Every state is known for something - some have national landmarks, some have famous cities, but all have state symbols. These icons represent something special to the people there. Idaho is no different in this regard; there are over twenty state symbols which represent Idaho's people, culture, and heritage. Here is a snippet of some of these beloved pieces of Idaho's identity.
Idaho’s state flower is the Syringa. This plant is a branching shrub with clusters of small white flowers. Each flower has four petals that grow out of short leafy branches. Not a small plant by any means, the Syringa bush can grow up to 10 feet tall. Known for its sweet fragrant and delicate beauty, this flower is a favorite amongst Idahoans.
Historically, Native Americans used the Syringa for many practical purposes. For example, the wood on the plant was used to make harpoon shafts, pipe stems, arrows, bows, and snowshoes, and bark and leaves were used to make soap.
The Syringa was designated Idaho’s official state flower in 1931, as a dedication to Lewis and Clark, who saw the Syringa on their journey through Idaho. In fact, the plants official name, Philadelphus lewisii, was named after Meriwether Lewis who wrote about the plant in his journal.
American Folk Dance
Integrated into American culture, especially Idaho’s, is the square dance. In order to show the love for the state and the traditions that have become part of Idaho’s culture, the Square Dance became the official state folk dance. The Square Dance’s origin in the United States started even before the U.S. became a country.
This dance is derived from many countries like England and France. But the Square Dance as it is seen today didn't exist until created by American colonists. The first historic record of the Square Dance was in 1651 and has since been recognized as American Folk Dancing. Square dancing has been a popular way to have fun in the west and though it is not seen in a lot of dances today, it still remains a part of Idaho’s heritage.
A typical Square Dance will have groups of four couples in the formation of the square with a couple on each side. There is more to the Square Dance than the steps and movements. Part of the culture of the Square Dance is from the music that comes with it. Most of the time, square dancing will be to an accordion, fiddle, banjo, and guitar.
The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia arctcia) became the state bird on February 28, 1931. Because of its grace and presence in Idaho’s mountain, the bird has not only become a symbol of flight but represents Idaho nature well.
This colorfully-plumed bird is most common in the Rocky Mountain region where it nests on nearly all types of timber. Usually reported being seen in an elevation from 800 to 11,000 feet, this bird likes to fly high. The Mountain Bluebird is also known for its resourcefulness as it nests in natural cavities, old woodpecker holes, or naturally knotted trees such as fir or Ponderosa pine.
Sometime state symbols come from unlikely places. In the late twentieth century, a group of fourth graders and their teacher from Kuna, Idaho, campaigned the legislature for the Cutthroat Trout to become the state fish. The Cutthroat Trout is actually three different sub-species, all native to Idaho; the Bonnevill Cutthroat Trout, the Westslope Cutthroat Trout, and the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. These fish are called 'cutthroat' due to the large, red, slash-like marks just below their gill covers. When it was first suggested to make the trout the state fish, its population was already in decline.
However, when the Cutthroat was named the state fish on April 5th, 1990, public awareness helped raise the population number to a much healthier level. In fact, today there are many hatcheries that raise cutthroat fish and then release them into the Idaho lakes and reservoirs. The state fish happens to now be one of the more common fish in Idaho. Most, if not all, fishers her will come across the cutthroat trout.
The state vegetable, not surprisingly, is the potato. Because of the climate in Idaho, it is perfect for growing potatoes. In fact, potatoes make up 550$ million to $700 million in Idaho’s agricultural economy. Thousands of acres are dedicated to Idaho’s potatoes. There is even a law in Idaho that makes it illegal to sell Idaho potatoes if they have rot or are damaged.
Yes, Idaho has a lot of proud emblems of the state, and a unique connection with each. Recognizing these and what they represent, it is not difficult to understand Idaho's dedication to preserving its wilderness, its natural resources, and its culture.
For further reading: