West Virginia's State Symbols



Image Source: Douglas Chewning/Audubon Photography Awards

The cardinal was adopted as the official State Bird in 1949 following a vote of public school students and civic organizations, including sportsmen and bird study groups. Male cardinals are brilliant red all over, with a reddish bill and black face immediately around the bill. Females are pale brown overall with warm reddish tinges in the wings, tail, and crest. They have the same black face and red-orange bill (The Cornell Lab: All About Birds).

All About Birds Northern Cardinal Identification


brook trout.

The brook trout was designated as the official State Fish in 1973 by the West Virginia Legislature in a resolution that included the black bear as the official State Animal. The brook trout is the only trout species native to West Virginia streams. Native brook trout live and reproduce in only the coldest and purest of our mountain streams. These streams are generally less than 15 feet wide, well shaded, and have numerous pools. Although these streams often support large numbers of brook trout, the trout tend to be small fish that average five to six inches in length and seldom exceed 10 inches.(WVDNR).

WV Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Brook Trout Information



The rhododendron maximum (also known as the great laurel) became the official State Flower in 1903. The recommendation was made by the governor and a vote of public school students. Throughout the world there are more than 800 species of rhododendron, the most abundant being the purple or Catawba rhododendron and rhododendron maximum, also known as great laurel or rosebay. The rosebay alternates growth years with blooming years. The range of the rhododendron in the United States is in the eastern and midwestern states. It is common in much of West Virginia, the massed plants putting on a spectacular show when in full bloom. (Fenn, Christine D. "Rhododendron." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 24 January 2018.).

e-West Virginia Rhododendron Information


golden delicious apple.

The Golden Delicious apple first appeared on a tree in Clay County around 1900. In 1995, the West Virginia Legislature adopted the Golden Delicious apple as the State Fruit. West Virginia is the native home of the Golden Delicious apple, the state’s second major horticultural contribution to the commercial apple industry. The first was the Grimes Golden, discovered on the farm of Thomas Grimes near Wellsburg in the early 1800s. (e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Golden Delicious." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 11 September 2019.)

e-West Virginia Golden Delicious Apple Information


west virginia map with musical notes.

The best-known and most popular state song is "The West Virginia Hills" by Ellen King and H. E. Engle. It was designated as the official state song in 1961. ‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’ is the oldest of West Virginia’s four official state songs. In September 1885, the Glenville Crescent newspaper published the four-verse poem, credited to Ellen Ruddell King. One account suggests that the beauty of her native hills inspired Mrs. King to write it, while another hints that the poem was actually written by her husband, Rev. David H. King; a third implies that she wrote it, and he polished it. Also and notably, Daniel Boardman Purinton, professor and later president of West Virginia University, had previously published words and music to a somewhat shorter song called “West Virginia Hills.” Purinton’s song, published in 1877, has the same opening line, the same first line of the chorus, and essentially the same title as the version attributed to King. (Young III, H. G. "‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 12 June 2017.)

The other three official state songs are: "This is My West Virginia", "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home", and "Take Me Home, Country Roads (Almost Heaven, West Virginia), which is the last officially accepted state song, recognized in March 2014."

e-West Virginia "The West Virginia Hills" Information

e-West Virginia "Country Roads"

Performed by Eleanor Steber at the 1964 World's Fair.

Performed by Mack Samples at the West Virginia State Folk Festival, 2009.


state seal

seal reverse side

The great seal of West Virginia, which also is the coat of arms, was adopted by the Legislature on September 26, 1863, and symbolizes the principal pursuits and resources of West Virginia. Described briefly, the obverse side of the seal bears the legend, “State of West Virginia”, together with the motto, “Montani Semper Liberi” (Mountaineers Are Always Free). A farmer stands to the right and a miner to the left of a large ivy-draped stone bearing the date of the state’s admission to the union, June 20, 1863. The large stone in the center of the seal stands for strength. In front of the stone are two hunters’ rifles upon which rests a Phrygian cap, or “cap of liberty.” (West Virginia Blue Book, 2015-2016)

The reverse side of laurel and oak leaves, log house, hills, factories and boats is the Governor’s official seal, and is not in common use today. It was intended to be employed when the seal was attached to documents by ribbons and suspended in the manner of a medal. Joseph H. DisDebar, of Doddridge County, designed the state seal in 1863 at the request of the first West Virginia Legislature. 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.” (West Virginia Blue Book, 2015-2016)

e-West Virginia State Seal Information


black bear.

