A List of California State Symbols That Everyone Should Know

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A List of California State Symbols

The state legislature of California has adopted, designated, and declared several official symbols and emblems over the years. ScienceStruck provides a list of all this state’s symbols to help you know more about the Golden State.

Did You Know?

The California grizzly bear is an extinct species, which is depicted on the state flag. The flag is said to be a tribute to the last bear in captivity. It was a 1,200 lb bear named “Monarch”. It was captured by a reporter and then was a star attraction in many parks, until he died in 1911.

The West Coast state of California is the third-largest state by area, and the most-populated state in the U.S. Sacramento is the state capital since 1854. The weather, flora, and fauna is distinct and varied because of the huge climatic and geographical diversity of the state. It has both the lowest (Death Valley) and highest points (Mount Whitney) in the contiguous United States. It also has the third-longest coastline.

It would be interesting to know more about the Golden State, so read on to know all the state symbols of California.

Official State Symbols of California

State Symbols

State Flag (1885)

California State Flag

The first design of this flag was raised on June 14, 1846. It was designed by William L. Todd, a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln. The bear in the flag is a symbol of strength and resistance. The Lone Star is said to be an imitation of the Texas Lone Star Flag, but is also said to have been influenced by California’s Lone Star Flag of 1836. The Bear Flag was finally adopted by the State Legislature in 1911.

State Motto

The Greek word “Eureka” is the state motto. It had to compete with the then proposed motto “In God We Trust”. But, in 1963 “Eureka” was made the official motto. The word was used by the Greek mathematician, Archimedes, when he discovered the purity of gold after a long study. The word means “I have found it” and was mostly used when gold was discovered.

State Nickname

“The Golden State” is its official nickname, and was adopted in 1968. The name suited the state because of the discovery of gold in 1848, and the golden poppy flowers in every field. Gold is the state color too. The Golden Gate bridge and the golden, beautiful sunsets add to the reasons behind the nickname.

State Song

I Love You, California is the official state song, finally accepted in 1988. It was written by F. B. Silverwood, a Los Angeles merchant. The music was composed by Alfred Frankenstein of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra. Here are a few lines from the song:
I love you, California, you’re the greatest state of all.

I love you in the winter, summer, spring, and in the fall.
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore,
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore.

State Quarter

This Quarter issued by the United States Mint, was the 31st state quarter. It depicts John Muir (a naturalist and conservationist), who helped to form the Sierra Club to protect the Yosemite National Park. The California condor is the bird that is seen flying above. It was nearly extinct but it was successfully repopulated in California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose this concept over five other concepts on April 15, 2004. But, it was officially accepted on January 31, 2005.

State Seal

California State seal

The Great Seal was adopted in 1849 by the Constitutional Convention. It was designed by Major R. S. Garnett of the U.S. Army, and proposed by a clerk named Caleb Lyon. The seal depicts “Minerva”, the Roman Goddess of Wisdom. A grizzly bear and grapes are at her feet, which represent the richness of wildlife and agriculture. A miner can be seen and the word “Eureka”, which refers to the discovery of gold. There are 31 stars on the upper side, which indicate the number of states at the time of California’s anticipated admission.

State Flora

State Tree

California State tree

The California redwood became the official state tree in 1937. There are two types: the coast redwood and the giant sequoia. These trees were once found everywhere in the Northern hemisphere but are now found only on the Pacific coast. This is why they are now protected in forests and parks. The coast redwood is the tallest in the world.

State Grass

The Purple needlegrass, Nassella pulchra, was officially accepted in 2004. It is the most widespread, native grass which is known to be a good source of fodder for the cattle and wildlife. In the olden days, it was eaten by people too. The grass grows up to a medium-large size and can tolerate extreme hot conditions. It is known to live for more than 150 years.

State Flower

California State flower

California/Golden Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) became the official state flower in 1903. It was cherished as a food source and also for the oil extracted from it. It is seen growing throughout California. Every year, April 6 is celebrated as the California Poppy Day. In 1996, Governor Wilson declared May 13 to 18 to be celebrated as Poppy Week.

State Fauna

State Amphibian

California State amphibian

The California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) was recently accepted as the state amphibian, on January 1, 2015. It is known to be the largest native frog, found in the western United States. In 1996, it was listed as “Endangered” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Loss of habitat was cited as one of the reasons, but during the Gold Rush, almost 80,000 frogs were eaten per year. It is now found in the coastal regions.

