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What is the State Flower of Kentucky? Symbols, Facts, & FAQ


If you live in the United States, you probably know that every state has its own collection of “state symbols,” including state trees, birds, mottos, animals, nicknames, and more. There are also state flowers, and in Kentucky, the state flower is the lovely Goldenrod. It was chosen as Kentucky’s State flower in 1926. Technically, it’s the Giant Goldenrod.

What’s interesting (and a bit confusing to some) is why the Goldenrod was chosen when Bluegrass seems to have a much bigger connection to Kentucky. Bluegrass was the state’s official flower for 15 years, but two things were problematic with its designation.

The first was that, for many Kentuckians, Bluegrass only represented a small part of the state. The second was that Bluegrass isn’t a flower but, as its name suggests, a grass. Thus, in 1926, the State’s legislature decided to change to the Giant Goldenrod, which is abundant throughout the state.

garden flower divider

Why Was the State Flower in Kentucky Changed from Bluegrass to Goldenrod?

The story of why the state changed its mind about its representative flower is interesting. It started with the State Federation of Women’s Clubs in Kentucky, representing several garden groups around the state.

Many members of the various garden groups were unhappy with the choice of Bluegrass due to the factors we mentioned, especially because it wasn’t even a flower! Feeling slighted, they lobbied Kentucky’s lawmakers to make the change. Considering the state’s motto is “United we stand, divided we fall,” it’s a fitting end to the flowery tale. The women from the garden clubs stuck together and made the change happen!

Image By: 5892437, Pixabay

Fun Facts about the Goldenrod

While Kentucky lists its state flower as the Goldenrod, it is technically the Giant Goldenrod or solidago gigantea. Amazingly, this Goldenrod species can grow to be 8 feet tall. The name comes from their beautiful, bright yellow flowers that grow in clusters near the top of their stems, referred to as inflorescence.

You can find the Goldenrod on Kentucky’s State seal and flag. Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans used Goldenrod for its medicinal properties, making tea from the plant to treat fever and kidney problems. The Giant Goldenrod thrives in well-drained soil and full sun (with partial shade), does best in growing zones 4 through 9, and is one of nearly 120 species of goldenrods. garden flower divider

What Are the Other State Symbols in Kentucky?

Like the rest of the states, Kentucky has various symbols representing the state, including plants, animals, and quite a few more. Below is a list of some of Kentucky’s most interesting State symbols.

Nickname: The Bluegrass State

Kentucky’s nickname comes from the Bluegrass found in their verdant pastures. Lawmakers in the state chose it due to its connection to thoroughbred horse racing, which is extremely popular in the state. One of the most famous is the annual Kentucky Derby, which is the first and, some would argue, most famous of horse racing’s “Triple Crown.”

Bird: Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Interestingly, the Cardinal was chosen twice as Kentucky’s State bird. Often referred to as redbirds due to their bright red feathers, the Cardinal was selected by early Kentucky settlers due to its resemblance to Cardinals in the catholic religion, who wear bright red robes.

Cardinal birdhouse
Image By: GeorgiaLens, Pixabay

Fruit: Blackberry

The blackberry (Rubis occidentalis) became Kentucky’s State fruit in 2004. It is well-known throughout the state and is also the state fruit of Alabama.

Tree: Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

The Tulip Poplar was chosen as Kentucky’s State tree in 1956 and then again in 1994. The state chose it twice because, for almost 40 years, there was a battle between the tree’s supporters and those who wanted the Kentucky Coffee Tree as the state’s representative tree. Many consider the gorgeous Tulip Poplar one of America’s most beautiful tree species.

Song: “My Old Kentucky Home”

Stephen Foster wrote “My Old Kentucky Home” in 1853. The song’s full name is “My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night.” It’s a bit melancholy but beloved by those who call the state home.

Drink: Milk

Although Kentucky is well known for its bourbon, in 2005, the state chose milk as its state drink, and it’s also one of 20 states that have selected the beverage as their state drink.

fresh milk in glass and pitcher
Image By: Couleur, Pixabay

Fish: Kentucky Spotted Bass

One of four bass species in Kentucky, the Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus), was named the official fish in 1956.

Horse: Thoroughbred

It’s not surprising that Kentucky chose the Thoroughbred as its state horse, considering its long history with horse racing. Kentucky has been known for racing for over a century and is one of the most prolific states for breeding racing horses.

Mineral: Coal

Although technically a rock, coal was designated as Kentucky’s State mineral in 1998. It was first used in the state by Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750, which not surprisingly is the same year it was discovered.

Coal Mining
Image By: stafichukanatoly, Pixabay

Sports Car: Corvette

The Chevrolet Corvette was chosen as Kentucky’s State sports car in 2010. Since 1981, the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has been the only place in the United States where they’re manufactured. The National Corvette Museum is also located in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Gemstone: Freshwater Pearl

Found in both the Tennessee River Valley and Mississippi River Valley, the Freshwater Pearl has been Kentucky’s official state gemstone since 1986. They are created by freshwater mussels and are sometimes referred to as “river pearls.”

Dance: Clogging

Clogging was chosen as Kentucky’s State dance in 2006 and is also the state dance of North Carolina. The dance is named after the clogs used by dancers and is also one of the first forms of street dancing.

Butterfly: Viceroy Butterfly

While they look similar to monarch butterflies, the Viceroy butterflies are beautiful but not quite as toxic. Their population is considered stable, but their habitat is slowly but surely shrinking.

Viceroy Butterfly
Image By: Domianick, Pixabay

Agricultural Insect: Honeybee

Kentucky is one of 17 states that have adopted the honeybee as the state agricultural insect. Honeybees play a massive role in Kentucky’s agriculture and are critical to human survival.

Fossil: Brachiopod

During prehistoric times, Kentucky was entirely covered by water. For that reason, you can find millions of fossilized brachiopods in the state. The brachiopod was named the official state fossil in 1986.

Wild Game Animal: Gray Squirrel

Early Kentucky settlers were fond of a vegetable and meat stew called burgoo, whose main ingredient was the grey squirrel. For that reason, in 1968, this small mammal was named the state’s wild game animal.

Gray Squirrel
Image Credit: 12019, Pixabay

Food: Barbecue

You can’t throw a rock in Kentucky without hitting a barbecue joint which is why it’s the state’s official food.

Motto: “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

Kentucky’s motto, “United we stand, divided we fall,” was adopted on December 20th, 1792. Legislators made the choice six months after Kentucky joined the union and became an American State. Interestingly, it was based on one of Aesop’s Fables about how a person can easily break one stick, but when many are bundled together, they’re much more challenging to flower divider

Final Thoughts

The Goldenrod is a beautiful representative of Kentucky and attracts the state’s agricultural insect, the honeybee, in droves. We hope you enjoyed learning about all the official state symbols of Kentucky. The next time you’re traveling through the Bluegrass State, you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with your deep knowledge of the state’s many symbols!

Featured Image Credit: hansbenn, Pixabay


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