State Symbols

Statehood

Iowa became the 29th state on December 28, 1846.

 

Capital City: Des Moines

Founded at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers; originally a military outpost.

 

Nickname: The Hawkeye State

The nickname was adopted early in the state's history. Two Iowa promoters from Burlington are believed to have popularized the name.

 

State Banner and Motto

Iowa was almost 75 years old before the state flag was adopted by the General Assembly. Creation of the state flag had been suggested for years by patriotic organizations, but no action was taken until World War I, when Iowa National Guardsmen stationed along the Mexican border suggested a state flag was needed to designate their unit. This prompted the state's Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to design a flag in 1917. The Iowa General Assembly officially adopted the design in 1921. Designed by Mrs. Dixie Cornell Gebhardt of Knoxville, Iowa, a member of the DAR, the state flag consists of three vertical stripes -- blue, white and red. Gebhardt explained that the blue stands for loyalty, justice and truth; the white for purity; and the red for courage. On the white center stripe is an eagle carrying in its beak blue streamers inscribed with the state motto: "Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain." The word "Iowa" is in red just below the streamers. All schools must fly the state flag on school days. The flag may also be flown on the sites of public buildings. When displayed with the United States flag, the state flag must be flown below the national emblem.

 

State Flower: Wild Rose

The 26th Iowa General Assembly designated the wild rose as the official state flower in 1897. It was chosen for the honor because it was one of the decorations used on the silver service which the state presented to the battleship USS Iowa that same year. Although no particular species of the flower was designated by the General Assembly, the wild prairie rose (rosa pratincola) is most often cited as the official flower. Wild roses are found throughout the state and bloom from June through late summer. The flower, in varying shades of pink, is set off by many yellow stamens in the center.

 

State Bird: Eastern Goldfinch

The Iowa General Assembly designated the eastern goldfinch, also known as the American goldfinch and the wild canary, as the official state bird in 1933. It was chosen as the state bird because it is commonly found in Iowa and often stays through the winter. Seeds from dandelions, sunflowers, ragweed and evening primrose are the main source of food for the eastern goldfinch (carduelis tristis). In late July or early August, goldfinches build their nests from plant materials and line them with thistledown. The pale blue-white eggs of the eastern goldfinch hatch after two weeks and then, following two to three more weeks, the young birds leave the nest. The top of a male's head is topped with black and their bright yellow body also has black wings and tail. The female has a dull olive-yellow body with a brown tail and wings. The male goldfinch acquires the same dull plumage in the winter months.

 

State Tree: Oak

The oak was designated as the official state tree in 1961. The Iowa General Assembly chose the oak because it is abundant in the state and serves as shelter, food and nesting cover for many animals and birds. It is difficult to find a tract of natural woodland in Iowa that does not have in it at least one species of oak. No other group of trees is more important to people and wildlife. Acorns, the nuts of oak trees, are a dietary staple of many animals and birds. Deer, wild turkeys, pheasants, quail, wood ducks, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, bluejays, nuthatches, grackles and several kinds of woodpeckers are a few of the species that depend on acorns for a significant portion of their diet.

 

State Rock: Geode

The Iowa General Assembly designated the geode as the official state rock in 1967. Because Iowa is well known for the presence of the geode, it was chosen as the official rock in an effort to promote tourism in the state. Legislators who favored making the geode the state rock pointed out that it is among the rarest and most beautiful of rocks and that Iowa is known worldwide because of the large number found in the state. Other rocks considered for official status were limestone and fossil coral. In Latin, the word geode means earthlike. Geodes are shaped like the earth and average about four inches in diameter. Geodes are found in limestone formations and have a hard outer shell. When carefully broken open, a sparkling lining of mineral crystals, most often quartz and calcite, is revealed. Geologists attribute the crystal growth to the percolation of groundwater in the geologic past. Southeastern Iowa is one of the state's best Geode collecting areas. Geode State Park in Henry County is named for the occurrence of the geode.

 

The Great Seal of the State of Iowa

The Great Seal of Iowa pictures a citizen soldier standing in a wheat field surrounded by farming and industrial tools, with the Mississippi River in the background. An eagle overhead bears the state motto.

 

Iowa Quarter: Nation's Only Education Quarter

In 2004, when Governor Vilsack and the head of the U.S. Mint unveiled the 29th commemorative quarter at the foot of the Iowa Capitol, the focus was on education. Schoolchildren, teachers and dignitaries were on hand for the event as the Iowa quarter was introduced as “the nation’s only education quarter.” The coin features Iowa artist Grant Wood’s “Arbor Day” painting of a one-room schoolhouse and teacher with students planting a tree. The motto on the coin is “Foundation in Education.”