West Virginia Department of Commerce State Facts

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State Facts

State Animal: Black Bear

Black Bear The Black Bear, or Ursus americanus, is actually deeply tinted with brown. The black bear roams freely throughout 36 states and Canada, while its West Virginia habitat primarily is in the eastern mountain region of the state. One or two cubs, rarely three, are born at a time, weighing about eight ounces each. The adult reaches an average maximum weight of 250 pounds. Selected in 1954-55 and adopted by the Legislature as the official state animal on March 23, 1973.

State Bird: Cardinal

Cardinal The Cardinal, or Cardinalis cardinalis, became West Virginia’s official bird in 1949 by the Legislature authorizing a vote by pupils of public schools and civic organizations. The male cardinal is a rich scarlet color with a mask and shading of black, while the young and females are a lessbrilliant color. The cardinal measures approximately eight inches long and is found from New York to the Gulf of Mexico and as far west as Oklahoma.

State Fruit: Golden Delicious Apple

Golden Delicious Apples The Golden Delicious Apple was designated as the official state fruit by the Legislature on February 20, 1995. Anderson Mullins discovered this apple variety in Clay County in 1905. The plain apple had been previously designated as the official state fruit on March 7, 1972.

State Fish: Brook Trout

Brook Trout The Brook Trout, a West Virginia native fish, is perhaps the most-sought-after trout by anglers, as it puts up an excellent fight for its size. It thrives in small, cold, spring-fed streams and is unable to withstand warmer temperatures. The brook trout is olive with lighter sides and a reddish belly (in males) and is easily identified by the light-colored edges of the lower fins. Adopted as the State Fish March 23, 1973, during regular session following a poll of sportsmen.

State Flower: Rhododendron

Rhododendren The Rhododendron maximum, or “big laurel,” is the state flower of West Virginia. It was adopted by the Legislature on January 23, 1903 following a recommendation by the Governor and a vote by the pupils of public schools. It is a shrub of the heath family and may be recognized by its large, dark evergreen leaves and delicate pale pink or white bloom, with either red or yellow flecks.

State Butterfly: Monarch

Monarch butterflyThe Monarch Butterfly was designated West Virginia’s official state butterfly on March 1, 1995, by the Legislature. The orange and black insect dines on milkweed as a caterpillar, sips nectar from flowers as a butterfly and, at summer’s end, migrates south to Mexico. The butterflies you see in the spring are the great grandchildren of the ones that lived in Mexico during the winter.

State Tree: Sugar Maple

Sugar Maple Tree The Sugar Maple, Acer saccarum, became West Virginia’s official tree by a resolution of the 1949 Legislature. Its wood is excellent for furniture, and it produces maple syrup. A single tree is 70-120 feet high and produces two to three pounds of sap sugar. It has a fivelobed leaf and a small wing-shaped seed pod and, in the fall, the leaves turn brilliant colors.

State Insect: Honeybee

HoneybeeThe Honeybee became West Virginia’s official state insect on March 7, 2002, by the Legislature. In addition to its flavorful honey, the honeybee pollinates many of the state’s most important crops including fruits, vegetables and grasses. Its activity produces more benefit to the state’s economy than any other insect. The honeybee has six legs, four wings and its coloring ranges from dark yellow to gold with three dark bands on its abdomen.

State Flag:
West Virginia

West Virginia State FlagBy Senate Joint Resolution Number 18, approved by the Legislature March 7, 1929, West Virginia adopted the present State Flag. The resolution in part is as follow: "That the Legislature of West Virginia hereby adopts a State Flag of the following design and proportions, to-wit:

The proportions of the flag of the State of West Virginia shall be the same as those of the United States ensign; the field shall be pure white, upon the center of which shall be emblazoned in proper colors, the coat-of arms of the State of West Virginia upon which appears the date of the admission of the State into the Union, also with the motto, 'Montani Semper Liberi' (Mountaineers Are Always Free). Above the coat-of-arms of the State of West Virginia there shall be a ribbon lettered, 'State of West Virginia,' and arranged appropriately around the lower part of the coat-of-arms of the State of West Virginia a wreath of Rhododendron maximum in proper colors. The field of pure white shall be bordered by a strip of blue on four sides. The flag of the State of West Virginia when used for parade purposes shall be trimmed with gold colored fringe on three sides and when used on ceremonial occasions with the United States ensign, shall be trimmed and mounted in similar fashion to the United States flag as regards fringe, cord, tassels, and mounting."

