Symbols of Mississippi give clues about what makes our state special

Published 10:59 am Sunday, November 5, 2023

By James L. Cummins
Conservation Corner

By its very definition, a symbol is an object or picture that represents something or someone. Just as every state has its own license plate, they also have several other symbols that are unique to them.

State symbols are any type of symbol or imagery, including animals, plants, rocks and even articles of clothing that are chosen by the residents and legislature to represent them. These symbols are often clues to what makes each state special, or unique–usually chosen to represent the cultural heritage and natural treasures of each state.

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Mississippi has several official symbols. Let us acknowledge some of these important representations of our great state:

The Seal of Mississippi. The great seal of the state of Mississippi was adopted in 1798, when Mississippi was a United States territory. When it became a state in 1817, the same seal was designated as the official seal. The seal consists of an image of the eagle proudly positioned in the center of the seal with its wings spread wide and its head held high. Stars and stripes adorn its chest. In its talons, the eagle grasps an olive branch symbolizing a desire for peace and a quiver of arrows representing the power to wage war. The outer circle of the seal contains the text “The Great Seal of the State of Mississippi.” The motto, “Virtute et armis,” translates to “By valor and arms.”

The State Flower and Tree. Most everyone could name the state tree. Known as “The Magnolia State,” Mississippi proudly claims the magnolia tree as the state flower and tree. Although the cotton blossom and cape jasmine were contenders for state flower and the oak, pine, and dogwood were contenders for state tree, the magnolia was officially named the state flower by the 1952 Legislature and the state tree on April 1, 1938.

The State Bird. The mockingbird is the official state bird of Mississippi, and rightfully so. Found in all sections of Mississippi, the mockingbird was selected as the official state bird by the Women’s Federated clubs and by the State Legislature in 1944.

The State Land Mammal. Our state’s official land mammal is the white-tailed deer. Designated the state land mammal in 1974, this animal is found throughout our great state. Mississippi has more deer per square mile than any other state.

The State Waterfowl. The wood duck was also designated in 1974–as the state waterfowl. This beautiful duck is highly regarded as a prized game.

The State Fish. Mississippi is known for its superb fishing, and it is only fitting that the largemouth bass be designated as our state fish. Named such in 1974, this is a much sought-after fishing prize and makes fantastic table fare.

The State Insect. Designated the state insect of Mississippi in 1980, the honeybee is one of the most celebrated insects throughout history because of their great by-product: honey! Harvested throughout Mississippi and sold at various farmer’s markets and produce stands, honey is a highly valued state treasure.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a nonprofit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Its website is