Quiz: Do you know your state tree?

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December 6, 2019
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Quiz: Do you know your state tree?

In the iconic children's book "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, an apple tree gives a boy its apples, branches, and wood throughout its life. Whether readers find this story a moral parable on the joys of giving, or a warning to those who take advantage of kindness, it provides an apt metaphor for the many ways in which Americans have used our country's diverse vegetation.

There are currently about 300 billion trees in America, according to estimates from the U.S. Forest Service. Over the past four centuries, these trees have given us oxygen through the process of photosynthesis; they've given us houses, churches, and school buildings, via their lumber; they've given us apples, nuts, and maple syrup, from their fruit; they've given us medicine through their flowers and bark; they've given us beautiful landscapes, from the reds and oranges of New England to the towering redwoods of Northern California; and they've even given us protection from coastal erosion, as the roots of trees in states like Louisiana and Florida keep soil from slipping away.

Considering all that trees have given us, it seems only fitting that Americans have given back through honoring particularly meaningful trees as the symbols of every state. This process started in the late 19th century, and by the middle of the 20th century, almost every state had a towering mascot. These trees now appear on state flags and seals across the country, and the cultural value tied to the trees can add an extra incentive for local governments, universities, and community groups to spearhead conservation efforts, such as USDA Forest Service-sponsored efforts to save the American elm (the state tree of two Midwestern states) from Dutch elm rot.

In this story, Stacker compiled a list of each state's official state tree and researched the history and cultural ties of each one to help our readers quiz themselves. Which state's tree is the species of the largest organism in the world? Which state's tree has nuts that can make natural lanterns? Read on to find out!

Clue: Alabama

Once a fixture in coastal plain forests from east Texas to southeastern Virginia, Alabama’s state tree has been reduced in recent centuries to 3% of its historical range. This tree is distinctive for its needles, which can grow up to 18 inches in length and look like starbursts when observed from below.

Answer: Alabama

Answer: Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)

Clue: Alaska

Alaska’s state tree loves rain, fog, cool summers, and mild winters, so it’s no surprise that this tree is found exclusively in the Pacific Northwest, with almost 90% of America’s supply growing in Alaska. The tree’s lumber is valuable because it’s capable of holding a lot of weight, and can often be found in the sounding boards for pianos and guitars, boat parts, and even aircraft.

Answer: Alaska

Answer: Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)

Clue: Arizona

The name of Arizona’s state tree includes two colors, but only one of these colors dominates the tree’s leaves, branches, and even its trunk during its blooming period in late spring. While the tree’s color may make it popular with tourists visiting Arizona’s deserts, it is more popular with plant researchers because it survives well in droughts: in fact, this tree does not need any supplemental water (from rainfall or humans) once a sapling is established.

Answer: Arizona

Answer: Blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida)

Clue: Arkansas

Go to any forest in Arkansas, and the dominant evergreen tree you see will likely be your region’s state tree. Arkansas farms plant this tree “like corn,” according to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, as it is the most profitable timber species in the state; but it can also quickly colonize new areas on its own and is commonly seen along newly cleared roads and abandoned land.

Answer: Arkansas

Answer: Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)

Clue: California

California has two state trees, both botanical giants from the same subfamily (meaning they are closely related on the evolutionary tree). The first grows in low elevation, rainy areas along the coast and can live for over a thousand years, while the second grows in higher elevations along the Sierra Nevada mountains and requires a longer trek from tourists.

Answer: California

Answers: Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Clue: Colorado

Picture a standard Christmas tree, and you’ll be imagining the state tree of Colorado. These pine trees have short, sharp needles (about an inch) and tight configurations of branches, and may live for up to 800 years if they aren’t cut down for holiday decorations.

Answer: Colorado

Answer: Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens)

Clue: Connecticut

Anyone who grew up in Connecticut is familiar with the story behind this state’s tree. Connecticut was granted a charter by King Charles II in 1662, giving the state permission to elect its own leaders, but when Charles II died and his brother James II ascended to the throne in 1685, the new king sought to bring the state under different leadership. Colonial leaders refused to give up their power: they hid the charter in a large tree, where it stayed hidden until James II died and power was restored in 1689. The state tree was named in honor of this legend.

