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Trees are among the most popular symbols in the United States and Canada. Every state has a state tree; three have two official trees. All but two of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories now have official trees as well.

Note: This page doesn’t link to any state or tree pages. If you want to learn more about a particular tree or state, please find the links on the associated reference page, U.S. & Canadian Tree Symbols.

Origins

Maine’s state seal

Some state trees started the climb to fame long before the United States even existed. For example, Maine’s pine tree was depicted on the state seal more than a century before it was adopted as the state tree. South Carolina adopted the sabal palmetto because of the role it played in a battle in the Revolutionary war.

But few people thought about adopting plants as state symbols until 1893. That was the year the World’s Fair was held in Chicago. States and territories were encouraged to adopt official flowers to represent them at the Fair. Soon, everyone wanted an official flower.

White oak

However, Illinoians weren’t content with just a state flower. In 1908, the “native oak” was proclaimed Illinois’ state tree, though it was changed to white oak in 1973. Texas chose a state tree in 1919. In 1931, Indiana and Pennsylvania each adopted a state tree.

After that, the pace picked up. Like some other territories, Alaska and Hawaii adopted official trees even before they became states in 1959. Soon every state had an official tree.

Many official flowers had been promoted by state and territorial state women’s clubs, which were popular in those days. Women’s clubs were also instrumental in the adoption of many state trees. But men also got in on the act. Some state trees were chosen by school children, sometimes after statewide votes.

Some states later changed their minds and chose different state trees. A few states adopted two official trees.

Canadian Trees

Canada’s first official tree was adopted by Ontario in 1984, its 200th birthday. Alberta adopted its provincial tree later that same year.

But provincial trees really blossomed in 1987, Canada’s 120th birthday. To celebrate, Forestry Associations in various provinces and territories organized votes for official trees. Five provinces adopted official trees that year. Three provinces and the Northwest Territories adopted official trees soon after 1987. Today, it appears that the Yukon Territory and the newly created Nunavut are alone without official trees.

Tree Values

Log cabin

Trees are among the most important of “ecosymbols.” They provide lumber for building material, furniture, fence posts, telephone poles, fuel, and other uses. Trees produce fruit, nuts, and seeds that feed people and wildlife alike.

Leaves

Trees also have tremendous esthetic value. Many trees are considered beautiful, especially those that produce flowers or whose leaves change colors in fall.

Acorn

On the nearly treeless Great Plains, few sights were more beautiful than a lone cottonwood. Pioneer farmers especially appreciated trees for the protection they offered from sun and wind.

The importance of trees is indicated by the myriad symbols they have inspired. Some states have adopted arboreal flowers, fruits, and nuts as state symbols. Trees are depicted on many state seals, coats-of-arms, and flags.

Arbor Day

No other group of state or provincial symbols are honored with holidays as are trees. It all started in the central Great Plains, where Nebraska observed the first Arbor Day on April 10, 1872. Nine years later, Nebraskans declared Arbor Day an official holiday, to be celebrated on April 22.

Today, Arbor Day (or Week) is observed by all fifty states and most, if not all, of Canada’s provinces. (However, the dates vary widely.) But why wait for arbor day to enjoy trees?

State & Provincial Tree Highlights

Most Popular State & Provincial Trees

Four states adopted the sugar maple (Acer saccharum): Vermont, New York, West Virginia and Wisconsin

Three states and/or provinces adopted the...
eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) – Maine, Michigan, & Ontario
Pine Tree State, and on the seal and flag of Vermont. Moreover, a pine was depicted on what some people regard as the first American flag.)
flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) – Missouri & Virginia (The dogwood is also New Jersey’s official “memorial tree.” Moreover, the dogwood blossom was adopted as Virginia’s state flower.)
tulip tree (or tulip poplar, yellow poplar) (Liriodendron tulipifera) – Indiana, Kentucky & Tennessee (The tulip poplar has also represented other states and has been a leading candidate in state tree elections.)
white oak (Quercus alba) – Connecticut, Maryland & Illinois

Two states and/or provinces adopted the...
white spruce (Picea glauca) – Manitoba & South Dakota (South Dakota’s state tree is a white spruce subspecies known as the Black Hills spruce, Picea glauca densata.)
(Colorado) blue spruce (Picea Pungens) – Colorado & Utah
white birch (Betula papyrifera) – New Hampshire & Saskatchewan
American elm (Ulmus americana) – Massachusetts & North Dakota
sabal palmetto (Sabal palmetto) – South Carolina & Florida

