State symbols are any type of symbol or imagery, including animals, plants, rocks, and even articles of clothing, that are chosen by the residents and legislature of a state within the United States (US) to be representative of that state. These symbols are often indicative or emblematic of the region, usually being animals and plants native to the state or area, and may be other things that are particularly important to a state. Similarly, these state symbols may also be popular aspects of tourism within a state, or some part of typical society within the state that the residents are proud of.
Much like how most countries have flags, plants, and animals that serve as symbols for the nation, the individual states within the US also choose various things to serve as state symbols. While each state is part of the US as a whole, state identity and symbolic independence is an important part of most states' history and culture. Despite the common use of state symbols for maps and other geographic decoration, some states may choose symbols that are not necessarily what everyone else thinks of regarding the state.
For example, though most people usually think of the saguaro cactus when thinking about the state of Arizona, the state tree of Arizona is the palo verde. The state flower for Arizona, however, is the saguaro cactus blossom. Similarly, many people think of the roadrunner when picturing a desert landscape, but the state bird of Arizona is the cactus wren. New Mexico, though, did choose the roadrunner as the official state bird, and both states share the bolo tie as their official state tie or neckwear.
Seven different states all use the northern cardinal as their state bird, ranging from Kentucky to Illinois. State symbols are typically chosen by the legislature of a state, though they can be proposed by residents. They can then be officially recognized through the ratification of a law proposing the potential symbol.
Many states have very specific state symbols as well, which typically indicate plants, animals, or even works of art that are important to the region. For example, the state of Hawaii has a state mammal, a state marine mammal, and a state fish, all found in the ocean around the Hawaiian Islands. The state mammal for Hawaii is the Hawaiian monk seal, the state marine mammal is the humpback whale, and the state fish is the uniquely named humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Rhode Island even has an official state symbol of American folk art: the Charles I. D. Ouff Carousel found at Crescent Park in Rhode Island.