The black bear became the official State Animal in 1973 after the Department of Natural Resources conducted an opinion poll of students, teachers and sportsmen in 1954 - 1955. The poll also included ideas for the State Fish. Black bears are generally less than six feet long and stand two to three feet high at the shoulder. Adult males ordinarily weigh from 150 to 450 pounds, but some West Virginia records exceed 600 pounds. Adult females vary from 100 to 300 pounds, depending upon nutrition during their early years of rapid growth. Here in West Virginia, the blond and cinnamon color phases found in western states are absent. Our bears are uniformly black, with brown muzzles. About five percent to 10 percent have white markings on their brisket, varying from a few flecks to distinct V’s. (Rieffenberger, Joseph C. "Black Bear." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 19 May 2016.)

e-West Virginia Black Bear Information


sugar maple tree.

The sugar maple became the official State Tree in 1949. It was selected by a vote of public school students and civic organizations. The Sugar Maple tree’s leaves turn bright orange, red or yellow in the fall. It grows to 75 feet tall and has a full round shape. The leaves have five points and the tree produces winged fruit that are commonly called helicopters. The wood is highly valuable for furniture due to its beauty. Because of the wood’s hardiness it is also used for bowling pins and baseball bats. The sweetest thing about the Sugar Maple tree is that you can make syrup from its sap. This sap is taken from the tree by tapping into the bark through a hole. It then drains out of the tree and into a bucket. The sap is boiled until the water contained within the sap evaporates. Once the boiling process is complete you have maple syrup. It takes 40 liters of sap to make one liter of syrup (The Marshall University Arboretum Project).

e-West Virginia Sugar Maple Information

The Marshall University Arboretum Project Sugar Maple Information


state tartan.

On March 6, 2008, the Legislature adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 29, designating an adaptation of the "West Virginia Shawl" as the official State Tartan. These woolen plaid cloths were originally worn to differentiate between Scottish clans and families. Many Americans can claim Celtic roots and, as a result, more than 20 other states have adopted official State Tartans. The adaptation of the "West Virginia Shawl" includes the colors which most fully represent our states history, culture and beauty; and the Official West Virginia State Tartan shall be a symmetrical design and have all the colors of this great nation intertwined with the State of West Virginia.

According to the resolution, the majority of West Virginia’s earliest settlers were of Celtic descent. The pattern for the West Virginia shawl is based on a previously undiscovered 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 representing a different aspect of the state:

  • scarlet, for the state bird (cardinal)

  • yellow, for fall colors

  • blue, for rivers and lakes

  • black, for the official state animal (black bear), and also for the state’s oil and coal resources

  • green, for the state flower (rhododendron), and also the state’s meadows

  • azure, for the sky

  • white, to include all the colors of the United States flag

House Concurrent Resolution No. 29 "West Virginia Shaw" Information


Jefferson's ground sloth.

Besides naming an official State Reptile, Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 28, which passed on March 8, 2008, also declared the Megalonyx Jeffersonii, or Jefferson’s ground sloth, as the official State Fossil. In 1797, President Thomas Jefferson obtained and described fossil bones from a limestone cave in what is now Monroe County. These bones were again described by Casper Winstar in 1799 as the bones of a giant extinct ground sloth and were named in honor of President Jefferson. Named in order to promote the earth sciences and the history of our region, the bones are from the Ice Age (or Pleistocene Epoch), which lasted from 10,000 to 1.8 million years ago.

