Alabama has many symbols

Published 9:33 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

By Nina Keenam

How much do you know about Alabama?

While thumbing through a big book I pulled out of my husband’s library, I stumbled across a paragraph relating to Pennsylvania’s state insect. It set me wondering. Does Alabama have a state insect? That led me on a search where I found out a lot of things about Alabama. It’s been many a year since I studied Alabama history. Some facts might have slipped my memory and some state symbols have been adopted in more recent years.

Yes, Alabama does have a state insect. Like to venture a guess, say a june bug, lightning bug or lady bug? All good guesses, but not correct. It’s the beautiful monarch butterfly. Now I don’t quite understand this, but we also have a state butterfly and mascot, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Those were all were adopted by the State Legislature in 1989.

I remember that the state bird is the yellowhammer, or flicker. During the Civil War, Alabama troops were referred to as “Yellowhammers.” I once read that when the Confederate veterans organized, they wore a yellow feather in their caps and lapels during reunions.

Here are some more facts: The wild turkey is the Alabama state game bird, which I’m sure is no surprise to hunters. The state saltwater fish is the tarpon; the state freshwater fish is the largemouth bass.

The state fossil is the Basilosaurus (or Zeuglodon), a primitive, extinct whale about 65 ft long. It lived in the extension of the Gulf of Mexico, which covered southern Alabama about 45 million years ago.

The state flower is the camellia, the only state symbol not native to the state. Incidentally, Alabama’s state flower once was the goldenrod. The decision to change it occurred because it was believed that it caused allergic reactions. It has since been learned that ragweed was the culprit.

The state wildflower is the oak-leaf hydrangea; the state tree is the Southern longleaf pine; the state amphibian is the Red Hills salamander, adopted in the year 2000. The state reptile is the red-bellied turtle.

The state nut is the pecan.

Now, here’s something else I didn’t know. The state rock is marble. We have a state gemstone, too. It’s the star blue quartz.

It didn’t me surprise to find that the state mineral is red iron ore. Maybe it’s because I was raised near Birmingham and was familiar with Red Mountain.

These symbols were unknown to me: the state folk dance and the state quilt. The state dance is the square dance and the state quilt (how delightful) is the pine burr quilt.

The official state flag of Alabama is a red cross on a white background, called the “Crimson Cross of St. Andrew’s.” It was adopted in 1895, and was patterned from the Confederate battle flag.