Answer: Connecticut

Answer: White oak (Quercus alba)

Clue: Delaware

Like Colorado, Delaware has a festive tree as its state symbol. This plant grows throughout the southern U.S. from Massachusetts to Florida and west to Texas, but it was especially important for Delaware farmers: the state was America’s leading exporter of a certain key holiday decoration until the 1950s, when plastic versions of the item took over the market.

Answer: Delaware

Answer: American holly (Ilex opaca)

Clue: Washington D.C.

D.C.’s official tree, like the district it represents, will draw a lot of attention next fall. Not for any political activity—but rather for pigment activity, as its bright red leaves soak up sunlight. This tree grows quickly and can be found in a variety of environments.

Answer: Washington D.C.

Answer: Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea)

Clue: Florida

Florida is one of only two states with a state tree in the palm family. And the 1953 Florida legislature didn’t pick just any palm—they picked the most widely sold palm in the state, which has had uses ranging from a stewed cabbage-like dish made by the Seminole Tribe to hangers for American soldiers hoping to keep snakes out of their boots.

Answer: Florida

Answer: Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto)

Clue: Georgia

A large, fast-growing tree, Georgia’s state tree grows in sandy soils, along stream banks, and along city streets from southeastern Virginia to southern Florida. This tree was historically considered a symbol of strength because early Americans used it for shipbuilding; their short height and low-hanging branches make this tree’s lumber perfect for the curved sections of ships’ hulls.

Answer: Georgia

Answer: Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana)

Clue: Hawaii

Indigenous people living in ancient Hawaii used the nuts of what is now the state’s tree to provide light. They strung these nuts, which are round, light brown, and about two inches in diameter, along the middle vein of a palm leaf, and lit the leaf at one end. The nuts are high in oil content, so they would easily burn one by one for about 15 minutes each.

Answer: Hawaii

Answer: Candlenut tree (Aleurites moluccanus)

Clue: Idaho

Idaho’s state tree is an evergreen which primarily grows in the northern Rockies and other West Coast mountain regions. The tree was once a prominent player in Idaho’s forests, but has been decimated in the past several decades by a rust disease introduced from ornamental shrubs, as well as predatory beetles and human harvesting. Conservation efforts, including genetic study of trees that can resist the rust, are underway.

Answer: Idaho

Answer: Western white pine (Pinus monticola)

Clue: Illinois

Illinois shares a state tree with another state, but this tree is actually native to Illinois—the Chicago region, to be precise. The tree has a long lifespan, can grow up to 80 feet high and 100 feet wide, and is popular for large landscapes and parks.

Answer: Illinois

Answer: White oak (Quercus alba)

Clue: Indiana

Don’t be fooled by the state tree of Indiana: Although this tree’s common name invokes a popular flower, it is, in fact, a towering, fast-growing deciduous tree. Indiana’s historical state seal, designed in the 1800s, featured the distinctive leaf of this tree, and the tree’s blossom was Indiana’s official floral emblem until 1931, when the zinnia replaced it.

Answer: Indiana

Answer: Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Clue: Iowa

Iowa’s state tree shares a name with a famous landmark in the state: the town where writer Laura Ingalls Wilder, known for her “Little House on the Prairie” series, lived from fall 1876 to summer 1877. Like Wilder, the state tree is associated with prairie living; this tree has thick, fire-resistant bark, a natural resistance to drought, and the ability to compete with prairie grasses, making groves of the tree preferred building sites for early Iowa settlers.

Answer: Iowa

Answer: Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Clue: Kansas

With enough rain and decent soil conditions, Kansas’ state tree can grow as much as eight feet in a single year. This fast growth speed, combined with the tree’s lightweight wood, made it a favorite building material for the state’s early settlers; in fact, when the Kansas state legislature designated this tree in 1937, they called it the “pioneer tree of the prairie.”

Answer: Kansas

Answer: Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

Clue: Kentucky

Kentucky’s state tree is popular: not only is it the state tree of three U.S. states, it also grows in all Kentucky counties on rich, well-drained soils. The tree is known for its large, unusually shaped leaves which turn yellow in autumn, and its logs have been used for dugouts by Native Americans and for cabins by early European settlers.