House Concurrent Resolution No. 28 State Fossil and Reptile Information

e-WV article on Megalonyx jeffersonii


honey bee.

The honeybee became West Virginia’s official State Insect in 2002 by the Legislature’s Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 9. In addition to its flavorful honey, the honeybee pollinates many of the state’s most important crops, including fruits, vegetables, and grasses. It 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.

House Concurrent Resolution No. 9 State Insect Information

e-WV article on Insects of West Virginia


bituminous coal.

Image Source: e-WV Encyclopedia

Bituminous Coal (*Not in West Virginia Code/Blue Book)

From the very early days of European exploration of what is now West Virginia, the presence of coal was duly noted. For example, in 1742 the first discovery of coal by an European explorer was made by John Peter Salley in the area now near Racine, West Virginia. John Peter Salley, therefore, named the nearby tributary of the Kanawha River where he observed the coal deposit as the Coal River. In 1770 George Washington noted "a coal hill on fire" near West Columbia in current Mason County. In 1810 the first commercial coal mine opened near Wheeling by Conrad Cotts for blacksmithing and domestic use; and the coal industry has evolved into and has been for many years an integral part of the economic and social fabric of the state. Bituminous Coal is found naturally deposited in the vast majority of the fifty-five counties of our great state; and many of those deposits have great economic importance and also where extensive mining operations are located. Whole communities in this state rely in large part, if not completely, on the Bituminous Coal industry for their continuing vitality. Bituminous Coal is used as a major product in the manufacturing or steel used in the many automobiles in the country; and is used in the chemical industries and in the manufacturing of hundreds of other products, such as medicines, that enhance our quality of life. West Virginia is the second largest Bituminous Coal producing state in the United States. For example, in 2008 there were 157,456 short tons of Bituminous Coal mined within West Virginia; and experts have asserted there is another five hundred years worth of commercially viable Bituminous Coal yet to be mined within West Virginia. The Bituminous Coal industry remains essential to economic growth and progress in West Virginia and the United States. It is fitting that a substance critical to the economic well-being of this great State of West Virginia and otherwise steeped in its history as Bituminous Coal be recognized as the official state rock of West Virginia. (source: House Concurrent Resolution No. 37, 2009)

e-WV article on Coal

e-WV article on Cannel Coal

e-WV article on Coal Industry

mh3wv State Symbols Bituminous Coal

National Coal Heritage Area & Coal Heritage Trail Coal History

WV Legislature Concurrent Resolution House Concurrent Resolution No. 37

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book


beckley's exhibition coal mine cart.

Image Source: Exhibition Coal Mine: WV Blue Book

The CITY OF BECKLEY’S EXHIBITION COAL MINE was designated as the official exhibition coal mine of West Virginia by Committee Substitute for House Concurrent Resolution No. 68, adopted by the Legislature on March 2, 2012. Part of the New River Park, the Beckley Exhibition Coal mine opened to visitors in 1962. Since then, the mine allows more than 45,000 visitors a year to experience the history of low-seam coal mining from the hand-loading days into the era of modern mechanization while riding authentic “man cars” through 1,500 feet of underground passages under the supervision of an experienced veteran coal miner. The mine offers recreational and educational opportunities for visitors through its Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia, hosting a planetarium and seasonal exhibitions, all while providing an invaluable connection to the state’s rich coal history. (source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016)

City of Beckley West Virginia Coal Mine Exhibition Information

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book


Hall flintlock model 1819.

Image Source: Hall Flintlock Model 1819: American-Firearms Encyclopedia

The HALL FLINTLOCK MODEL 1819 was designated the official state firearm by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 7, adopted by the Legislature on April 4, 2013. It was originally manufactured in Harpers Ferry by John H. Hall, and was adopted into the United States Army in 1819, the first breech-loading rifle to be adopted by any nation’s military. Characterized by a block breech that has the ability to be lifted out so the operator can insert the powder and bullet, it created a faster and simpler way to handle a gun. It was also the first entirely machine-made weapon ever manufactured with interchangeable parts. The Flintlock Model continued to be used during the U.S. Civil War. This alone makes it significant to West Virginia because the state was created out of that armed conflict. (source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016)

American Firearms Hall Flintlock Model 1819 Information

e-WV article on Harpers Ferry Armory and Arsenal

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book


Cass Scenic railroad SHAY No. 5.

