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Florida Symbols: (22)
1. State Flag

The current design of Florida's state flag was adopted in 1900. In that year, Florida voters ratified a constitutional amendment based on an 1899 joint resolution of the state legislature to add diagonal red bars, in the form of a St. Andrew's cross, to the flag.

Between 1868 and 1900, Florida's state flag consisted of a white field with the state seal in the center. During the late 1890s, Governor Francis P. Fleming suggested that a red cross be added, so that the banner did not appear to be a white flag of truce or surrender when hanging still on a flagpole.
2. State Seal

In 1985, Secretary of State George Firestone presented the revised Great Seal of the State of Florida to the Governor and the Cabinet. The previous State Seal had several errors which were corrected in in the 1985 Seal.

This revised Seal has a Seminole Indian woman rather than a Western Plains Indian, the steamboat is more accurate, and the cocoa palm has been changed to a sabal palm as the Legislature prescribed in 1970.
3. State Reptile

In 1987 the Florida legislature designated the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) as the official state reptile. Long an unofficial symbol of the state, the alligator originally symbolized Florida's extensive untamed wilderness and swamps. Alligators are found throughout Florida and in parts of other southeastern states. They prefer lakes, swamps, canals, and other wetland habitats.

Alligators eat fish, turtles, and a variety of other animals. In late June and early July, female alligators usually lay thirty to fifty eggs in mound-shaped nests made of reeds and other vegetation. Baby alligators hatch after an incubation period of about two months. When hatched, alligators are already fully developed and about eight inches long. Mature alligators usually range from six to twelve feet in length, with females rarely exceeding nine feet.
4. State Bird

The common mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is a superb songbird and mimic. Its own song has a pleasant lilting sound and is, at times, both varied and repetitive. Often, the mockingbird sings all night long, especially under bright springtime moonlight.

Mockingbirds are usually about ten inches in length, with a fifteen-inch wingspan, grayish upper portions, white undersides, and white patches on the tail and wings. The female has slightly less whiteness in its feathers than the male.

The mockingbird is helpful to humans because it usually feeds on insects and weed seeds. In the summer and fall, it also eats ripe berries.
5. State Butterfly

Long black wings with distinctive thin yellow bands, combined with slow, graceful flight, characterize the Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius). It has a wide range of habitats, including hardwood hammocks, thickets, and gardens. The zebra longwing is found throughout the state, although it is more common in south Florida, particularly in the Everglades National Park. In 1996 the state legislature designated the Zebra Longwing as the official state butterfly.
6. State Animal

The most endangered of all Florida's symbols is it's state animal, the panther (Felis concolor coryi) which was chosen in 1982 by a vote of students throughout the state.

The Florida Panther is a large, long-tailed, pale brown cat that grows to six feet or longer. Its habitat is usually the same as that of the white-tailed deer, which is the mainstay of its diet.

Much folklore surrounds these seldom-seen cats, sometimes called "catamounts" or "painters," and they have been persecuted out of fear and misunderstanding of the role these large predators play in the natural ecosystem. Human population growth has been the primary threat to the panther's range and continues to diminish the quality of existing habitats.

The Panther has been protected from legal hunting in Florida since 1958. It has been on the federal endangered species list since 1967.
7. State Marine Mammal

marine mammal
The manatee (Trichechus manatus), also called a sea cow, is a gray, waterplant-eating, gentle giant that reaches eight to fourteen feet in length and can weigh more than a ton. It was designated the state marine mammal in 1975.

Manatees are on the endangered species list, but chances for their survival are good if humans' activities can be controlled. Of all the known causes of manatee fatalities, humans are responsible for about half of the deaths. The most-common cause of death for manatees is being struck by boats and barges. Also, the propeller blades of speeding boats can cut a manatee's hide to ribbons.

The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 and later regulations have limited the speed of boats in waters populated by manatees during winter months, when more than 1,500 of the creatures swim to warm bays and rivers to avoid pneumonia and death.
8. State Saltwater Mammal

saltwater mammal
Is it a porpoise, or is it a dolphin? Even the 1975 Florida legislature left the issue open, designating the "porpoise, also commonly known as the dolphin," as the official saltwater mammal.

The terms porpoise and dolphin are sometimes erroneously used interchangeably. Usually in Florida both names refer to the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncates), the species commonly found along Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. (True porpoises are a different saltwater mammal and are not commonly found in Florida waters.) Dolphins are gray with a lighter underside. They can live to the age of thirty and most are six- to eight-feet in length.

