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Florida, the second most visited state of the U.S.A, is one of the most interesting and unique places to visit. Its popularity among tourists stems from its many attractions, warm weather and beautiful natural landscapes. Home to Disney World, which instantly captivates anybody who visits, Florida boasts warm sunshine and numerous opportunities for fun and adventure.
Florida became a territory of the U.S. in 1821 and was admitted to the union as the 27th state of the U.S. in 1845. Here’s a quick look at some famous symbols commonly associated with the state of Florida.
Flag of Florida
The flag of Florida, also known as the Florida Flag, consists of a red cross (a saltire) defacing a white field with the state seal in the center. The original design which only had the state seal on the white field was changed in the 1800s when the Governor of Florida added the red cross to it. This feature was to commemorate the contributions of the state to the Confederacy. Later in 1985, the current design was adopted after the state seal was altered.
‘In God We Trust’
The state motto of Florida was officially designed back in 2006 and was the same as the motto of the United States: ‘In God We Trust’. The first motto was ‘In God is Our Trust’ but this was later changed to the current motto used today. It was adopted as a part of the state seal in 1868 by the Florida legislature.
State Seal of Florida
Adopted by the legislature in 1865, the state seal of Florida displays the sun’s rays over high land in the background with a steamboat on water, a cocoa tree and a Native American woman holding some flowers and scattering some on the ground. The scene is encircled by the state motto ‘In God We Trust’ and the words ‘Great Seal of the State of Florida’.
The seal is roughly the size of a silver dollar and represents the government of Florida. It’s used for official purposes like sealing official documents and legislation. It’s frequently used on vehicles, government buildings as well as on other effects of the government. It’s also depicted in the center of the Florida Flag.
Song: Swanee River
Also known as ‘Old Folks at Home’, the song Swanee River was written in 1851 by Stephen Foster. It’s a minstrel song that was designated as the official song of the state of Florida in 1935. However, the lyrics were considered to be quite offensive and over time they have been progressively altered.
On the surface, ‘Old Folks at Home’ seems to be a song about the narrator missing his childhood home. However, when reading between the lines, the narrator is making a reference to slavery. Traditionally, this song has been sung at the inauguration ceremony of the Governors of Florida, since it became the official song of the state.
Tallahassee (Muskogean Indian word for ‘old fields’ or ‘old town’) became the capital city of Florida in 1824 and is the largest city in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend regions. Home to the Florida State University, it’s the site of the State Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Florida Governor’s Mansion. The city is also the seat of Leon Country and its only incorporated municipality.
The Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi) was adopted as the official animal of the state of Florida (1982). This animal is a large predator that can grow over 6 feet in length and lives in freshwater swamp forests, tropical hardwood hammocks and pinelands. It’s quite unlike the other big cats in that it doesn’t have the ability to roar but instead makes purring, hissing, growling and whistling sounds.
In 1967, the Florida panther was listed on the endangered species list due to persecution out of misunderstanding and fear. Known as the ‘heart of the ecosystem’ within their habitat, it’s now illegal to hunt this unique animal.
The mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the official state bird of Florida, designated in 1927. This bird has extraordinary vocal abilities and can sing up to 200 songs including those of other birds as well as amphibian and insect sounds. Although its appearance is simple, the bird is a superb mimic and has its own song which sounds pleasant and is both repetitive and varied. It usually stays up singing all night under the bright moonlight. The mockingbird symbolizes beauty and innocence and is much loved by the people of Florida. Therefore, killing one is considered a great sin and said to bring bad luck. The title of the famous book To Kill a Mockingbird comes from this belief.
Zebra Longwing Butterfly
Found throughout the state of Florida, the zebra longwing butterfly was designated as the official butterfly of the state in 1996. Zebra longwings are the only known butterflies that eat pollen which seems to be the reason for their long lifespan (about 6 months) compared to other species which live for only a month or so. It lays its eggs on the vine leaves of passion fruits which contain toxins. These toxins are ingested by the caterpillars, making the butterfly poisonous to its predators. With its black wings, thin stripes and graceful, slow flight, the butterfly is seen as a symbol of endurance, hope, change and new life.
