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North Carolinians know it’s not truly spring until the dogwoods bloom. The showy and beautiful dogwood tree became the state flower — yes, flower — in 1941, but the pops of white scattered along the edges of woods across the state have been a welcome herald of warmer weather since long before that.
In 1973, the North Carolina General Assembly recognized the importance of pollinators to our agriculture industry by designating the honeybee as our state insect. Sixteen other states claim the honeybee as theirs, but we were the first to offer royal treatment.
The musky perfume of sweet, round, green-gold scuppernongs announces autumn in eastern North Carolina. A large, old variety of muscadine, our native grape grows only in the South, and was named after the area of Tyrrell County where it was first recorded in the 1700s.
More than 220 years after 12-year-old Conrad Reed discovered a 17-pound yellow “rock” in Cabarrus County, kicking off the nation’s first gold rush, our state mineral continues to capture our imagination.
North America’s only significant emerald deposits are found in Alexander, Mitchell, and Cleveland counties. At the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is the 64-carat Carolina Emperor, the largest cut emerald on the continent. It’s a dazzling display of the precious green gemstone.
Also known as redfish, red drum, and puppy drum, this headstrong saltwater fish loves small tidal creeks, flooded marshes, crashing surf, rough-water shoals, and deep tidal rivers. In other words, to fish for channel bass is to hunt for channel bass.
Designed and built with local wood by a native on Roanoke Island, the shad boat sailed the sounds well into the 20th century, as hardy as the fishermen it carried.
Pine • State Tree
Despite our nickname being the land of the longleaf pine, no single species of pine is designated as our state tree, leaving North Carolinians to debate whether the General Assembly meant the loblolly or the longleaf.
The “Cadillac of Christmas trees” thrives at elevations above 3,000 feet, meaning that western North Carolina is home to rolling patchwork quilts of Fraser firs. It’s the most popular Christmas tree in North America, and we’re proud to call it our own.
In the Piedmont, red clay is a source of work and of art. Generations of hardworking North Carolinians have reckoned with the red land, and a handful of industrious souls found a different way to master it: Potters shape it to their will.
North Carolina’s official state song, “The Old North State,” was adopted as such by the General Assembly in 1927, but it had been sung as the unofficial state song — albeit with a few different arrangements — since it was written in 1835. It is not, despite common misconception, the state toast set to music.
In Mount Airy, the world’s largest open-faced granite quarry is a scientific wonder. Its owners have mined it for 130 years, pulling out some of the finest white granite anywhere. When the General Assembly named granite our state rock in 1979, they exalted it as “a symbol of strength and steadfastness, qualities characteristic of North Carolinians.”
Good luck spotting this striking salamander: The species, which gets its name from the white or grey bands across its back and sides, is relatively common across North Carolina, but it’s also super secretive.
The 1965 session during which the General Assembly picked our state shell was apparently quite long. Many members felt that the Scotch bonnet — pronounced “bonay” — was too elusive on our beaches, too fragile. But the bonnet prevailed. And we continue to comb our beaches in search of it.
My, what big teeth you have! The fossilized tooth of the largest shark to ever live, the megalodon, is our state fossil. Occasionally, lucky beachcombers find the prehistoric chompers washed up on our shores.
Yes, the opossum is a state symbol and has been since 2013, when the legislature named it our state marsupial. No disrespect to opossums (or legislators), but that’s not saying much — the opossum is the only marsupial found in the state (and, for that matter, in all of North America).
To commemorate our 90th anniversary, we’ve compiled a time line that highlights the stories, contributors, and themes that have shaped this magazine — and your view of the Old North State — using nine decades of our own words.