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State Symbols

State Seal

State Seal

The Roman numerals XVI signify that Tennessee was the 16th state to enter the Union. The plow, the sheaf of wheat and a cotton stalk symbolize the importance of agriculture, while the riverboat attests to the importance of river traffic to commerce.

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State Flag

State Flag

Adopted in 1905, the flag features three stars representing the grand divisions of the state: East, Middle and West. The stars are bound together in indissoluble unity by an unending white band.

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Passion Flower

Wildflower

The passion flower, genus Passiflora, which grows wild in the southern part of the United States and in South America, is also commonly known as the maypop, the wild apricot and the ocoee. The last is the Indian name that has also been applied to the Ocoee River and valley. The Indians prized the ocoee as the most abundant and beautiful of all their flowers. The passion flower received its name from the early Christian missionaries to South America, who saw in the various parts of the curiously constructed flower symbols of the Crucifixion—the three crosses, the crown of thorns, nails and cords.

Iris

Cultivated Flower

The iris, genus Iridaceae, is an herbacious perennial of which there are about 170 species, including several North American varieties, the most common of which is the Blue Flag. While there are several different colors among the iris, and the act naming the iris as the state flower did not name a particular color, by common acceptance the purple iris is considered the state flower.

Tomato

Fruit

The tomato, scientifically known as the Lycopersicon lycopersicum, was designated as Tennessee’s official state fruit by Chapter 154 of the Public Acts of 2003.

Tulip Popular

Tree

The tulip poplar was designated as the official state tree of Tennessee by Public Chapter 204 of the Acts of the 1947 General Assembly. The act stated that, as no state tree had ever before been designated, the adoption of an official tree seemed appropriate. The tulip poplar was chosen “because it grows from one end of the state to the other” and “was extensively used by the pioneers of the state to construct houses, barns, and other necessary farm buildings.”

Mocking Bird

Bird

According to the Nashville Banner of April 16, 1933, the mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, was selected on April 11, 1933, as state bird of Tennessee in an election conducted by the Tennessee Ornithological Society. The choice was confirmed by Senate Joint Resolution 51 adopted by the General Assembly in 1933.
The mockingbird is akin to the brown thrasher and the catbird. It is ashen gray above, with darker, white-edged wings and whitish underparts; its length, inclusive of the long tail, is about 10 inches. One of the finest singers among North American birds, it possesses a melodious song of its own, and is especially noted for its skill in mimicking the songs of other birds.

Quail

Game Bird

The bobwhite quail, genus Colinus virginianus, was designated as the official state game bird by Public Chapter 775 of the Acts of the 95th General Assembly. The bobwhite, also known as the partridge, is considered one of the finest game birds in the world. It is a short-tailed chunky brown bird, usually 8 to 10 inches long. The male has a white throat and a white stripe above the eye, while the female has a buffy throat and eye stripe. In spring the male’s clearly whistled bob white is answered by the female’s four-syllable whistle. This gamebird lays from 10 to 20 pure white eggs, more than almost any other bird.

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Sport Fish

Tennessee’s official sport fish is the smallmouth bass, as designated by Public Chapter 277 of the Acts of the 104th General Assembly.  The smallmouth bass replaced the largemouth bass as the official sport fish in 2005, due to its popularity and the fact that Tennessee has produced the three largest smallmouth bass in the world.

The smallmouth bass, Micropterus dolomieu, often referred to as “bronzeback”, will fight ounce for ounce harder than any other species of sport fish in Tennessee.  The current state record, which is also the world record of 11 pounds 15 ounces, was caught by D.L. Hayes at Dale Hollow Lake on July 9, 1955.  It may be found in most streams and lakes in the state with the exception of western Tennessee.

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State Commercial Fish

The state commercial fish is the channel catfish, Ictalurus lacustris, which was also designated by Public Chapter 489 as enacted by the 95th General Assembly. The channel catfish, sometimes known as “spotted cat” or “fiddler,” is widely stocked and reared in farm ponds. It may be found in most Tennessee streams and many lakes. The channel catfish is a bottom-feeder and current feeder, generally taken by still fishing.