State Animal

California Grizzly Bear

The California grizzly bear (Ursus arctos californicus) was officially made the state animal in 1953. These large bears were found in the valleys and low mountains. As humans started encroaching upon their habitat, the bears started killing cattle and straying into human settlements. Subsequently, the grizzlies began to be hunted, which ultimately led to their extinction.

State Bird

California State bird

The California quail (Lophortyx californica) became the official state bird in 1931. They have a plump and gray-colored body, which is smaller than that of a pigeon. They have a curved, black plume on the head, black bib, and white strips under the beak. They are widely distributed in the state and very well-known for their adaptability and hardiness.

State Fish

Golden trout

The Golden trout (Salmo aguabonita) is a fish that was only found in California. It was declared as the official state fish in 1947, by the State Legislature. Efforts have been taken to expand its territory. It is seen in Sierra Nevada and has also been planted in other states.

State Marine Fish

California State marine fish

The Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) is an orange-colored fish. It is most commonly found near the Southern California coast. The adult fish grow up to 14 inches and have plain orange bodies. The young fish have bright blue spots on their body. It is not an endangered species, but their numbers have gone down because of the commercial collection. In 2002, the Legislature made it the official state marine fish and stopped commercial collection.

State Marine Mammal

California State marine mammal

The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) became the official state marine mammal in 1975. It has a mottled gray body with a low hump, instead of a dorsal fin. It is seen in small groups along the California coast. The whales come to the lagoons of Baja California for mating. The best time to spot them here is from December to February.

State Marine Reptile

California State marine reptile

The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) was officially declared the state marine reptile in 2012. It is the largest of all sea turtles and also the deepest diving among them. It has a black shell made of small bones, which is covered by a rubbery skin layer. It also has white and pink spots on its body. Sadly, it has been on the list of endangered species since 1970. October 15 is declared the Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day.

State Reptile

California State reptile

desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is the state reptile since 1972. It is found in the southwestern desert areas. This species lives there as a protected species now. It is endangered in the wild because of habitat loss and natural predators like coyotes, roadrunners, gila monsters, badgers, and ravens. This species was one of the main reasons for passing the California Desert Protection Act.

State Insect

California State insect

The California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice) became the official state insect in 1972. These yellow-colored beauties are found exclusively in California. Their range spans from the Sierra Nevada foothills to Coastal regions, and from Sonoma to San Diego. The male is brightly colored with a silhouette of dog’s head on the wings. The female is yellow with pale black spot.

Geology Symbols

State Fossil

Saber Toothed Cat

The saber-toothed cat (Smilodon californicus) was declared as the official state fossil in 1973. The cat is an extinct animal but its fossil bones have been found in Rancho La Brea (Los Angeles). It is said that this meat-eating cat was very common in California. Evidence also suggests that it had an 8-inch upper teeth and was smaller than a lion.

State Gemstone


Benitoite is the official state gemstone since 1985. This gem was first found in the waters of the San Benito River and hence the name. It is extremely rare and due to its blue color, it is sometimes called the “blue diamond”. The color of the gem ranges from light blue to sapphire blue, or sometimes, even violet.

State Mineral

California State mineral

It is quite obvious that gold is the official state mineral. Gold was discovered in January of 1848, and in the following years, there were thousands of people who came here to extract gold. Today, the production is much lower but you will still be able to unearth some.

State Rock

California was the first state to decide on a state rock. Serpentine was made the official rock in 1965. It is a shiny rock which is greenish-blue in color. It is formed from the deposits of chromite, cinnabar, and magnesite.

State Soil

The San Joaquin soil was declared as the official state soil in1997. This is a soil found in abundance across the whole state, especially the California Central Valley. It is widely used for growing crops like rice, wheat, grapes, and oranges. In some parts, it is also used for urban development.

Cultural Symbols

State Colors

There are two state colors: blue and gold. The blue signifies the sky and the gold signifies the discovery of the precious metal. This particular combination was first used by the University of California, Berkeley as school colors, in 1875. After 1913, ribbons of both colors were used with the seal on official documents. State Secretary, Frank M. Jordan, suggested these two colors as official colors in 1951. The State Legislature accepted it.

State Dance

West Coast Swing Dance

West Coast Swing became the official state dance in 1988. It is a partner dance which has its origin from the dance form “Lindy Hop”. It originally started in the 1930s and since then became a part of every dance. This dance allows improvisation while dancing. The characteristic feature of the dance is a distinctive elastic look while the partners come closer and go away from each other. It is a form which has influenced many fusion dances too.

