A Complete List of North Carolina State Symbols

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A Complete List of North Carolina State Symbols

The General Assembly of North Carolina has adopted over 45 state symbols and emblems representing the State. This ScienceStruck article gives you a complete list of all the symbols of North Carolina.

The famous ‘Firsts’ in N.C.

  • The Wright brothers completed the first successful flight of their airplane in Kitty Hawk.
  • Raleigh houses the first state owned art museum in the U.S.
  • The first miniature golf course is in Fayetteville.
  • The first Pepsi was made and served in New Bern.

One of the thirteen original states of the United States, the geographical expanse of North Carolina is defined by the Appalachian mountains and foothills on the west, the Piedmont region in the center and the Coastal Plains on the east. Raleigh is the capital and Charlotte is the largest city of the state. A state with 9.3 million people, it is the 10th most populous state in the country.

State Symbols of North Carolina

The North Carolina General Assembly has adopted several state symbols and emblems. Here is a list of all of them with the year of their adoption given in brackets.


State Symbols

1. State Flag (1885)

North Carolina State Flag

The state flag combines the colors of red, white, and blue. The blue background represents the blue Union with a white star on it between the letters N and C. The red and white bars are proportionally equal. The length of these horizontal bars equals the perpendicular length of the Union. The date May 20th, 1775, is the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (which is a controversial topic, but no changes have been made despite that). The other date April 12th, 1776, honors the Halifax Resolves.

2. State Motto (1893)

Until 1893, North Carolina was the only one amongst the original states to be without a motto. The General Assembly adopted the motto, directing that it would appear on the Great Seal of North Carolina. The state Motto is a Latin phrase Esse Quam Videri, which means “to be rather than to seem”. This phrase comes from Cicero’s essay on friendship, and it appears on the plaque of the Joseph Winston Monument in Guilford Courthouse, Greensboro, NC.

3. State Seal: The Great Seal of N.C. (1893, 1971)

Although it was officially established as the Seal of North Carolina in 1893, the General Assembly standardized it in 1971. The circle in the official seal is 2¼ inches in diameter. It depicts two figures of “Liberty” and “Plenty” at the center of the circle. Liberty is seen standing with a capped pole in her left hand, and in her right hand, a scroll with the word “constitution” on it. Plenty is seated down, holding three heads of grain in her right hand, and emptying an overflowing cornucopia with her left hand.

4. State Song: Old North State (1897)

The Old North State, written by William Gaston in 1835, was officially adopted as the song of the state of North Carolina in 1927. A few lines from the song:

“Carolina! Carolina! Heaven’s blessings attend her!
While we live we will cherish, protect and defend her;
Though the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her,
Our hearts swell with gladness whenever we name her.
Hurrah! Hurrah! The Old North State forever!
Hurrah! Hurrah! The good Old North State!”
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State Flora

5. State Flower: Dogwood (1941)

North Carolina state flower Dogwood

The scientific name of Dogwood is Cornaceae. Three species of this flower are found in the state: Cornus alternifolia (with alternate leaves) found in the mountains, the gray dogwood or Cornus racemosa (a bush growing in damp meadows), and the flowering dogwood or Cornus florida (its leaves turn from green to red to maroon). The shock-resistant wood of the tree is used in making farm implements, wedges, tool handles, etc. Its flowers, bark, roots, and berries have medicinal properties.

6. State Tree: Pine (1963)

North Carolina state tree Pine tree

Around 1959, the Garden Clubs of North Carolina campaigned to name a state tree. In the 1962 meeting, pine emerged as the first choice of many member clubs. It is today very crucial for the construction industry; however, the pine forests have been known as the source of all the naval essentials of turpentine, tar, pitch and rosin. Until 1860s, North Carolina was the bulk provider of these materials to the U.S. markets. The ‘state toast’ begins its first line with a reference to pine.

7. State Vegetable: Sweet Potato (1995)

North Carolina state vegetable Sweet Potato

North Carolina is the largest producer of Ipomoea batatas, the scientific name for sweet potato, in the country. Sweet potato was therefore requested to be named the official state vegetable by the students of the Wilson County school. It thus became the state symbol in 1995. A low in fat vegetable, sweet potato is a rich source of Vitamin A and C. It has been grown in the state since the times before European colonization of the region.

8. State Fruits and Berries (2001)

North Carolina state berries Strawberry and Blueberry

Official State fruit: Scuppernong Grape (vitis rotundifolia) – The state is home to this first ever actively cultivated grape in the country. It is a bronze-green muscadine grape or a native variety named after the Scuppernong river. Sir Walter Raleigh’s colonies are believed to have discovered the Scuppernong “Mother Vineyard” on Roanoke Island, a vine that covers around half an acre and is over 400 years old.
“Where the scuppernong perfumes the breeze at night” is a dedication to this grape in the ‘state toast’.

