The American Beaver (Castor canadensis) was named Oregon state animal by the 1969 Legislature. Prized for its fur, the beaver was overtrapped by early settlers and eliminated from much of its original range. Through proper management and partial protection, the beaver has been reestablished in watercourses throughout the state and remains an important economic asset. The beaver has been referred to as “nature’s engineer,” and its dam-building activities are important to natural water flow and erosion control. Oregon is known as the “Beaver State” and Oregon State University’s athletic teams are called the “Beavers.”
Milk was selected in 1997 as the state beverage. The legislature recognized that milk production and the manufacture of dairy products are major contributors to the economic well-being of Oregon agriculture. Tillamook County has long been known for its dairy farms and now Morrow County has seen growth in the number and size of its dairy operations.
The Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) was chosen state bird in 1927 by Oregon’s school children in a poll sponsored by the Oregon Audubon Society. Native throughout western North America, the bird has brown plumage with buff and black markings. Its underside is bright yellow with a black crescent on the breast; its outer tail feathers are mainly white and are easily visible when it flies. The Western Meadowlark is known for its distinctive and beautiful song. (Image courtesy Noah Strycker)
The 2009 Legislature designated the Dungeness crab as the official state crustacean. The action followed petitioning by the 4th grade class of Sunset Primary School in West Linn.
In 1977 the legislature declared the Square Dance to be the official state dance. The dance is a combination of various steps and figures danced with four couples grouped in a square. The pioneer origins of the dance and the characteristic dress are deemed to reflect Oregon’s heritage; the lively spirit of the dance exemplifies the friendly, free nature and enthusiasm that are a part of the Oregon Character.
Father of Oregon
The 1957 Legislature bestowed upon Dr. John McLoughlin the honorary title of “Father of Oregon” in recognition of his great contributions to the early development of the Oregon Country. Dr. McLoughlin originally came to the Northwest region in 1824 as a representative of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), also known as spring, king and tyee salmon, is the largest of the Pacific salmons and the most highly prized for the fresh fish trade. Declared state fish by the 1961 Legislature, the Chinook Salmon is found from southern California to the Canadian Arctic. Record catches of 53 inches and 126 pounds have been reported.
The Oregon state flag, adopted in 1925, is navy blue with gold lettering and symbols. Blue and gold are the state colors. On the flag’s face the legend “STATE OF OREGON” is written above a shield which is surrounded by 33 stars. Below the shield, which is part of the state seal, is written “1859” the year of Oregon’s admission to the union as the 33rd state. The flag’s reverse side depicts a beaver. Oregon has the distinction of being the only state in the union whose flag has a different pattern on the reverse side. The dress or parade flag has a gold fringe, and the utility flag has a plain border.
The legislature designated the Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) as the Oregon state flower by resolution in 1899. A low growing plant, the Oregon Grape is native to much of the Pacific Coast and is found sparsely east of the Cascades. Its year-round foliage of pinnated, waxy green leaves resembles holly. The plant bears dainty yellow flowers in early summer and a dark blue berry that ripens late in the fall. The fruit can be used in cooking.
The legislature designated the Metasequoia, or dawn redwood, as the official state fossil for Oregon by resolution in 2005. The Metasequoia flourished in the Miocene epoch of 25 to 5 million years ago and left its record embedded in rocks across the Oregon landscape. While long extinct in Oregon, paleontologists discovered living 100-foot Metasequoia trees in a remote area of China over 50 years ago and brought specimens back to the United States for propagation, thus ensuring that live Metasequoia trees can be found today.
The legislature designated the pear (Pyrus communis) as the official fruit by resolution in 2005. Oregon produces a variety of pears, including Comice, Anjou, Bosc, and Bartlett. The pear ranks as the top-selling tree fruit crop in the state and grows particularly well in the Rogue River Valley and along the Columbia River near Mt. Hood.
The 1987 Legislature designated the Oregon sunstone as the official state gemstone. Uncommon in its composition, clarity, and colors, it is a large, brightly colored transparent gem in the feldspar family. The Oregon sunstone attracts collectors and miners and has been identified as a boon to tourism and economic development in southeastern Oregon counties.
In 1979 the legislature designated the Oregon Swallowtail (Papilio oregonius) as Oregon’s official insect. A true native of the Northwest, the Oregon Swallowtail is at home in the lower sagebrush canyons of the Columbia River and its tributaries, including the Snake River drainage. This strikingly beautiful butterfly, predominantly yellow, is a wary, strong flier not easily captured.
