Quiz: Do you know your state tree?
In the iconic children’s book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, an apple tree gives a boy its apples, branches, and wood throughout its life. Whether readers find this story a moral parable on the joys of giving, or a warning to those who take advantage of kindness, it provides an apt metaphor for the many ways in which Americans have used our country’s diverse vegetation.
There are currently about 300 billion trees in America, according to estimates from the U.S. Forest Service. Over the past four centuries, these trees have given us oxygen through the process of photosynthesis; they’ve given us houses, churches, and school buildings, via their lumber; they’ve given us apples, nuts, and maple syrup, from their fruit; they’ve given us medicine through their flowers and bark; they’ve given us beautiful landscapes, from the reds and oranges of New England to the towering redwoods of Northern California; and they’ve even given us protection from coastal erosion, as the roots of trees in states like Louisiana and Florida keep soil from slipping away.
Considering all that trees have given us, it seems only fitting that Americans have given back through honoring particularly meaningful trees as the symbols of every state. This process started in the late 19th century, and by the middle of the 20th century, almost every state had a towering mascot. These trees now appear on state flags and seals across the country, and the cultural value tied to the trees can add an extra incentive for local governments, universities, and community groups to spearhead conservation efforts, such as USDA Forest Service-sponsored efforts to save the American elm (the state tree of two Midwestern states) from Dutch elm rot.
In this story, Stacker compiled a list of each state’s official state tree and researched the history and cultural ties of each one to help our readers quiz themselves. Which state’s tree is the species of the largest organism in the world? Which state’s tree has nuts that can make natural lanterns? Read on to find out!
Once a fixture in coastal plain forests from east Texas to southeastern Virginia, Alabama’s state tree has been reduced in recent centuries to 3% of its historical range. This tree is distinctive for its needles, which can grow up to 18 inches in length and look like starbursts when observed from below.
Answer: Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)
Alaska’s state tree loves rain, fog, cool summers, and mild winters, so it’s no surprise that this tree is found exclusively in the Pacific Northwest, with almost 90% of America’s supply growing in Alaska. The tree’s lumber is valuable because it’s capable of holding a lot of weight, and can often be found in the sounding boards for pianos and guitars, boat parts, and even aircraft.
Answer: Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)
The name of Arizona’s state tree includes two colors, but only one of these colors dominates the tree’s leaves, branches, and even its trunk during its blooming period in late spring. While the tree’s color may make it popular with tourists visiting Arizona’s deserts, it is more popular with plant researchers because it survives well in droughts: in fact, this tree does not need any supplemental water (from rainfall or humans) once a sapling is established.
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Answer: Blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida)
Go to any forest in Arkansas, and the dominant evergreen tree you see will likely be your region’s state tree. Arkansas farms plant this tree “like corn,” according to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, as it is the most profitable timber species in the state; but it can also quickly colonize new areas on its own and is commonly seen along newly cleared roads and abandoned land.
Answer: Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
California has two state trees, both botanical giants from the same subfamily (meaning they are closely related on the evolutionary tree). The first grows in low elevation, rainy areas along the coast and can live for over a thousand years, while the second grows in higher elevations along the Sierra Nevada mountains and requires a longer trek from tourists.
Answers: Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
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