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The Conception of the Massachusetts State Bird and Flower

The Conception of the Massachusetts State Bird and Flower

Massachusetts is an Indian term that roughly translates to “great mountain-place”. Massachusetts is also named a commonwealth (as are Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania) in the state Constitution of 1780. In previous drafts, Massachusetts was referred to as the State of Massachusetts Bay, which John Adams kept in mind when writing up the state Constitution that would be finally acceptable to the people. Some speculate the he was reflecting some Anti-monarchy sentiments still harbored by the residents of the time. The independence felt to keenly then is still reflected in the Bay State motto “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

Even deciding which bird to choose to represent Massachusetts was a point of argument and is indicative of the fierce independence typical of the residents of this state. The State Federation of Women’s Club named the Veery Thrush in 1931 as their signature bird and drafted a bill to have the Verry as the state bird. The bill was vetoed. Ten years later on March 21, 1941 The Chickadee (Penthestes atricapillus) was officially designated as the state bird. The Black-capped Chickadee have a black crown of feathers as well as black chin and neck, white cheeks and brown everywhere else. it averages four to five inches in length with a tail that equals half the overall length of the bird. They like to nest near the ground in tiny caverns, preferably in trees that are rotting on the inside. This bird is also known as the dickybird, tomtit, and the titmouse.

The state flower is the Mayflower. It blooms April to May and is also known as trailing arbutus, a low growing evergreen plant that often goes unnoticed hidden by leaves and other ground cover that has a very sweet smelling pink and white flower. The Mayflower spreads very slowly due to not reseeding itself every year. The best growing conditions of this plant are acidic soil in rocky places. Adopted as the state flower in 1918, this flower has been on the endangered species list since 1925, and as such it is a federal crime to pick any that may be found growing wild.

Some interesting facts of this remarkable state include such things as Maine was once a part of Massachusetts (in 1820 Maine attained independent statehood), Harvard was the first college established in North America, was home to the inventor of the birth control pill, as well as the inventor of the first sewing machine.