Answer: Kentucky

Answer: Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Clue: Louisiana

A fourth-grade class from Baton Rouge, La. chose their state’s tree in the early 1960s. The tree they chose is known throughout the state for its water resistance, and forests of this tree protect the state’s coastline from erosion. To help their petition to the state legislature, these fourth graders planted 10 trees on their school’s grounds; in 1963, their tree was officially sworn in.

Answer: Louisiana

Answer: Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

Clue: Maine

Maine is known as the “Pine Tree State,” so its state tree should be no surprise. The tree in question has been a key part of the state’s economy since Captain George Weymouth of the British Royal Navy brought samples back to England in 1605, and it was used by the state’s indigenous population before that.

Answer: Maine

Answer: Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

Clue: Maryland

You might recognize Maryland’s state tree—not only from two other state trees in this story, but also from the tree’s distinctive broad stature and glossy, bright green leaves. A single tree of this species might produce 10,000 acorns in a year which are a popular food for over 80 bird and mammal species, including humans: Both Native Americans and early settlers made flour from these acorns.

Answer: Maryland

Answer: White oak (Quercus alba)

Clue: Massachusetts

As a historically patriotic state, Massachusetts has a historically patriotic tree: George Washington is said to have taken on his command of the Continental Army beneath one of these trees on Cambridge Common in 1775. The tree was planted throughout American cities, and ecologists are currently fighting to restore populations decimated by a Dutch tree disease.

Answer: Massachusetts

Answer: American elm (Ulmus americana)

Clue: Michigan

Michigan’s state tree was the foundation of the state’s lumber industry in the late 1800s; the tree’s soft wood is perfect for doors, cabinets, and other furniture. This tree is a conifer, with clumps of five long needles and long, hard, curved pinecones.

Answer: Michigan

Answer: Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

Clue: Minnesota

Like Michigan, Minnesota honors a conifer as its state tree; Minnesota’s tree has needles in bundles of two. Commonly used for Christmas decorations when harvested early, it can live for up to 400 years and is also popular as a material for structural timber, poles, and other industrial materials because its wood is easily altered by preservatives.

Answer: Minnesota

Answer: Red pine (Pinus resinosa)

Clue: Mississippi

Carl Linnaeus himself (the father of taxonomy) named Mississippi’s state tree, giving the tree a Latin name to honor its massive, waxy flowers, which also make this tree popular as an ornamental throughout the Southeast and in other temperate areas. The tree is associated with the American south, and a flag bearing this tree served as the state’s flag from 1861 to 1894.

Answer: Mississippi

Answer: Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Clue: Missouri

Like the magnolia, Missouri’s state tree is known for its flowers, which are clusters of small, green nubs surrounded by four large white or pink petals. This tree is a favorite ornamental for Missouri landscapers, while its flowers can be used for inks, dyes, and even medicine; the tree’s root bark was used by Native Americans as a fever reducer, an antidiarrheal agent, and pain reliever.

Answer: Missouri

Answer: Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Clue: Montana

Lewis and Clark first observed Montana’s state tree on their western exhibition in the early 1800s. For later pioneers, the tree’s timber was a perfect material for everything from telegraph poles to structures in mines; this tree was called the “king of the forest” when it was designated Montana’s state tree in 1949.

Answer: Montana

Answer: Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)

Clue: Nebraska

Nebraska’s state tree, known for its distinctive bell-shaped leaves, flourishes along rivers and in other areas of moist soil, and is commonly seen in farms and parks. Although Nebraska shares a state tree with two other states, the tallest of the species in the country is located in Nebraska, near the city of Beatrice.

Answer: Nebraska

Answer: Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

Clue: Nevada

Like California, Nevada has two state trees, both of which are conifers. The first of these, designated in 1953, dominates Nevada’s woodlands, especially on rocky slopes and ridge tops, and is unique among conifers as it has only one pine needle per bundle. The second state tree, designated in 1987, also grows in high-elevation areas, and is the longest-living tree species despite its preferred harsh environmental conditions.