Image Source: Shay No.5: WV Blue Book

The Cass Scenic Railroad’s SHAY No. 5 steam locomotive was designated the official state locomotive of West Virginia by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 34, adopted by the Legislature on March 11, 2004. The legendary Shay No. 5 was built for the Greenbrier and Elk River Railroad by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio. This turn-of-the-century class C-80 Shay has been toiling up Cheat Mountain for nearly 100 years, making it one of the oldest engines in continuous service on its original line, and the second oldest Shay in existence. Named as a tribute to the history of timbering in West Virginia, the Shay No. 5 is an important historical artifact and a wonderfully preserved example of the technology of the early 20th century. (source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016)

Mountain Rail WV SHAY No. 5 Information

e-WV article on Cass Scenic Railroad

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book


Northern Red Salamander.

Image Source: Red Salamander: Zach Felix, Marshall University

The northern red salamander or PSEUDOTRITON RUBER was designated West Virginia’s official amphibian by House Concurrent Resolution No. 31, adopted by the Legislature on March 12, 2015. This resolution was introduced to the House of Delegates by the Romney Middle School eighth grade West Virginia Studies class, who proposed that with its color pattern of colorful fall foliage and peppered black spots, the amphibian showcases the autumn colors of our state sugar maple tree and the coal mines that dot the region. Its five toes on each back foot and four toes on each of its front feet represent the 55 counties and eight major rivers of West Virginia. (source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016)

Marshall University Northern Red Salamander Information

e-WV article on Amphibians and Reptiles

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book


Monongahela silt loam with barn.

Image Source: WV Association of Soil Scientists

The official state soil was declared to be MONONGAHELA SILT LOAM by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 5, adopted by the Legislature on April 2, 1997. Monongahela silt loam covers over 100,000 acres in 42 counties throughout West Virginia and is used extensively for crops, hay, pasture, woodland, housing and prime farmland. (source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016)

WV Association of Professional Soil Scientists The West Virginia State Soil Information

e-WV article on Monongahela Silt Loam

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book


Monarch Butterfly.

Image Source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016

The monarch butterfly, or DANAUS PLEXIPPUS, was declared the official butterfly of West Virginia by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 11, adopted by the Legislature on March 1, 1995. 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. (source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016)

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book


timber rattlesnake.

Image Source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016

The timber rattlesnake or CROTALUS HORRIDUS was designated the official state reptile by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 29, adopted by the Legislature March 8, 2008. This venomous reptile is the only species of snake in the state with a segmented rattle at the end of its tail. It has brown or black chevron-shaped markings down its back - a pattern the resolution denotes as “reminiscent of West Virginia’s fauna and flora”. Usually a docile snake, rattlers usually occur in remote, rocky, mountainous sections of West Virginia. (source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016)

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book


timber rattlesnake

The WEST VIRGINIA FOSSIL CORAL (the mineral chalcedony) was designated the official state gem by House Concurrent Resolution No. 39, adopted by the Legislature on March 10, 1990. Though not technically a gemstone, but rather the silicified Mississippian Fossil Coral Lithostrotionella, chalcedony is found in Hillsdale Limestone in portions of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties and is often cut and polished for jewelry display. Lithostrotionella coral lived in the warm, shallow waters covering much of North America during the Mississippian Period (~ 350–325 million years ago). (source: West Virginia Blue Book 2015-2016)

The West Virginia Blue Book 2015 - 2016 Blue Book

* All information taken from the West Virginia Blue Book, Section 11: Departmental, Statistical & General Information and West Virginia Archive of Daily Journals

Museum Hours of Operation

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For more information call: (304) 558-0220