State Symbols


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.

Two official salutes to the Tennessee flag have been adopted.

The first official salute was written by Lucy Steele Harrison and adopted in 1981:
"Three white stars on a field of blue
God keep them strong and ever true
It is with pride and love that we
Salute the Flag of Tennessee."

The second official salute was written by Miss John Bostick and adopted in 1987:
"Flag of Tennessee, I salute thee
To thee I pledge my allegiance with
My affection, my service and my life."


Tennessee Cave Salamander

The Tennessee Cave Salamander, Gyrinophilu palleucus, was named official state amphibian 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. 



Milk was designated as the official state beverage in 2009.

Milk is an essential component to building strong muscle and bones in children, as well as mending injured muscle and bones in adults. Other benefits cited include milk’s help in building strong and healthy teeth, hair, skin and nails. Tennessee’s dairy industry produced nearly 100 million pounds of milk in 2007, with cash receipts for milk and milk products totaling nearly $202 million.



The Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, was selected as the official state bird 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 under parts; 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.


Bobwhite Quail

The Bobwhite Quail, genus Colinus virginianus, was designated as the official state game bird in 1987. 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 game bird lays from 10 to 20 pure white eggs, more than almost any other bird.


Zebra Swallowtail

The Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus, was designated as Tennessee's official butterfly 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.


Smallmouth Bass

Tennessee’s official sport fish is the smallmouth bass, designated in 2005.

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 five 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 West Tennessee.


Channel Catfish

The state commercial fish is the Channel Catfish, Ictalurus lacustris, which was also designated in 1987. 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.



The Iris, genus Iridaceae, is the official state cultivated flower. It is an herbaceous 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.


Passion Flower

The Passion Flower, genus Passiflora, is one of the official state wildflowers. It 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.


Tennessee Coneflower

The Tennessee Coneflower, Echinacea tennesseensis, is one of the official state wildflowers. It is found only in the limestone and cedar glades of Middle Tennessee. It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the late 1960s. In 1979 it was one of the first plants to listed as endangered by the U.S. Due to the conservancy efforts, land was purchased to protect it, and the species recovered. It was designated in 2012.



Pterotrigonia (Scabrotrigonia) thoracica is the official state fossil, was designated in 1998. Pterotrigonia (Scabrotrigonia) thoracica (nicknamed "Ptero") was cretaceous bivalve fossil found in the Coon Creek Formation of West Tennessee. It was a shallow-burrowing suspension feeder that inhabited the ocean floor that was West Tennessee 70 million years ago. Shells of "Ptero" are preserved unaltered in great abundance and are easily recognized by collectors. "Ptero" now is extinct. In fact, the extinction event that was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago may have contributed to the demise of Ptero (Scabrotrigonia) thoracica.



The Tomato, scientifically known as the Lycopersicon lycopersicum, was designated as Tennessee’s official state fruit in 2003.


Tennessee River Pearls

Tennessee River Pearls come in all colors and they are "natural" -- just the way the mussel made them.

The Caney Fork in Middle Tennessee was noted for its pearl-bearing mussels, and "pearling" was a favorite sport on Sunday afternoons at the turn of the century. After World War I, dams were built on many of the rivers, and the mussels lost their swift and shallow shoals. Also, the waters became more toxic and pearling became unprofitable. But, Tennessee river pearls are among the most beautiful and durable in the world. It was designated as an official state gem in 1979.


Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse was named the official state horse 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.


Firefly (Lightning Bug 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.


Ladybeetle (Ladybug)

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.



The official state agricultural insect is the Honeybee and was designated in 1990.

The honeybee, Apis mellifera, 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.



Agate is a cryptocrystalline quartz. This semiprecious gemstone is found in only a few areas of the state. It was designated as a state rock in 1969 and redesignated as the state mineral in 2009.


Eastern Box Turtle

The Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina, was designated official state reptilein 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.



Found just about everywhere in Tennessee, limestone was designated an official state rock in 1979. Tennessee marble, as the metamorphic version of limestone is known, is widely used in public and private buildings.


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. This was adopted as the official state seal in 1987.


In 1999 the General Assembly adopted an official state tartan to commemorate the important part played by persons of Scottish descent in the history of Tennessee. A tartan was designed with colors and symbolism relevant to this state:

  • Natural white, representing the unity of the three Grand Divisions of the State of Tennessee
  • Dark green, representing the importance of agriculture to the state
  • Purple, representing the state flower, the Iris
  • Red, representing the sacrifices made by Tennessee soldiers and pioneers
  • Dark blue, representing the mountains of Tennessee


Tulip Poplar

The Tulip Poplar was designated as an official state tree of Tennessee in 1947. 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."


Eastern Red Cedar

The Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, was designated as the state evergreen tree in 2012. It is indigenous to the entire state and was one of the earliest landscape trees used by early pioneers, such as Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage. Cedar Knob was the name of the land upon which the State Capitol was built, and the street at the foot of the capitol was called Cedar Street (now Charlotte Avenue). The eastern red cedar is an integral part of an ecological niche in Tennessee called cedar glades, and is a sacred tree of the Cherokee peoples.

Wild Animal


In 1971, the Raccoon was adopted as Tennessee’s official wild animal. The Raccoon, Procyon 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 eat fish and frogs that they catch in rivers and streams. Raccoons living in Tennessee 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.