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The Conception of Pennsylvania's State Bird and Flower

The Conception of Pennsylvania's State Bird and Flower

The great state of Pennsylvania is known for its panoramic mountain views, lush temperate landscape and abundant wildlife. As such, the state’s game bird and state flower reflect the beauty and natural majesty of the Keystone State.

While it has no state bird, the official game bird is the ruffed grouse (bonasa umbellus), adopted on June 22nd, 1931, by an act of the Pennsylvania State Legislature. The ruffed grouse is not only found in Pennsylvania’s many beautiful natural areas, but can be seen in deep thickets, sheltered valleys and other forest biomes over much of the continental United States and Canada. Ruffed grouse commonly appear with reddish brown spotted plumage on the back, and deep yellow feathers featuring a dark bar-shaped coloration on the belly. Eggs are laid in ground nests, in clutches of 8-12, where the female of the species warms them until they hatch, 24 to 26 days later. Nestlings are raised primarily on insects until they can forage on their own for the usual diet of fruit, berries, seeds, nuts, buds and the occasional fern. Once they can roost unassisted, fledgling ruffed grouse begin a life lived largely in solitude outside of mating season. Primarily hunted for sport, the ruffed grouse is far from being an endangered species and continues to enjoy abundant numbers in the region.

The Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), Pennsylvania’s state flower, was adopted after much debate on May 5, 1933, and signed into law by the presiding Governor, Gifford Pinchot. After the proposal in 1927 from Pennsylvania State College to adopt the tulip tree as both state tree and flower saw no action, later adoption of the Eastern Hemlock (Tsunga canadensis L.) as the state tree in 1931 spurred Pennsylvania residents to action. With the population seemingly split between the pink azalea and mountain laurel as the state flower, The House of Representatives and Senate adopted bills for both, sending them on to the governor and placing the decision in his hands. Governor Pinchot chose the laurel, and the rest is history.

Mountain laurel blooms usually from May through June, drawing thousands of visitors from around the Commonwealth and beyond to view the showy flowering display. A member of the heath family, much like blueberries and azalea, mountain laurel is a shrub usually found in rocky soil. While commonly 4-10 feet in height, specimens over forty feet have been reported in sunnier climes.