Do you know Florida’s official state flower? How about our official state bird? Did you know that we had an official state tree? Well, when I first moved here 18 years ago, I didn’t have a clue. With the weather warming up right now, it would be a great time to go out and find Florida’s official flower, bird and tree. Still don’t know them, well here they are!
Our official state bird is the Mockingbird. Actually it’s the Northern Mockingbird, but that’s somewhat confusing since it is the only Mockingbird north of Mexico. It comes from the Greek “mimus” meaning to mimic and “polyglottos” for many-tongued. Basically the mockingbird’s call is a medley of many other birds’ songs. Each imitation the mockingbird sings is repeated 2 or 3 times before going onto another bird’s call. A mockingbird may have 30 to 200 songs in its repertoire; which can include other bird songs, insect and amphibian sounds as well as mechanical noises. And as the title of a very popular book states, it is a sin To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee states in the book, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” And it’s our official state bird!
One would think the Orange Blossom was the logical choice to be our state flower, but that was not always the case. Florida has many flowers to choose from, coincidentally our name comes from the Spanish “La Florida” meaning flowery, covered in flowers or abounding in flowers. Actually Ponce de Leon named the state because of the many flowers and the Orange Blossom had to struggle against the Camellia and the Gardenia to become our official flower. Naturally the Orange Blossom won out because it is the most fragrant flowers in Florida and it had much widespread appeal. The actual Orange Blossom flower is a waxy, white blossom of the orange tree with leathery shiny leaves. It blooms in clusters of 1 to 6 during the Spring months and the blossoms becomes oranges in the Autumn and Winter months. Here’s an unusual fact about the Orange Blossom; it is the only official state flower from which a commercial perfume is made. The flower makes for a very fragrant aroma.
Our state tree, the Cabbage Palmetto, is known by many different names; Sabal Palmetto, Palmetto, Cabbage Palm, Palmetto Palm and the most popular Sabal Palm. The Cabbage Palmetto grows up to 65 feet in height with a trunk up to 2 feet in diameter. It has a distinctive fan palm with a bare trunk; which extends as a center spine. The flowers of the Cabbage Palmetto are yellowish-white and the fruit it produces is a single black drupe about a half-inch long containing a single seed. The Cabbage Palmetto is a popular landscaping plant that is known for its tolerance of salt spray and cold temperatures. It is remarkably resistant to floods, fires, coastal condition, cold, high winds and drought. The name seems to derive from the growing heart of the new fronds giving the tree a cabbage head appearance. This part can be extracted as a food and has a taste somewhat like artichoke.
Now that you know our state flower, bird and tree, go out and find them in nature!