The moonstone was named the official gem of the state of Florida in 1970 to commemorate the Moon landings that took off from the Kennedy Space Center. Although it’s the state gemstone, it doesn’t actually occur in the State itself. In fact, the moonstone is found in Brazil, India, Australia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Myanmar. The moonstone is valued for its unique ghostly sheen can be seen moving under the surface of the stone, looking like moonlight glowing in the water, which is what gave it its name.
Florida Cracker Horse
The Florida Cracker horse (also known as Marsh tacky) is a breed of horse that came to Florida with the Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Known for its speed and agility, the Cracker horse was used for herding cattle in the early 16th century. Today, it’s used for many Western riding sports like team roping, team penning and working cow horse (a horse competition).It’s physically similar to many its Spanish descendants and is found in several colors including grullo, chestnut, black, bay and gray. In 2008, the Florida Cracker horse was designated the official heritage horse of the state of Florida
Silver Spurs Rodeo
Held twice a year in Kissimmee, Florida, the Silver Spurs Rodeo is one of the 50 largest rodeos in the U.S. The official rodeo of the state of Florida since 1994, it has gradually grown to become the largest rodeo in Mississippi, drawing thousands of visitors ever year.
The Rodeo, founded by the Silver Spurs Riding Club in 1944, is a part of the Osceola Heritage Park. It features all the traditional rodeo events (there are 7), including a rodeo clown and square dance performed on horseback by the famous Silver Spurs Quadrille team.
The Coreopsis, commonly known as Tickseed, is a group of flowering plants which are yellow in color with a toothed tip. They’re also found in two colors: yellow and red. The Coreopsis plant has fruits that look something like little bugs, being small, dry and flat. The flowers of the coreopsis are used as pollen and nectar for insects and are popular in gardens for attracting butterflies. In flower language, it symbolizes cheerfulness and the Coreopsis arkansa represents love at first sight.
In 1953, Florida designated the sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) as its official state tree. The Sabal palm is a hardy palm tree that’s highly salt-tolerant and can grow anywhere, ideally where it can get washed by sea water when the tide is high. It’s commonly seen growing along the Atlantic ocean coast. The palm is also frost-tolerant, surviving temperatures as low as -14oC for short periods of times.
The terminal bud of the sabal palm (also called the terminal bud) resembles the head of a cabbage in shape and was a popular food of the native Americans. However, harvesting the bud can kill the palm since it won’t be able to grow and replace old leaves.
The American alligator commonly referred to as a ‘common gator’ or ‘gator’, is the official state reptile of Florida, designated in 1987. It differs slightly from the sympatric American crocodile by its broad snout, overlapping jaws and darker coloration and inability to tolerate sea water.
American alligators consume amphibians, reptiles, fish, mammals and birds and their hatchlings typically feed on invertebrates. They play an extremely important role in wetland ecosystems by creating alligator holes that provide both dry and set habitats for many other organisms. These animals were poached and hunted by humans in the 1800s and mid-1900s, they have fully recovered and are no longer endangered.
Calle Ocho Festival
Every year in Little Havana, Florida, one of the largest festivals in the world takes place with over one million visitors attending. This event is the famous Calle Ocho Music Festival, a free street festival and one-day fiesta that began in 1978 as a way of bringing the Hispanic community together. The festival involves food, drinks, host dancing and about 30 live entertainment stages. It’s sponsored and organized by the Kiwanis Club service organization in Little Havana and the Florida legislature identified it as the official state festival of Florida in 2010.
Check out our related articles on other popular state symbols:
Symbols of Hawaii
Symbols of Pennsylvania
Symbols of New York
Symbols of California