Dolphins use a system of echolocation, much like sonar, to determine their orientation. They have no sense of smell. Their keen eyesight, remarkable hearing, and wide variety of sounds (barks, clicks, and whistles) make dolphins especially interesting to study.
9. State Saltwater Fish

saltwater fish
Sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) are not unique to Florida; they are found nearly everywhere there is warm ocean water. However, Florida sailfishing is legendary, especially in the Fort Pierce, Miami, and Keys areas during colder months. Sailfish migrate southward as the weather chills in the north.

The sailfish can reach speeds of sixty m.p.h. The average size of sailfish found in Florida is approximately six to seven feet and thirty to forty-five pounds. (The author Ernest Hemingway landed a nine-foot, one-inch sailfish off Key West in 1934.)

The 1975 Florida legislature adopted the Atlantic sailfish as the state's official saltwater fish.
10. State Freshwater Fish

freshwater fish
One of America's most-prized gamefish, the Florida largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) seems to grow to unusually large size in Florida waters. It can reach a length of more than twenty inches and weigh more than fifteen pounds. 

This black bass is an elongated sunfish, whose distinguishing feature, aside from its exceptionally large mouth, is a deep notch in the dorsal fin. Largemouth bass usually live in quiet waters that contain bountiful vegetation.

The 1975 legislature designated the Florida largemouth bass as the official state freshwater fish.
11. State Flower

The blossom of the orange tree (Citrus sinensis) is one of the most fragrant flowers in Florida. Millions of these white flowers perfume the atmosphere throughout central and south Florida during orange blossom time. The orange blossom was selected as the state flower by the 1909 legislature.
12. State Wildflower

In 1991 the flower of the genus Coreopsis was designated as Florida's official wildflower. The state legislature made this designation after the colorful flowers were used extensively in Florida's roadside plantings and highway beautification programs. The coreopsis is found in a variety of colors, ranging from golden to pink.
13. State Tree

The sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) is the most widely distributed palm in Florida. It grows in almost any soil and has many uses, including food, medicine, and landscaping. The 1953 Florida legislature designated the sabal palm as the state tree, and the 1970 legislature mandated that the sabal palm should replace the cocoa palm on the state seal.
14. State Beverage

Whenever the words "orange juice" are read, written, or spoken, many people automatically think of Florida.

During the Second World War, scientists invented a process for making concentrated orange juice. Soon, a frozen concentrate was developed that transformed orange juice production into a multi-billion-dollar industry. In 1967 the Florida legislature designated orange juice as the official state beverage.
15. State Shell

The horse conch (Pleuroploca gigantea), also known as the giant band shell, has been Florida's official state shell since 1969. This shell is native to the marine waters around Florida and can grow to a length of twenty-four inches. Young horse conchs have orange-colored shells; adults have orange apertures.

At least 535 million years ago, mollusks acquired the ability to secrete a carbonate of lime solution that formed a hard, protective shell around them. The word "conch" comes from a Greek word meaning "shell."
16. State Stone

Coral is the outside skeleton of tiny ocean animals called polyps, which live in colonies attached to hard underwater surfaces. When alive, polyps combine their own carbon dioxide with the lime in warm seawater to form a limestone-like hard surface, or coral.

Agatized coral occurs when silica in the ocean water hardens, replacing the limy corals with a form of quartz known as chalcedony. This long process (20-30 million years) results in the formation of a "pseudomorph," meaning that one mineral has replaced another without having lost its original form. In 1979 agatized coral was designated the official state stone.

Agatized coral is found in three main Florida locations: Tampa Bay, the Econfina River, and the Withlacoochee/Suwannee river beds.
17. State Gem

United States astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin ("Buzz") Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft. Since this and all other astronaut-controlled spaceflights had been launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, the Florida legislature sought to memorize this "giant step" for humankind. In 1970, lawmakers adopted the moonstone as the official state gem.