State Fife and Drum Band

The California Consolidated Drum Band was declared the official state fife and drum band in 1997. The music is played to accompany the soldiers at historically significant events.

State Folk Dance

California State folk dance square dance

Square dancing was officially announced as the state folk dance in 1988. It is an American folk dance which includes four couples forming a square. It is a dance that was popular for many years, since the “Gold Rush Days”. A total of 19 U.S. states have made this dance their official state dance.

State Gold Rush Ghost Town

California State gold rush ghost town bodie

Bodie was made the official state Gold Rush ghost town in 2002. In 1877-79, the population of the town went from 3,000 to 10,000. The history behind the name is not known, but it is said that it came from the camp site where gold was found by William or Waterman S. Bodey, in 1859. People found a lot of gold but businesses began to dwindle in 1882. It faded into a ghost town in 1940. In 1962, it was declared as a historic park, and today, almost 170 buildings are protected.

State Historical Society

The California Historical Society was established in 1871. But, it was declared the official state society in 1979. It has its headquarters in San Francisco and works solely to collect and preserve anything about the history. It has a huge collection of photographs (almost over 500,000) by famous Californian photographers. It also has a collection of maps, manuscripts, and books. Apart from that, it also offers lectures and activities in schools regularly.

State Military Museum

The California State Military Museum became the official museum in 2004. It first opened in 1991. It is located at 1119 Second Street of the Old Sacramento State Historic Park. Apart from that, it has five satellite museums at Camp Roberts in Monterey County, Fresno Air National Guard Base, Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base in Orange County, Camp San Luis Obispo, and the National Guard Armory in San Diego. The museum is dedicated to honor the contributions of the army their units and operations of the military.

State Prehistoric Artifact

California was the first state to decide on such a state symbol. The chipped stone bear was officially declared as a state symbol in 1991. It was found in 1985, at an archaeological dig site in San Diego County. The stone resembles a bear walking and is said to have been made for religious use. It measures about 2.5 by 1.5 inches and is a volcanic rock.

State Silver Rush Ghost Town

California State Silver Rush Ghost Town

Calico was officially declared as the official state Silver Rush ghost town in 2005. In the 1880s, it was a major silver strike and abundant silver was found. In 10 years, the price of an ounce of silver dropped to half in value. This decreased the demand, and soon it became a ghost town, in the 1900s. Walter Knott, owner of Knott’s Berry Farm, bought and preserved this area. Some buildings were constructed to recreate the past. He donated it to the County of San Bernardino, in 1966, and is now a part of the County Regional Park.

State Tall Ship

California State tall ship

The Californian claimed this title in 2003. It was built in 1984 as a replica of the 1847 Revenue Cutter C. W. Lawrence. That ship was used to keep an eye on the coast during the Gold Rush period. Since 2002, the Californian is owned by the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Also, this ship is used for educating people and for summer tours of the coast.

State Tartan

The California Tartan was made the official state tartan in 2001. It was done to honor the Scottish ancestry of people who lived in California. It is described as a pattern of alternate squares of meadow green and pacific blue, which are separated by thin charcoal bands. The green squares are divided by a gold seam and the blue squares are divided by a sky blue stripe. Also, both have charcoal lines on both sides. The blue color signifies the sky and water bodies, and the green color signifies the mountains and fields. The red, gold, and blue represent an overall richness of arts, sciences, and industries of California.

State Theater

Pasadena Playhouse is the official state theater, recognized in 1937. This Spanish style theater was designed by the architect Elmer Grey. The construction started in May 1924, and the first production was staged in May 1925. Many famous Hollywood actors have acted here. Today, it is a 680-seat theater that hosts around 315 performances a year.

State Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The California Vietnam Veterans Memorial was officially announced in 1988. It is built in Sacramento’s Capitol Park and is a reminder and tribute to the 5,822 Californians who died in the Vietnam War. A Vietnam War veteran B. T. Collins and journalist Stan Atkinson started a fundraising drive and were successful in raising this memorial. The names of people who sacrificed their lives are written on the black marble panel. The wartime lives of soldiers, pilots, nurses, POWs, and other service members are depicted with the bronze sculptures. There is a dedication monument which has an inscription saying “All gave some. Some gave all.”

After knowing all this, don’t you think we should start respecting our history much more? It’s always interesting to know all about one’s state. Keep learning and keep sharing it too!

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