States' symbols help to preserve culture

Georgia and South Carolina share more than the reptiles swimming in the Savannah River.


From square dancing, the official folk dance of both states, to both claiming the peach as their official fruit, the neighbors have much in common.

According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, the Palmetto State produces more peaches than Georgia, but Georgia is known as the Peach State.

Red clay almost became the official dirt in Georgia, but it didn't make the cut, said Georgia Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta. Nor did blueberries get picked as the state berry, he said.

State symbols also include birds, butterflies and bees -- even spiders, shells and stones.

The lists are still growing. South Carolina is deciding whether to add three new symbols this year -- the Northern right whale for marine mammal, marsh tacky for state horse and the summer duck as the official duck.

In Georgia, the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum in Savannah has been proposed as the state's official civil rights museum.

State symbols are important in preserving a state's culture, but they are also useful in touting a state beyond its borders.

"Those are things that certainly promote economic development and promote tourism," Mr. Tarver said. "I think most importantly it's a tool we can use to educate others about Georgia."

Rep. Don Smith, a Republican who represents portions of Aiken and Edgefield counties, said symbols provide national identification and familiarize people with the state.

The palmetto tree, for example, is widely recognized as a symbol of South Carolina, particularly by tourists who visit the state's coastal areas, he said.

Mr. Smith, 70, said that he can't remember all the state symbols he learned in school but that he thinks the palmetto tree is the most important.

"I think most people I know of relate that to South Carolina," he said.

Mr. Tarver said he has been surprised to learn about some of Georgia's state symbols.

"I was aware that our state song is Georgia on My Mind ," he said. "I did not realize we have a state insect, the honeybee."

Or that the official reptile is the gopher tortoise.

People interested in propos-ing a state symbol should do research on the selection, Mr. Tarver said, then contact their legislator.

Reach Crystal Garcia at (706) 823-3409 or


A partial listing of symbols in each state.

Georgia/South Carolina

Fruit: Peach; peach

Tree: Live oak; palmetto

Gem: Quartz; amethyst

Game bird: Bobwhite quail; wild turkey

Fish: Largemouth bass; striped bass

Reptile: Gopher tortoise; loggerhead turtle

Insect: Honeybee; Carolina mantid (praying mantis)

Butterfly: Tiger swallowtail; Eastern tiger swallowtail

Bird: Brown thrasher; Carolina wren

Shell: Knobbed whelk; lettered olive

Amphibian: Green tree frog; spotted salamander

Source: and