State Seal: West Virginia

West Virginia State SealsJoseph H. Diss Debar, an artist from Doddridge County, was chosen by a committee of the Legislature to prepare drawings for an official seal for the State of West Virginia. The artist submitted his drawings with an explanation of each detail and from these was adopted, by the Legislature, a seal which has remained without change, the Official Seal of West Virginia. The seal contains the Latin motto, Montani Semper Liberi, which means "Mountaineers Are Always Free." A large stone in the center of the seal stands for strength. On the stone is the date the State was admitted to the Union, June 20, 1863. The farmer with his ax represents agriculture, and the miner holding his pick represents industry. In front of the rock are two rifles, crossed and surmounted at the place of contact by the Phrygian cap, or cap of liberty, indicating that freedom and liberty were won and will be maintained by the force of arms. While the seal was designed and adopted with two sides, only the front side is in common use.

The reverse side of laurel and oak leaves, log house, hills, factories and boats is the Governor's Official Seal. The Constitution of West Virginia, Article 2, Section 7, provides that: "The present seal of the state, with its motto 'Montani Semper Liberi,' shall be the great seal of the State of West Virginia, and shall be kept by the secretary of state, to be used by him, officially as directed by law."

State Nickname: “The Mountain State”

State Songs:

Although many people consider John Denver’s “Country Roads” the state’s unofficial anthem, the Legislature adopted the following three official state songs on February 28, 1963: The West Virginia Hills, words and music by Ellen King and H.E. Engle; This is My West Virginia, by Iris Bell; and West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home, by Julian G. Hearne, Jr.

State Day: June 20

West Virginia was proclaimed a state in 1863. “West Virginia Day” became a legal holiday in 1927.

State Gem:

The State Gem is technically not a gemstone, but rather the silicified Mississippian Fossil Coral, Lithostrotionella, preserved as the siliceous mineral chalcedony. Designated by House Concurrent Resolution March 10, 1990. It is found in Hillsdale Limestone in portions of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties and is often cut and polished for jewelry and display.

State Soil: Monongahela Silt Loam

The state soil is Monongahela Silt Loam, adopted on April 2, 1997, making West Virginia the 12th state to have an official state soil.

Monongahela soils occur on more than 100,000 acres in 45 counties in West Virginia. These very deep, moderately well drained soils are on alluvial stream terraces that are not flooded. They are used extensively for cultivated crops, hay, pasture, woodland, and homesite development. Monongahela soils are considered prime farmland where slopes are 3 percent or less. The soils are well suited to crop production. 

The name “Monongahela” is derived from a Native American word meaning “high banks or bluffs, breaking off and falling down in places.” The mean annual precipitation is about 45 inches, and the mean annual temperature is about 51 degrees F.

Official Colors: Old Gold and Blue

Old Gold and Blue were designated as official state colors adopted by the Legislature on March 8, 1963.

Official State Tartan

West Virginia State TartanOn March 6, 2008 the Legislature adopted House Concurrent Resolution 29, designating an adaptation of the "West Virginia Shawl" as the official state tartan.

Many Americans can claim Celtic roots, and, as a result, more than 20 other states have adopted official state tartans. According to the resolution, a majority of West Virginia's earliest settlers were of Celtic descent.

The pattern for the tartan is based on a previously undiscovered "West Virginia Shawl" found at the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Barboursville. The official state tartan is based on this design and contains the following colors, each one representing a different aspect of the state:

- Scarlet for the state bird, the cardinal
- Yellow for the fall colors
- Blue for the rivers and lakes
- Black for the official state animal, the black bear, and the state's oil and coal resources
- Green for the state flower, the rhododendron, and the state's meadows
- Azure for the sky
- White in order to include all the colors of the United States