New York's State Symbols
To view pictures of all the state symbols make sure to visit the pdf version of this page.
The ROSE was named New York's state flower in 1955. Wild roses grow in many open spaces and alongside roads across the state. Look for a flower with five pink petals and five green sepals. They have sharp thorns on the stem which discourage animals from nibbling on them. The fruit, or "hip," is a source of winter food for birds and small mammals. Rose hips are often used as an ingredient in herbal tea.
• Rose hips are high in vitamin C.
The Bay Scallop
BAY SCALLOPS are common along the Atlantic Coast, especially around Long Island. They became our state shell in 1988. Bay scallops live in sandy-bottomed, shallow water and in eelgrass beds. By rapidly opening and closing their shells and squirting out a jet of water, adult bay scallops are able to move several feet. These scallops are a favorite of seafood lovers. If you look closely at a live bay scallop, you can see that it has a row of blue eyes along the open edge of its shell. The eyes can't see like ours do, but they can detect changes in light and nearby motion, allowing the scallop to detect predators.
• Look for the blue eyes!
• One ladybug can eat 100 aphids a day!
The Sugar Maple
The SUGAR MAPLE was named our state tree in 1956. They are found almost everywhere in New York State. They grow to 60 to 80 feet tall, with a trunk more than two feet in diameter. (That's too big to hug!) They are easily recognized by their leaves, "helicopter" seeds, and bright fall color. Maple sap tastes sweet because it contains a lot of sugar. Maple syrup is made by boiling sap collected in the spring. In the fall, it's fun to rake up a pile of maple leaves and jump in them!
• It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
The Striped Bass
New York's state saltwater fish, the STRIPED BASS, was named in 2006. Its speed, power and size make it a favorite of saltwater fishermen. They live in the ocean, and are found around Long Island. They move to fresh water to spawn (lay eggs). The Hudson River Estuary is an important spawning area for stripers.
• Stripers are big, ranging from 18 to 55 inches in length and 3 to 70 pounds in weight. How do you compare with a stripped bass?
EURYPTERID fossils are fairly common in New York State but very rare in the rest of the world. They were named our state fossil in 1984. Eurypterids lived more than 400 million years ago. They were ferocious, swimming predators along the bottom of shallow seas during the Paleozoic Era. Eurypterid fossils have been found in Erie, Oneida and Herkimer counties.
• Horseshoe crabs, scorpions and spiders are the eurypterid's modern relatives.
The largest rodent in North America, the BEAVER was named New York's state mammal in 1975. Adults usually weigh about 30 pounds. Beaver are found across New York State, including in the Bronx River in New York City! Beaver eat twigs and bark. They build dams and lodges using sticks and mud. Beaver create ponds by blocking flowing water, such as creeks, with dams. When they flood areas, beaver create habitat for a wide variety of fish and other wildlife.
• A beaver's front teeth are continually growing, so they must gnaw and wear them down.
The Snapping Turtle
SNAPPING TURTLES are found across New York State. They were named the state reptile in 2006. They are the largest freshwater turtle in the state, and can grow to 35 pounds, with a shell more than 20 inches long. Snappers live in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and marshes around the state. They are easily recognized, with their saw-toothed tails and the jagged saw-toothed rear edge of their shells. Between April and November, females lay eggs in a hole in sandy soil near water. When the eggs hatch, the quarter-sized young immediately head for the safety of water.
• Females lay 20 to 40 eggs the size of ping-pong balls.
The Brook Trout
The BROOK TROUT was named the state fish in 1975. It was renamed as the state freshwater fish in 2006 when a saltwater fish was also named. Brook trout live in clear, cold lakes and streams across New York. They usually live about five years. Adults usually don't grow larger than two pounds. Brook trout are known to be cautious and a challenge to catch, making them very popular with fishermen.
• Brook trout are also known as speckled trout, since they have pink or reddish spots inside blue halos on their sides.
The Eastern Bluebird
The EASTERN BLUEBIRD was named our state bird in 1970. Bluebirds are among the first birds to return in the spring from southern wintering areas. They prefer open habitats like fields, orchards and gardens, where they find plenty of insects to eat. Bluebirds are cavity nesters. They nest in trees in holes made by other birds, like woodpeckers, or in man-made nest boxes. Once considered rare, bluebirds are more common today because of people building and taking care of nest boxes.
• You can help bluebirds by setting out a nest box.
GARNET was named New York's state gem in 1969. One of the largest garnet mines in the world is located on Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks. Most garnet is used in manufacturing, for sandpaper and for polishing. Sometimes gem-quality stones are found and used in jewelry.
• Garnets are usually red, but can also be green, orange, brown, yellow and purple.
Our Next State Symbol?
Eleven of our state symbols have been described here. Each of these was chosen because they are good representatives of New York State. When you think of New York State, what do you think of? If you could choose our next state symbol, what would it be?
For more information:
New York Facts and Symbols by Emily McAuliffe (Capstone Press, Mankato, MN, 2003)
New York (From Sea to Shining Sea) by Kristin Cotter (Children's Press/Scholastic Inc., New York, 2002)
State Shapes: New York by Erik Bruun (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York, 2001)
United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds by Hudson Talbot (Putnam Juvenile, New York, 2008)
DEC's web page on state symbols information
DEC's web page on bay scallops
DEC's brochures and posters of New York State wildlife, many available as PDF for downloading.