Walking Horse

Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse was named the official state horse by Public Chapter 596 of the 101st General Assembly in 2000. The Tennessee Walking Horse is bred mainly from Standardbred, Morgan, Thoroughbred, and American Saddlebred stock. The three, easy-riding gaits of this breed: the flat-foot walk, the running walk, and the canter, are all natural, inherited characteristics, making this breed one of the smoothest riding horses in the world.
This breed was a practical utility horse in the beginning and evolved into a pleasure horse with its gentle ride. Tennessee Walking Horses generally range from 14.3 to 17 hands and weigh 900 to 1,200 pounds.

Raccoon

Wild Animal

By House Joint Resolution 156, the 87th General Assembly adopted the raccoon as Tennessee’s wild animal. The raccoon, Procynn lotor, is a furry animal that has a bushy, ringed tail and a band of black hair around its eyes which looks like a mask. Raccoons, often called coons, eat fish and frogs that they catch in rivers and streams. Raccoons living in Tennessee measure from 30 to 38 inches long, including their tails. They weigh from 12 to 25 pounds. Most males are larger than females. Raccoons walk like bears, with all four feet on the ground, and are good swimmers.

Firefly

Lady Bug

Insects

The official state insects were designated by Public Chapter 292 of the Acts of 1975. They are the well-known firefly, or lightning bug beetle, and the ladybeetle, more commonly known as the ladybug or ladybird beetle.

The firefly, or lightning bug beetle, is the popular name of the luminescent insects of the Lampyridae family. In Tennessee, Photinus pyralls is the most familiar species. Their extraordinary light is generated in special organs and it is most often white, yellow, orange, greenish blue or reddish. Rather small, they are blackish, brown, yellow or reddish in color. In certain species the females remain in the larvae state and are called glowworms. Most fireflies produce short rhythmic flashes which provide a signaling system to bring the sexes together and also a protective mechanism to repel predators.

The ladybeetle, more commonly called ladybug or ladybird beetle, is the popular name given the Coccinella 7. This beetle was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and called “Beetle of Our Lady.” They are around four-tenths of an inch long, brightly colored, round, with the popular ladybug having four black spots on each wing. Ladybugs are sold to farmers to control insect pests because they are important aphid predators. The life cycle is about four weeks as the ladybug larvae passes through four growth stages feeding on insects and insect eggs. In folk medicine ladybug beetles were used to cure various diseases including colic and the measles.

Honey Bee

Agricultural Insect

The official state agricultural insect is the honeybee and was designated by Public Chapter 725 of the Acts of 1990.
The honeybee, Apis mallifera, is a social, honey-producing insect that plays a fundamental role in the production of all crops. It is also very popular for its production of honey and beeswax. The honeybee plays a vital economic role in Tennessee through its pollination of various crops, trees, and grasses. The honeybee is the only insect that can be moved for the express purpose of pollination.

Zebra Swallowtail

Butterfly

The Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus, was designated as Tennessee's official butterfly by Public Chapter 896 of the 99th General Assembly in 1995. This beautiful, winged insect has black and white stripes that run the length of its body with red and blue spots on its lower back. The swallowtail grows from a tiny egg into a caterpillar that eventually molts into its pupal stage and is transformed into this striking butterfly that can be found throughout most of the United States.

Cave Salamander

Amphibian

The Tennessee Cave Salamander, Gyrino-philu palleucus, was named official state amphibian by Public Chapter 367 of the 99th General Assembly in 1995. This large, cave-dwelling salamander has three red external gills, a broad, flat head with small eyes and a tail fin. It is most often found in limestone caves that contain streams in central and southeast Tennessee.

Eastern Box Turtle

Reptile

The Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina, was designated official state reptile by Public Chapter 367 of the 99th General Assembly in 1995. This peaceful creature usually reaches a length of less than six inches and has a shell of black or brown with spots of yellow, orange and red. This reptile usually lives between 30 to 60 years and never ventures far from its place of birth.