Ironically, the moonstone, a form of the mineral feldspar, is not found naturally in Florida... nor was it found on the moon!
18. State Soil

 In 1989 the legislature designated Myakka fine sand as the official state  soil. Myakka soil, which is unique to Florida, occurs in more than 1-1/2  million acres of flatwoods, making it the single most extensive soil in the  state. Soil conservation is very important in Florida, where agriculture is a  significant industry.
19. State Song

Stephen C. Foster wrote "The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)" in 1851.song

Foster is reported to have chosen the term "Swanee" because its two-syllable cadence fit nicely into the music he had composed. The composer was not familiar with the Florida section of the Suwannee River, because he never visited the state. A memorial center at White Springs honors Foster.

Representative S. P. Robineau of Miami introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 22 in 1935, designating "Swanee River" as the official state song. In 2008, the Legislature designated that a revised version of the lyrics be the official version.

The Suwannee River flows in a southerly direction from the Okeefenokee Swamp in Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. The river separates the Florida panhandle from the rest of the state.
20. State Motto

"In God We Trust" was adopted by the Florida legislature as part of the state seal in 1868. This is also the motto of the United States and is a slight variation on Florida's first state motto, "In God is our Trust". In 2006, "In God We Trust" was officially designated in state statute as Florida's motto.
21. State Play

"Cross and Sword," Florida's official state play since its designation by the 1973 legislature, dramatizes the story of Spanish colonization of the nation's first city, St. Augustine.

The pageant, written by Paul Green, features lavish costumes, dramatic lighting, and stirring music. It entwines the lives of some of Florida's early European settlers: Pedro Menéndez, Jean Ribault, and Father López.
22. State Anthem

Responding to an initiative to find a new Florida state song, the Florida Music Educators Association managed an online contest to find a new song to represent the state. The winning song was "Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky" written by Jan Hinton, a music teacher from Pompano Beach.

In the 2008 legislative session, a compromise was reached that kept the old state song "Old Folks at Home" (with revised lyrics) and designated "Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky" as the new state anthem. Sawgrass grows in Florida's coastal marshes and is particularly common in the Everglades, where it stretches as far as the eye can see.

Music and Lyrics by Jan Hinton

Florida, where the sawgrass meets the sky,
Florida, where our hearts will ever lie,
Sitting proud in the ocean like a sentinel true,
Always shielding your own, yet giving welcome.
Florida, land of flowers, land of light.
Florida, where our dreams can all take flight.
Whether youth's vibrant morning or the twilight of years,
There are treasures for all who venture here in Florida.
Mockingbirds cry and 'gators lie out in the sun,
Bridges span southward to the Keys and rockets skyward run,
The orange blossoms' sweet perfume and fireworks fill the air,
And cultures rich our native people share.
Florida, where the sawgrass meets the sky,
Florida, where our hearts will ever lie,
Sitting proud in the ocean like a sentinel true,
Always shielding your own, yet giving welcome.
Florida, land of flowers, land of light.
Florida, where our dreams can all take flight.
Whether youth's vibrant morning or the twilight of years,
There are treasures for all who venture here in Florida, Florida.

Florida Facts: (11)
1. The state of Florida is roughly the size of England and Wales, covering an area of approximately 65,578 square miles.
2. Florida means "feast of flowers" in Spanish. Florida was first discovered by the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon, on April 2, 1513. He named it "Pascua de Florida" and claimed it for Spain.
3. The first permanent European settlement in America was established in 1565 in St. Augustine by Spain. Florida was the 27th state to join the United States on March 3, 1845.
4. Florida is a golfer's paradise with more than 1,000 golf courses (more than any other state). There are also more than 3,000 lakes.
5. The city of Fort Lauderdale is known as the 'Venice of America' because of it's canal system, with 185 miles of local waterways.
6. The Florida Everglades is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist.
7. Anything you’ve ever wanted to know about shells you can find out at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum in Sanibel. It has over 2,000 shells, 30 exhibits and claims to be the world's only museum devoted solely to mollusks.
8. Florida is the only state having two rivers with the same name. The Withlacoochee in northern Florida (Madison County) and the Withlacoochee in central Florida (west on SR-200 next to Stumpnockers).
9. Key West has the highest annual average temperature in the US, around 77°F (25°C).
10. It's claimed that the first sunblock was invented in Miami Beach, in 1944, by pharmacist Benjamin Green. Called 'Red Vet Pet' (it was a red gel), it was used to protect American GIs from the sun in World War II. He later added cocoa butter to develop what eventually became suntan lotion.
11. In 2014 Florida surpassed New York as the 3rd most populous state in the nation.
Credits:    Symbols;  flheritage.com    Facts;  visitflorida.com