The Official State … whatever
All of the states in the United States have some special things that are taken as emblems of a particular state. For example, all states have an Official State Bird and an Official State Flower. Most states also have an Official State Tree and an Official State Song, and many have an Official State Animal (or Mammal). Other common categories are Official State Mineral and Official State Fish.
In New Mexico, the Official State Bird is the roadrunner, and the Official State Flower is the yucca blossom. Both of those are very well suited to represent the state. Other states also have good flowers and birds. Our neighbor, Arizona, has the very apt combination of the saguaro cactus flower and the cactus wren, two species that rely on each other for survival. The most popular Official State Bird is the mockingbird, the Official State Bird of Texas, Arkansas, and a whole lot of other Southern states. Oklahoma has an especially attractive Official State Bird, the scissortail flycatcher. On the other hand, Rhode Island has chosen an Official State Bird that I’m not sure should qualify – an Official State Bird should be wildlife rather than a domestic animal, a species rather than a subspecies or breed, and should encompass both genders. Much as I enjoy the high quality of egg it produces, the Rhode Island Red hen would be better named as Official State Poultry or Official State Domestic Animal. Somehow, I find it hard to imagine bird lovers with binoculars going to Rhode Island barnyards in search of a “find.”
Many states have the sunflower as Official State Flower, including Oklahoma and Kansas, where a traveler passing through in mid to late summer will see acres and acres of the sunny yellow blossoms. Perhaps the most appropriate Official State Flower is Colorado’s columbine. These five-petal flowers feature a graceful spur growing backward from the back of each petal, holding a drop of nectar to be harvested by the hummingbirds that pollinate the plant. They grow only at higher altitudes, and the color of the petals shades from the blue-violet of the high-altitude sky to the white of the snow that covers the high country for much of the year and that in the higher elevations never goes completely away.
Back in New Mexico, we have the Official State Mammal, the black bear; the Official State Fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout; the Official State Tree, the piñon; the Official State Mineral, turquoise; and the Official State Song, “Oh, Fair New Mexico,” written by a mariachi singer who also happened to be the lieutenant governor at the time.
We also have a few oddballs. There is the Official State Aircraft, the hot-air balloon; the Official State Necktie, the bolo tie; the Official State Vegetable, the pinto bean; and the Official State Cookie, the bizcochito. But the one that most distinguishes New Mexico from all of the other states is that New Mexico has an Official State Question: “Red or green?” In New Mexican restaurants, diners typically are given a choice about what kind of chile they want on their food – the red chile that is what the rest of the world thinks of as chile, or the green chile that is picked before it turns red and has a more fruity, fresh flavor. As far as I know, no other state has an Official State Question. For that matter, I’m guessing most states don’t have an Official State Necktie or an Official State Aircraft.
On the other hand, I do know that other states have their own special Official State whatevers. For example, I know that Maine has an Official State Cat – the Maine Coon Cat. What I would like to know is what the Official State things are in other states. So I’m asking my six or so loyal readers … what are some of the more interesting Official State thingummies that you know about?