Mother of Oregon
Honored by the 1987 Legislature as Mother of Oregon, Tabitha Moffatt Brown “represents the distinctive pioneer heritage and the charitable and compassionate nature of Oregon’s people.” At 66 years of age, she financed her own wagon for the trip from Missouri to Oregon. The boarding school for orphans that she established later became known as Tualatin Academy and eventually was chartered as Pacific University in Forest Grove.
“She Flies With Her Own Wings” was adopted by the 1987 Legislature as the state motto. The phrase originated with Judge Jessie Quinn Thornton and was pictured on the territorial seal in Latin: Alis Volat Propriis. The new motto replaces “The Union,” which was adopted in 1957.
The 1999 Legislature recognized the Pacific golden chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus) as the official mushroom of the State of Oregon. This mushroom is a wild, edible fungi of high culinary value that is unique to the Pacific Northwest. More than 500,000 pounds of the Pacific golden chanterelles are harvested annually in Oregon, representing a large portion of the commercial mushroom business.
The hazelnut (Corylus avellana) was named state nut by the 1989 Legislature. Oregon grows 99% of the entire U.S. commercial crop. The Oregon hazelnut, unlike wild varieties, grows on single-trunked trees up to 30 or 40 feet tall. Adding a unique texture and flavor to recipes and products, hazelnuts are preferred by chefs, bakers, confectioners, food manufacturers and homemakers worldwide.
The Thunder-egg (geode) was named state rock by the 1965 Legislature after rockhounds throughout Oregon voted it first choice. Thunder-eggs range in diameter from less than one inch to over four feet. Nondescript on the outside, they reveal exquisite designs in a wide range of colors when cut and polished. They are found chiefly in Crook, Jefferson, Malheur, Wasco and Wheeler counties.
The state seal consists of an escutcheon, or shield, supported by 33 stars and divided by an ordinary, or ribbon, with the inscription “The Union.” Above the ordinary are the mountains and forests of Oregon, an elk with branching antlers, a covered wagon and ox team, the Pacific Ocean with setting sun, a departing British man-of-war signifying the departure of British influence in the region and an arriving American merchant ship signifying the rise of American power. Below the ordinary is a quartering with a sheaf of wheat, plow and pickax, which represent Oregon’s mining and agricultural resources. The crest is the American Eagle. Around the perimeter of the seal is the legend “State of Oregon 1859.” A resolution adopted by the Constitutional Convention in session on September 17, 1857, authorized the president to appoint a committee of three—Benjamin F. Burch, L.F. Grover and James K. Kelly—to report on a proper device for the seal of the state of Oregon. Harvey Gordon created a draft, to which the committee recommended certain additions that are all incorporated in the state seal.
In 1848, a conchologist (shell expert) named Redfield named the Fusitriton oregonensis after the Oregon Territory. Commonly called the Oregon hairy triton, the shell is one of the largest found in the state, reaching lengths up to five inches. The shells are found from Alaska to California and wash up on the Oregon coast at high tide. The legislature named the state shell in 1991.
The Legislature designated Jory soil as the Oregon state soil by concurrent resolution in 2011. The Jory soil is distinguished by its brick-red, clayish nature as it has developed on old volcanic rocks through thousands of years of weathering. It is estimated to exist on more than 300,000 acres of western Oregon hillsides and is named after Jory Hill in Marion County. Jory soil is very productive and generally supports forest vegetation such as Douglas fir and Oregon white oak. Many areas with the soil have been cleared and are now used for agriculture. Jory soil, coupled with the Willamette Valley climate, provides an ideal setting for crops, including wine grapes, wheat, Christmas trees, berries, hazelnuts, and grass seed.
J.A. Buchanan of Astoria and Henry B. Murtagh of Portland wrote “Oregon, My Oregon,” in 1920. With this song, Buchanan and Murtagh won a statewide competition sponsored by the Society of Oregon Composers, gaining statewide recognition. The song became the official state song in 1927.
The Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), named for David Douglas, a 19th century Scottish botanist who traveled through Oregon in the 1820s, was designated state tree in 1939. Great strength, stiffness and moderate weight make it an invaluable timber product said to be stronger than concrete. Averaging up to 200' in height and six feet in diameter, heights of 325' and diameters of 15' can also be found.