The designation of several state symbols began as schoolroom civics lessons. To date, nineteen items have been officially selected to represent special elements of life in New Jersey. Hover over the images below to learn more about each.
The New Jersey State Flower
New Jersey has considered the violet as the State Flower since 1913. It wasn’t until 1971, however, that the Legislature adopted a bill that made the Viola sororia one of our official symbols. Even though violets are often considered “shy,” they are hardy enough to grow in New Jersey fields, lawns, and anywhere they can find warm spring sunshine.
The New Jersey State Bird
The Eastern Goldfinch
Alert birdwatchers can catch a glimpse of a male eastern goldfinch’s bright yellow feathers as he visits in the backyards of New Jersey. He also has a snappy black cap, wings and tail. If you want eastern goldfinches to visit you, try putting out some sunflower seeds-that’s their favorite treat. The eastern goldfinch was chosen to be the New Jersey State Bird in 1935.
The New Jersey State Tree
The Red Oak
In 1950, the majestic red oak became New Jersey’s State Tree. The red oak is a hardwood tree that you can recognize by its pointy-lobed leaves with prickly tips. It produces many acorns, an important food for the Native Americans of long ago. In autumn the leaves turn a vibrant red, adding bursts of color to our rural landscapes.
The New Jersey State Bug
Our State Bug, the honeybee, serves all of us very well. It makes honey for sweetening our meals and beeswax to smooth. Honeybees also pollinate our flowers, fruit trees and vegetable blossoms. A group of New Jersey school children persuaded the Legislature to designate the honeybee as the State bug. Then they all watched as the Governor signed the bill into law in 1974. Now isn’t that a honey of a tale?
The New Jersey State Animal
Two students, one in the fifth grade and one in the eighth grade, were responsible for making the horse New Jersey’s State Animal in 1977. Representing power and strength, the horse is included on the State seal. It was also very important in making New Jersey farming successful. Today, raising and racing horses are very popular in New Jersey.
The New Jersey State American Folk Dance
The Square Dance
“Do-si-do” and “swing your partner!” cries the caller in New Jersey’s official State American Folk Dance, the square dance. In the popular American square dance, a caller shouts out directions to the dancing couples. Square dance music is lively and the dancers wear colorful clothes. New Jersey adopted it as our State American Folk Dance in 1983.
The New Jersey State Dinosaur
The Hadrosaurus foulkii
During the Cretaceous Period, 70 to 100 million years ago, duck-billed dinosaurs roamed the swampy land that would later become New Jersey. A fossil of one of these dinosaurs was discovered by William Parke Foulke in Haddonfield in 1858. It was named Hadrosaurus foulkii. In 1991, the Hadrosaurus foulkii became New Jersey’s State Dinosaur.
The New Jersey State Freshwater Fish
The State Freshwater Fish is the brook trout, which originally joined the other State symbols in 1992. This native New Jersey fish received its name from the Pilgrims. The brook trout is very sensitive to pollution and other changes in the environment. Therefore, its presence assures good water quality.
The New Jersey State Shell
The Knobbed Whelk
New Jersey’s State Shell, the knobbed whelk, can be found along our beaches and bays. Its scientific name is Busycon carica gmelin. This large marine snail with a spiral shell is harvested and canned for food. It is also known by its Italian name, scungilli. The knobbed whelk became the State Shell in 1995.
The New Jersey State Fruit
Blueberries were first cultivated for commercial production in New Jersey and the state is widely recognized as the blueberry capital of the nation. The highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), also known as the “New Jersey blueberry,” is the ideal symbol of a delicious and nutritious fruit. Inspired by elementary school children, the blueberry was designated as the official New Jersey State Fruit on January 12, 2004.
The New Jersey State Butterfly
The Black Swallowtail Butterfly
The New Jersey State Tall Ship
The A.J. Meerwald
The A.J. Meerwald, a Delaware Bay oyster schooner launched in 1928, is the State Tall Ship having been so designated by Chapter 168 of the Laws of 2017. The Ship, constructed of oak planks laid over oak frames, is 115 feet long and has a beam height of 22 feet, 3 inches. From its home port in Commercial Township, the A.J. Meerwald is operated by the Delaware Bay Schooner Project as a floating classroom, promoting ecological and historical awareness of the bay and the waters of New Jersey.
The New Jersey State Ship
The U.S.S. New Jersey
The U.S.S. New Jersey earned more battle stars than any ship in its class. It served 21 years in the active fleet and received a Navy Unit Commendation and 19 battle and campaign stars for combat during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanese Civil War, and service in the Persian Gulf. Named as the official State Ship in 2017, it is now docked in the Port of Camden, the U.S.S. New Jersey is open for public tours.
The New Jersey State Saltwater Fish
The Striped Bass
Also known as the rockfish or striper, the striped bass is a large predatory fish with dark stripes running across its metallic sides. On average, adult striped bass grow two to three feet in length and weigh between 10 to 30 pounds, although they can reach a length of six feet and weigh as much as 125 pounds! On the Atlantic coast, striped bass range from Canada to Florida. The Striped Bass became an official State symbol in 2017.
The New Jersey State Reptile
The Bog Turtle
The bog turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii) was designated the official State Reptile of New Jersey on June 18, 2018. It is one of the smallest turtle species in North America, growing to only about four inches long. It has suffered from habitat loss, pollution and illegal collecting which have contributed to the declining population of this rare reptile.
The New Jersey State Inventor
The bill designating Thomas Edison as the official State Inventor was championed by fourth-grade students at Stony Brook Elementary School in Hopewell. In 2019, it became law. Edison received 1,093 patents and invented the incandescent light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera.
The New Jersey State Microbe
Streptomyces griseus, a microorganism that played a role in treating tuberculosis, became New Jersey’s official State Microbe in 2019. In 1943, researchers from Rutgers University used the microbe to create the antibiotic streptomycin.
The New Jersey State Dog
The Seeing Eye® Dog
On January 21, 2020, a special group of New Jersey “humanitarians” became the newest additions to our State Symbols, when the Seeing Eye® dog was named the official State Dog. These talented canines are graduates of The Seeing Eye®, the oldest dog guide school in the world. More than 17,000 dogs have been paired with blind individuals, increasing their independence and improving their quality of life.
The New Jersey State Memorial Tree
A concurrent resolution from 1951 noted that it was “the practice of many patriotic and public spirited organizations and the State of New Jersey, and the State Highway Department, to plant dogwood trees along the border of New Jersey’s Memorial Highway known as the ‘Blue Star Drive’ in honor of the men and women
in our Armed Forces.”