Official red berry: Strawberry (Fragaria genus)
Official blue berry: Blueberry (Vaccinium genus)
Hundreds of acres of these berries are harvested in the state annually. Both of them are rich in vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties. They also provide other essential minerals and dietary fiber to the body.

9. State Wildlife Flower: Carolina Lily (2003)

Lilium michauxii or the Carolina lily is named after the 19th century naturalist and explorer, Andre Michaux. Its habitat is wide ranging from the hills and forests up to the coastal swamplands.

10. State Carnivorous Plant: Venus Flytrap (2005)

Venus flytrap, also known as Dionaea muscipula, is found in a small area of the coastal plains in the states of North (more specifically around Wilmington) and South Carolina. The leaves of the plant have bristles. If an insect (or an object) brushes against them two or more times, the trap is activated. The trap closes within a fraction of a second, but does not close completely until the plant has verified (chemically or through movement) the trapped object to be a worthwhile food. Once shut, it opens between 3 days to 2 weeks.

11. State Christmas Tree: Fraser Fir (2005)

The eight grade students of the Harris Middle school in Spruce Pine studied the economic impact of the Fraser fir industry on the state. This is how it became a state symbol. The Fraser fir or Abies Fraseri is named after a Scottish botanist who collaborated along with Andre Michaux (Carolina lily) in exploring the Appalachian mountains during the 1700s.

State Fauna

12. State Bird: Cardinal (1943)

North Carolina state bird Cardinal

Its scientific name is Cardinalis cardinalis. In 1933, the Carolina Chickadee was suggested to be named as the state bird, but the resolution was repealed later, as the Chickadees nickname – the Tomtit, was thought to have no dignity. Six other states have chosen the Cardinal to be their state bird.

13. State Shell: Scotch Bonnet (1965)

This Phalium granulatum is a helmet family sea-snail variety with short spires (tower-like pointed shape), large body whorls, and thick outer lips. There is a pattern of orange squares on its body, giving a Scottish plaid-like feel. Hence, the name Scotch Bonnet.

14. State Mammal: Gray Squirrel (1969)

North Carolina state mammal Gray Squirrel

The squirrel was proposed to be a state symbol for as it was seen to be “courageous and thrifty”. It inhabits a wide area including the swamps of eastern North Carolina and the hardwood forests of the piedmont. They are also seen hurrying on tree branches in parks, and trees in the neighborhood. Their diet comprises acorns, tree buds, fungi, eggs, fruits, corn, peanuts, and insects. It is said that the squirrel proved very useful to the survival of the North American colonies as a source of food. Chronicles have it that catching a rapid and swift squirrel helped train the soldiers fighting in the American Revolution and the Civil War.

15. State Saltwater Fish: Channel Bass (1971)

Also known as the “Red Drum”, its scientific name is Sciaenops ocellatus. It is found in the coastal areas of Tar Heel. Its weight is approximately in the range of 30 to 40 pounds.

16. State Insect: Honey Bee (1973)

North Carolina state insect Honey Bee

The European honeybees (Apis mellifera) represent the farming and folk culture since centuries. The bees came to North America in the 1600s and by mid 1700s, beeswax used for cosmetics was a part of North Carolina’s export. This state insect produces honey over USD 2,000,000 million worth in a year. They also aid pollination of many cash crops (cotton, fruit, vegetables, alfalfa) in North Carolina.

17. State Reptile: Eastern Box Turtle (1979)

North Carolina state reptile Eastern Box Turtle

Also known as Terrapene carolina, the eastern box turtle is one of the four subspecies of box turtles inhabiting the east of Mississippi region. The naming of this species is due to its ability to completely box up in its shell whenever it is threatened. It is seen in forests, fields, and neighborhoods. This turtle was made the official state reptile and it was designated as the emblem representing the turtles inhabiting North Carolina.

The eastern box turtles are often kept as pets; however, they can live as long as 50 years, and thus domesticating them should be a well thought of decision. These turtles are no more reproducing in the wild, so collecting them can have adverse impact on their local populations.

18. State Dog: Plott Hound (1989)

This breed of dog is one of the four breeds native to the United States. The ancestors of the Plott hound today, entered America with Johannes Plott in 1750. The Plott family raised them to be the hardworking, alert, courageous, and tenacious dogs. Their color is usually a mix of black, brown, and bronze.

