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Louisiana’s Symbols: A Journey Through its Official Emblems

Louisiana is a south-eastern state in the U.S., popularly known as America’s first ‘melting pot’ of cultures. It has a population of about 4.7 million people and includes the cultures of French-Canadian, African, modern American and French, and is well-known for its unique Cajun culture, Gumbo and Creole.

The state was named by Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle, a French explorer who decided to call it ‘La Louisianne’ in honor of the King of France: Louis XIV. It’s also home to many famous celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Tim McGraw and Ellen Degeneres.

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In 1812, Louisiana was admitted to the Union as the 18th state. Here’s a look at the most common symbols associated with the state.

Flag of Louisiana

Louisiana flag

The official flag of the state of Louisiana features a white pelican superimposed on an azure field, depicted as nurturing its young. The three drops of blood on the pelican’s breast signifies it tearing at its own flesh to feed its young. Below the image of the pelican is a white banner with the state motto written on it: Union, Justice and Confidence. The blue background of the flag symbolizes truth whereas the pelican herself is a symbol of Christian charity and Catholicism.

Before 1861, Louisiana had no official state flag although there was a flag similar to the current one used unofficially. Later on in 1912, this version was adopted as the official flag of the state.

The Crawfish

Also called mudbugs, crayfish or crawdads, the crawfish is a freshwater crustacean which looks rather similar to a small lobster and its color can vary depending on the type of water it lives in: either freshwater or saltwater. There are over 500 species of crawfish out of which more than 250 live in North America.

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In the past, the Native Americans harvested crawfish by using venison meat as bait and was a popular source of food. Today, crawfish are found in abundance in the state of Louisiana which produces over 100 million pounds of crawfish each year. In 1983 it was designated the official crustacean of the state.


Gumbo, adopted as the official state cuisine of Louisiana in 2004, is a soup consisting primarily of shellfish or meat, strongly-flavored stock, thickener and three different types of vegetables: bell peppers, celery and onions. Gumbo is usually categorized by the type of thickener that’s used, either file (powdered sassafras leaves) or okra powder.

Gumbo combines the culinary practices and ingredients of several cultures including French, Spanish, German and African. It’s said to have originated in Louisiana early in the 18th century, but the exact origins of the meal remain unknown. Many of the cooking competitions in Louisiana are centered around gumbo and it’s usually the central feature of local festivals.  

Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Catahoula leopard dog was named the official dog of the state of Louisiana in 1979. Athletic, agile, protective and territorial, the Catahoula leopard dog comes in all colors but they’re best known for their bluish-grey base with liver/black spots. It’s common for the eyes of Catahoula leopard dogs to be two different colors.

These dogs are bred to find livestock in any kind of terrain, be it canyons, mountains, forests or swamps. Developed by early settlers and Indians, the Catahoula leopard dog is the only native domesticated North American dog breed.

Petrified Palmwood

Over 100 million years ago, the state of Louisiana used to be nothing but a lush, tropical forest. Sometimes, trees fell into highly mineral-rich mud before they had the chance to decay and these became petrified wood, a type of stone similar to quartz. Over time, minerals replaced the organic wood cells, retaining the shape of the original wood and turning it into beautiful fossils.

Petrified palmwood has a spotted look due to rod-like structures in the original wood. These structures show up like spots, lines or tapering rods depending on the angle at which the stone is cut. Polished petrified palm wood is popularly used for making jewelry. In 1976, it was officially named the state fossil of Louisiana and is the most popular gem material in the state.

White Perch

The white perch is a freshwater fish belonging to the bass family, named the official freshwater fish of the state of Louisiana in 1993. It eats the eggs of other fish as well as fathead minnows and mud minnows. These fish grow up to 1-2 pounds, but some have been known to grow up to nearly 7 pounds.

The white perch is sometimes considered to be a nuisance because it destroys fisheries. Some states in the U.S. have enacted laws prohibiting the possession of the fish. If a white perch is caught, it’s not supposed to be released back into the water so that its spread can be controlled.

Cajun Accordion

The diatonic Cajun accordion has been the official musical instrument of the state of Louisiana since 1990. It first arrived in the state from Germany in the mid-1800s and by the early 20th century it had become an important element in Cajun music.

Although the Cajun is a small instrument, it has more volume and sound power than a piano key accordion. However, its range is much less since it’s diatonic: it uses only the 8 tones of a standard scale without any chromatic variations. It was the only instrument which could tolerate the humidity of Louisiana without damage.

‘You are My Sunshine’

Popularized by Charles Mitchell and Jimmie Davis (once the governor of the state), the famous song ‘You Are My Sunshine’ was made one of the state songs of Louisiana in 1977. The song was originally a country song but over time it’s lost its country music identity. The artist who actually wrote the original version is still unknown. The song has been recorded numerous times by many artists, making it one of the most covered songs in the history of music. In 2013 it was included in the National Recording Registry for long-term preservation and it remains a highly popular song today.

Honey Island Swamp

Located in the eastern part of Louisiana, the Honey Island Swamp got its name from the honeybees which were seen on an isle nearby. The swamp is one of the least-altered swamps in the U.S., covering an area of more than 20 miles in length and almost 7 miles in width. The government of Louisiana sanctioned it as a permanently protected area for wildlife such as alligators, wild boars, raccoons, turtles, snakes and bald eagles.

The Swamp is famous as the home of the Honey Island Swamp monster, a legendary creature, called the ‘Tainted Keitre’ said to be seven feet tall with yellow eyes, grey hair, a disgusting smell and four toes. Although some people claim to have seen this monster, there has never been any evidence that such a creature exists.

Louisiana Iris

The Louisiana Iris is native to the coastal swamps of the state of Louisiana, found most commonly around New Orleans, but it can adapt to almost any kind of climate. This flower has a sword-like foliage and grows up to 6 feet. It’s color range is wider than any other type of Iris including purple, yellow, white, pink, blue as well as brownish-red shades.

The Louisiana Iris was adopted as the official wildflower of the state in 1990. The official symbol of the state is a stylized version of the fleur-de-lis (an iris) used as a heraldic symbol and in decoration.  


Agate is a common formation of rock made up of quartz and chalcedony as its primary components. It consists of a wide range of colors and is primarily formed within metamorphic and volcanic rocks. Agate is commonly used to make ornaments like pins, brooches, paper knives, seals, marbles and inkstands. It’s also a popular stone for making jewelry because of its beautiful colors and patterns.

Agate was named the state gemstone of Louisiana in 1976 and later in 2011 the state Legislature amended it, making it the state mineral instead.

Myrtles Plantation

The Myrtles Plantation is a former antebellum plantation and historic home built in 1796. It’s known as one of the most haunted homes in America and there are several legends surrounding it. It’s said that the house was built just over a Native American burial ground and many claim to have seen the ghost of a young Native American woman on the premises.

In 2014, a fire broke out in the house, severely damaging an extension of the building that was added in 2008 but the original structure remained intact and wasn’t harmed at all. Today, the Myrtles Plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and continues to be a highly popular tourist attraction because of its strong association with paranormal activities. It’s also been featured in many magazines, books and television show.

Louisiana state symbols

Check out our related articles on other popular state symbols:

Symbols of California

Symbols of New Jersey

Symbols of Florida

Symbols of Connecticut

Symbols of Alaska

Symbols of Arkansas

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.