell. It is found along the coast of Florida. The younger ones are of orange color and the older ones are generally greyish-white in color. Also called the giant band shell, the horse conch has a size of about 24 inches. It grabs other snails and inserts its toothed tongue to pull in the soft flesh.
Florida State Freshwater Fish – Largemouth Bass
The Florida largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridamus) was chosen as the official state freshwater fish in 1975. It is one of the most-prized gamefish of America. It is a subspecies of the northern largemouth. This elongated sunfish lives in calm Florida waters that is rich in vegetation. It can reach to a length of more than 20 inches. It can weigh greater than 16 pounds. It has a large mouth and deep notch in the dorsal fin. Adult fish feed on other fish like crayfish, small bass and large invertebrates. The largemouth bass is also a state fish of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.
Florida State Saltwater Fish – Sailfish
The sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) was designated as the official state fish by the Florida legislature in 1975. It is a well-known saltwater game fish in Florida. It is found almost everywhere in warm ocean water. The sailfish can swim at a speed of around 70 miles per hour. The size of sailfish in Florida is around eight feet and weight is around 50 pounds. Its upper part is blue in color, stomach part is silver, and the back part has purple stripes. Its large and sail-like dorsal fin is raised when it is charged up or when it moves up to the surface of the water. The sailfish usually stays and feeds in groups. In recent years, its population has come down.
Florida State Mammal (marine) – Florida Manatee
The manatee (Trichechus manatus), was designated as the official state marine mammal of Florida in 1975. It is also known by the name of sea cow. The animal is found in Florida, the West Indies (Caribbean Islands) and parts of Central and South America. The manatee is a large-sized and gentle mammal that lives in the coastal estuaries and rivers. It is a gray-colored animal and feeds on aquatic plants. They are slow swimmers. They have a short snout. Its size range from 9 to 16 feet in length and weight is usually more than a ton. These mammals need to come up to the surface for breathing about every five minutes, and for this reason they are on the verge of extinction. Most of their deaths are due to humans when the animals are struck by boats, when they surface for air. The speedboats have now been limited by the Florida management.
Florida State Mammal (salt water) – Porpoise
The salt water mammal, porpoise (Tursiops truncates) also known as the bottlenose dolphin, was chosen as the official saltwater mammal of Florida in 1975 by the Florida legislature. True porpoises are different mammal than bottlenose dolphins and no true porpoises are found in Florida waters. The bottlenose dolphin is found along Florida’s coastal waters. Their upper body part is gray in color and lower part is light gray. They are about 15 feet in length. They have small teeth, a beaklike snout, and a sickle-shaped dorsal fin. Dolphins use a system of echolocation to find their direction and prey. They usually eat fish and squids. Their eyesight and hearing are sharp and they make high-pitched sounds like whistles, clicks, barks, moans, and squeaks. They live in groups called pods. These animals are known for their playfulness. In the early times, dolphins were considered as a sign of good luck by sailors.
Florida State Tortoise – Gopher Tortoise
The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) was chosen as the official state tortoise in 2008. It is found in the Southeastern United States in forests, pastures, and yards. This long-lived reptile digs deep burrows of up to 40 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Gopher tortoises are herbivores. They eat grasses, flowers, fruits, leaves and shrubs such as asters and legumes, peas, blueberries and cactus. A huge number of other animals use these burrows for living and protection from predators. Their population is declining due to predation and habitat destruction.
Florida State Flag
The main design of Florida’s state flag was adopted in the year 1900. Florida voters approved the design in a constitutional amendment based on an 1899 joint resolution of the state legislature. The flag has a red diagonal cross in the form of a St. Andrew’s cross on a white-colored background, and has the state seal at the center of the cross. Later, the seal was changed and the current design of the flag was adopted in 1985.
The original 1868 flag of Florida was simply the Florida state seal centered on a field of white. In the 1890’s, Florida’s governor suggested adding the red cross so the flag would not look like a banner of truce or surrender when hanging limp on a flagpole. Florida voters agreed and an amendment to Florida’s constitution was made in 1900 which describes the current design.
Many banners have flown over Florida prior to 1868, including the flags of Spain, France, Great Britain, the Confederate States, and the national flag of the USA.
Florida State Seal
In 1868, the Florida legislature adopted the state seal. They mandated that the seal should be the size of the American silver dollar, and in the center, have a view of the sun’s rays over a high land in the distance, a cocoa tree, a steamboat on water, and an Indian female dispersing flowers in the foreground, everything encircled by the words “Great Seal of the State of Florida: In God We Trust.”
In 1970, the seal was updated, when the cocoa tree was replaced by a sabal palmetto palm tree. The headdress was taken out from the Indian woman, and the woman was represented as a Florida Seminole Indian (earlier the woman was a Western Plains Indian).
Florida State Play – “Cross and Sword”
Florida’s official state play, “Cross and Sword”, was designated in 1973 by the legislature. It represents the story of Spanish colonization of the nation’s first city, St. Augustine.
Written by Paul Green, the pageant features lavish costumes, dramatic lighting, and stirring music. It links to the lives of some of Florida’s early European settlers, Pedro Menéndez, Jean Ribault, and Father López.
Florida State Motto – “In God We Trust”
The state motto was not adopted until 2006; however, it has appeared on the state seal since 1868. The state motto, “In God We Trust” was adopted by the Florida legislature in 1868. The U.S. also shares the same the motto. The motto was officially adopted in state statute as Florida’s motto in 2006.
Florida State Nickname – Sunshine State
The official nickname, “Sunshine State” was adopted by the state legislature in 1970.
Florida State Festival
“Calle Ocho-Open House 8” (1980)
Florida State Citrus Archive
Florida Citrus Archives (2001)
Florida State Fruit – Orange (2005)
Florida State Pie – Key Lime Pie (2006)
Florida State Song
“The Swanee River” (Old Folks at Home) – adopted in 1935
Florida State Beverage – Orange Juice (1967)
Florida State Anthem
Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky (2008)
Florida State Railroad Museums
The Orange Blossom Special Railroad Museum in West Palm Beach , the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami, and the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum in Tampa (1984)
Florida State Gem – Moonstone (1970)
Florida State Soil – Myakka Fine Sand (1989)
Florida State Stone – Agatized Coral (1979)
Florida State Mineral: Calcite (2006)