19. State Freshwater Trout (2005)

Salvelinus fontinalis is the scientific name for the Southern Appalachian trout, a strain of freshwater brook trout. It was adopted as the official freshwater trout of the state. A beautiful native fish species, it is also called by the locals as “specks”, “speckled trout”, or “brookies”. These trouts are often found in isolated high-altitude waters, generally in the headwater streams, where the water is cleaner.

20. State Horse: Colonial Spanish Mustang (2010)

The American Livestock Breed Conservancy has identified the Colonial Spanish breed as “renowned for their even temperament and gentle dispositions”. They inhabit the Currituck Outer Banks in North Carolina. Once found in thousands of numbers, today only a few hundred of these wild horses are seen on the north beaches of Corolla in Currituck County and on the Shackleford Banks in Carteret County.

21. State Butterfly: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (2012)

North Carolina state butterfly Tiger Swallowtail

Papilio glaucus is the scientific name of this butterfly with hues and patterns on its wings resembling tiger-skin. A native variety, it is believed to have first been drawn by the Governor of Roanoke colony, who was also an artist and cartographer. Many other states have designated this butterfly as either their ‘state insect’ or ‘state butterfly’.

22. State Frog: Pine Barrens Treefrog (2013)

North Carolina state frog Pine Barrens Tree Frog

It became the state frog due to the efforts of the North Carolina Herpetological (concerned with reptiles and amphibians) Society. Its scientific name is Hyla andersonii and it is found in the Sandhills and coastal plains regions of North Carolina. The Pine Barrens treefrog got the maximum votes in a poll to determine the best amphibian representative in the state. Rachel Hopkins, a teenager who campaigns for conservation of frogs, had initiated this poll.

23. State Salamander: Marbled Salamander (2013)

This was also chosen in the poll conducted for the amphibian that best represented the state, along with the state frog. Every Marbled Salamander has a different color pattern. It is a priority species for monitoring and conservation efforts undertaken by the North Carolina Wildlife Action Plan.

24. State Marsupial: Virginia Oppossum (2013)

North Carolina state marsupial Virginia Oppossum

This Didelphis virginiana variety of Marsupial, is the only marsupial found in North America. It is a native species of the state. Like the Kangaroos, a female Oppossum carries its young one in a pouch until it grows old and becomes independent. It has a long pointed nose, a triangular head, and black leathery ears.
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State Geology

State Stone Emerald (1973)
State Rock Granite (1979)
State Mineral Gold (Aurum) (2011)
State Fossil Megalodon shark’s fossilized teeth (2013)

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State Culture

State Colors Red and Blue (1945)
State Toast “Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,…”, a poem written by Leonora Martin and Mary Burke Kerr. (1957)
State Beverage Milk (1987)
State Historical Boat The Shad Boat (1987)
State Military Academy The Oak Ridge Military Academy, Guilford County (1991)
State Tartan The Carolina Tartan (1991)
State Watermelon Festivals Northeastern – The Hertford County Watermelon Festival (1993)
Southeastern – The Fair Bluff Watermelon Festival (1993)
State International Festival The Folkmoot USA (2003)
State Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum and State Museum of Aviation The Asheboro Municipal Airport and Wilmington International Airport, respectively. (2003)
State Birthplace of Traditional Pottery The Seagrove area (2005)
The Official Folk and Popular State Dances Clogging and Shagging, respectively. (2005)
State Collard Festival The Ayden Collard Festival in Pitt County (2007)
State Food Festival The Lexington Barbecue Festival (2007)
State Community Theater The Thalian Association in Wilmington (1975)
State Salute to the State Flag “I salute the flag of North Carolina and pledge to the Old North State love, loyalty, and faith.” (2007)
State Irish Potato Festival The Albemarle Potato Festival in Elizabeth City (2009)
State Honor and Remember Flag Created by George Lutz (2010)
State Sport Stock Car Racing (2011)
State Shad Festival The Grifton Shad Festival (2011)
State Herring Festival The Jamesville Herring Festival (2011)
State Shrimp Festival The Sneads Ferry Shrimp Festival (2011)
State Livermush Festivals Spring Livermush Festival – The Marion Livermush Festival (2012)
Fall Livermush Festival – The Shelby Livermush Festival (2012)
State Mullet Festival The Swansboro Mullet Festival (2012)
State Folk Art The Whirligigs created by Vollis Simpson (2013)
State Art Medium Clay (2013)
State Peanut Festival The Dublin Peanut Festival (every third Saturday in September) (2013)
State Blue Monday Shad Fry The East Arcadia Blue Monday Shad Fry (2011)

North Carolina is known by the nickname of “Tar Heel State”, attributed to many legends and folklore, one being that the state was prime supplier of naval essentials including tar, pitch, and turpentine.

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