Most Popular Genera

White pine
white pine

#1 The most popular tree genus is pinus (Pines), which represent thirteen states and provinces, as follows:
• eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) – Maine, Michigan, and Ontario
• western white pine (Pinus monticolae) – Idaho
• lodgepole pine (Pinus latifolia) – Alberta
• jack pine (Pinus banksiana) – Northwest Territories
• red or Norway pine (Pinus resinosa) – Minnesota
• ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) – Montana
• pinon (Pinus edulis) – New Mexico
• single-leaf pinon (Pinus monophylla) & bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) – Nevada
• “southern pines” – Alabama, Arkansas, and North Carolina
(Alabama adopted the “southern pine,” Arkansas the “pine,” and North Carolina the “pine tree.” Alabama’s promoter meant the longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, which was finally designated the official state tree in 1997. The shortleaf pine, Pinus echinata, has the widest distribution in North Carolina. The shortleaf pine and loblolly pine, Pinus taeda, are most abundant in Arkansas.)

#2 Oaks (genus Quercus) represent six states, one province, and the District of Columbia.
• white oak (Quercus alba) – Connecticut, Maryland & Illinois
• (northern?) red oak (Quercus rubra) – Prince Edward Island
• red oak (Quercus borealis) – New Jersey
• scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) – District of Columbia
• live oak (Quercus virginiana) – Georgia
• “oak” – Iowa

White spruce

#3 Spruces (Picea) represent seven states and provinces.
• white spruce (Picea glauca, pictured on the left) – Manitoba & South Dakota
• (Colorado) blue spruce (Picea pungens) – Colorado & Utah
• Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) – Alaska
• red spruce (Picea rubens) – Nova Scotia
• black spruce (Picea mariana) – Newfoundland

Sugar maple leaf
sugar maple leaf

#4 Maples (acer) represent five states:
• sugar maple (Acer saccharum) – Vermont, New York, West Virginia & Wisconsin
• red maple (Acer rubrum) – Rhode Island
• The maple leaf is also Canada’s national emblem!

Eastern cottonwood
eastern cottonwood

#5 Cottonwoods and Aspens (Populus) represent four jurisdictions:
• cottonwood (Populus; any species) – Kansas
• eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) – Nebraska
• plains cottonwood (Populus sargentii) – Wyoming
• trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) – Northwest Territories

Honorable mention also goes to the dogwoods (Cornus), which serve as the state trees of New Jersey, Virginia, and Missouri and the state flowers of Virginia and British Columbia.

Hardwoods versus Evergreens

Thirty-two states and provinces adopted deciduous trees, or hardwoods. (These include twenty species and two general designations, Ohio’s “buckeye” and Illinois’ “oak.” This doesn’t include Canada’s national tree or the official tree of the District of Columbia, both of which are maples.)
Twenty-seven states and provinces adopted conifers, or evergreens. (These include twenty species and three general “pine” designations by North Carolina, Arkansas, and South Carolina.)
Two state trees are palms (both the sabal palmetto).
• Arizona’s paloverde is in a class by itself.

Official conifers are most common in the North (Alaska, nine of Canada’s provinces and territories, and several states bordering Canada) and the western states. Conifers also represent South Dakota and four states in the South. Hardwoods are most common in the East, Midwest, and Great Plains. The South is most diverse, with several official hardwoods, four conifers, and two palms.

(The figures above include both state trees of New Jersey, Nevada, and California. The broad designations of Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, and North Carolina were counted as one state tree each. The figures do not include trees that were adopted as state flowers, fruit, nuts, etc.)

What’s in a name?

State trees with especially appropriate names include the Kentucky coffeetree, Colorado blue spruce, and Black Hills spruce.

Arboreal Nicknames

Maine is nicknamed the Pine Tree State, Ohio the Buckeye State, South Carolina the Palmetto State, and Mississippi the Magnolia State. Washington is nicknamed the Evergreen State for its vast forests. Vermont is nicknamed the Green Mountain State for its forested hills.

North Carolina is nicknamed the Tar Heel State. The name was inspired by tar, pitch, and turpentine, which are derived from trees.

Rhode Island is nicknamed the Plantation State for its real name, The State of Rhode Island and Providence plantations.

