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What is a State Tree?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A state tree is a species of tree chosen by a state to act as an official state symbol, similar to a state song, bird, or motto. Typically chosen by residents of a state and the state legislature, a state tree is almost always a tree that is native to that state, and often one that is iconic of the state or has played some important role in the development and history of the region. A few states have more than one state tree, and only a few states share the same tree, with unique or iconic state trees being more common.

The state tree is typically chosen by the people of that state or by the legislature, and is proposed in a bill that is then ratified by the state legislature to become law and make the tree an official state symbol. This process is often fairly simple, and the residents of a state have typically been unified behind a single type of tree to act as official state tree. In some rare circumstances, more than one tree can be chosen, when several different trees are important to the residents of a state or the history of that region.

California, for example, has two state trees: the coast redwood and the giant sequoia. Both of these trees can be found throughout the state in areas such as the Redwood National Park, an important tourist attraction and a place of great natural beauty. The coast redwood is the tallest tree in the world, averaging more than 300 feet (more than 90 meters) tall, while the giant sequoia is the largest tree in the world with bases commonly 30 feet (more than 9 meters) in diameter, and living more than 3,000 years. As these trees are sources of pride for many residents of California, both trees were chosen to be honored as state symbols. While most states have unique state trees, both West Virginia and Wisconsin share the sugar maple.

Other states choose a tree based on the history of the state. Ohio, for example, has the Ohio buckeye as the official state tree. This was chosen after the presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison, who was an Ohio state senator and ran as the “log cabin candidate,” often using depictions of cabins built from buckeye timber. These images and slogans helped continue the establishment of Ohio as “The Buckeye State,” and the buckeye tree was chosen as the state tree afterward. Every state but Hawaii has a state tree that is native to the region; Hawaii has the kukui tree, which originated in Polynesia but spread to Hawaii.

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