On April 4, 1895, Nebraska adopted The Tree Planters’ State as its official nickname. The nickname recalled the millions of trees planted by pioneers and the first Arbor Day, observed by Nebraska in 1872. In 1945, Nebraska’s nickname was changed to the Cornhusker State.

States nicknamed for fruit that grow on trees are Florida (the Orange State) and Georgia (the Peach State).

Beyond Nicknames

Two states were actually named for trees. Vermont takes its name from the French words mont vert or “green mountains,” for its forested hills. (The state should really be named Vertmont; Vermont translates as “green worms!”)

The name Pennsylvania was created by combining “Penn” (for William Penn) with sylvan, Latin for “woods,” or “forest.” Literally, it means “Penn’s woods.”

More State Tree Facts

Exotic Trees

Several introduced flowers, birds, and domestic mammals have been adopted as state symbols. But the only state tree that isn’t a native species is Mississippi’s magnolia. (Texas’ official shrub, the crape myrtle, is also an introduced species.)

Prehistoric Trees

Petrified wood is an official symbol of Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Washington, North Dakota and Alberta. Louisiana and Texas specify petrified palmwood. Arizona adopted wood from a specific species of prehistoric tree. North Dakota adopted petrified wood with holes bored by prehistoric “shipworms.”

Biggest & Tiniest

The largest state trees are California’s redwoods. I haven’t yet determined the smallest. But I would guess it’s a pretty close race between the Northwest Territories’ jack pine, dogwoods, and magnolias. do you know?

Oldest

Nevada’s bristlecone pine can live nearly 5,000 years!

The Wettest?

Louisiana’s swamp-loving baldcypress wins by a landslide...er, waterslide!

Most Restricted

Hawaii’s kukui is native only to Hawaii. It’s the only state tree that grows naturally in just one state.

Northerner

The official tree that grows the farthest north is the Northwest Territories’ jack pine. at least, I think so!

Fruity Symbols

Georgia and South Carolina adopted the peach as their official fruit. New York, West Virginia, and Washington adopted the apple. Florida calls orange juice its official beverage.

Nutty Symbols

Alabama adopted the pecan as its state nut. The walnut is the official nut of Missouri. Oregon adopted the hazelnut. However, Georgia’s peanut doesn’t grow on trees.

Arboreal Flowers

Arboreal blossoms that have been adopted as state or provincial flowers include the peach (Delaware), orange (Florida), apple (Michigan and Arkansas), magnolia (Mississippi and Louisiana), camellia (Alabama), and dogwood (Virginia and British Columbia). Oklahoma’s state “flower,” mistletoe, is actually an arboreal parasite! Maine’s state “flower” is the “pine cone and tassel.”

Flag Masters

Trees, or their leaves, are depicted on a number of flags. The most prominent are Maine’s eastern white pine, South Carolina’s palmetto, and Prince Edward Island’s oaks.

The green background on Washington’s flag represents the Evergreen State’s forests.

Trees are also depicted on numerous state seals and coats-of-arms. The cottonwood is particularly prominent on emblems from the Great Plains and neighboring Midwestern states.

Canada’s Northwest Territories even depicts the northern treeline on its coat-of-arms.

Famous Trees

State trees that were adopted because of famous individual trees include Maryland’s white oak (inspired by the Wye Oak) and Connecticut’s white oak (inspired by the Charter Oak). However, it isn’t likely that you’ll be seeing the Charter Oak on the silver screen; a storm toppled it.

Tree Crazy

New Jersey, Nevada, and California each have two official trees. Several states have adopted arboreal blossoms, fruits, nuts, or petrified wood in addition to their state trees. But Maine may be the premier tree maniac.

What other state would call itself the pine tree state, display its state tree on its flag and seal, adopt a pine cone as a state flower, and even mention its state tree in its state song?

By the way, the first official arboreal symbol was Oklahoma’s state “flower,” mistletoe. Depending on who you talk to, it was either the first or the second state flower. Of course, state flowers led to state trees. The record years for adopting trees were...

1947 – Seven state trees were adopted by New Hampshire, Connecticut, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Washington.
1949 – Six trees were adopted by Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Montana and New Mexico.
1987 – Six trees were adopted by Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, British Columbia and Nevada.
1939 – Five trees were adopted by Delaware, South Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado and Oregon.
1937 – Five trees were adopted by Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma and California (which adopted two state trees).
1953 – Four trees were adopted by Florida, Ohio, Minnesota and Nevada.


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