Answer: Nevada

Answers: Single-leaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla), Great basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva)

Clue: New Hampshire

The state tree of New Hampshire has pale bark, both lightly colored and hardy enough that you can peel off pieces and write letters on them. For the Algonquin Native Americans who lived in this state before settlers arrived, this bark was also a source of food, and they tapped the tree for syrup, used as the basis for tea, vinegar, and sugar.

Answer: New Hampshire

Answer: American white birch (Betula papyrifera)

Clue: New Jersey

Although New Jersey’s state tree can grow from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, it is favored in this state as a street tree; the tree’s roots can keep growing even when salt is used to treat roads and sidewalks in the winter. This tree can be distinguished by its acorns, which are larger than the acorns of other similar species with flat caps.

Answer: New Jersey

Answer: Northern red oak (Quercus rubra)

Clue: New Mexico

The nuts that drop from New Mexico’s state tree, which are small, lightly colored, and salty, are a delicacy for humans as well as birds such as nutcrackers and scrub jays. These nuts were historically a staple of the Navajo diet; people would roast these nuts, use them in soups and stews, and grind them into flour.

Answer: New Mexico

Answer: Piñon pine (Pinus edulis)

Clue: New York

If you’ve ever been to one of New York City’s iconic parks, you’ve seen the leaf of that state’s tree on signs: it marks the symbol of the city’s parks department. And, if you visited in autumn, you would have seen the tree itself dominating the foliage with its vibrant red color.

Answer: New York

Answer: Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Clue: North Carolina

North Carolina is unique: It doesn’t actually have a state tree, but instead has a state genus, or group of tree species. The group is a conifer which grows across the state, well-adapted to both sandy and acidic soils, and these trees have historically been important for North Carolina’s lumber industry and naval stores of turpentine and pitch.

Answer: North Carolina

Answer: Pine (Pinus)

Clue: North Dakota

North Dakota shares its state tree with another Midwest state, both of which have had their populations decimated in recent decades by a Dutch-based tree disease. North Dakota State University recommends that, if landscapers intend to plant individuals of this state tree species, they should choose cultivars which are cold hardy and resistant to the disease.

Answer: North Dakota

Answer: American elm (Ulmus americana)

Clue: Ohio

If you know the mascot of Ohio State University, the state’s tree should be easy to guess. The tree is also historically associated with William Henry Harrison, the first Ohioan to become President of the United States, who used wood cabins and walking sticks made from the wood of this tree as symbols of his campaign.

Answer: Ohio

Answer: Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra)

Clue: Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s state tree is native to the American Southwest, and is distinguishable by its leathery, heart-shaped dark green leaves and deep pink, red, and purple flowers which take over the trees in springtime. This tree became Oklahoma’s symbol thanks to the efforts of Maimee Lee Robinson Browne, who served as General Chairman of the state’s City Beautification Committee in the 1930s.

Answer: Oklahoma

Answer: Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Clue: Oregon

You’ll find Oregon’s state tree across this Northwest state, but you’ll also find it in homes across the country come December as a Christmas tree. The tree’s common name commemorates a Scottish botanist who studied Oregon’s plants in the 1800s.

Answer: Oregon

Answer: Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Clue: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s state tree honors its contributions to the state economy: At the height of the lumber industry in the 1890s, the state’s forests delivered more than a billion feet of lumber from this tree every year. Today, the tree is still used for railroad ties, barn siding, and more; its lumber is notable for being resistant to rot.

Answer: Pennsylvania

Answer: Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

Clue: Rhode Island

While it is a staple of forests across the eastern United States, Rhode Island’s state tree was chosen by schoolchildren in the 1890s for its beautiful fall foliage, which decorates the state in red, maroon, and gold each year. The tree was officially adopted as Rhode Island’s state symbol in 1964.

Answer: Rhode Island

Answer: Red maple (Acer rubrum)

Clue: South Carolina

South Carolina’s state tree isn’t a maple, an oak, or even a pine—it’s a palm. This palm tree is featured on South Carolina’s state flag as well as on the Great Seal of another state which shares this symbol, and is commonly used as a street plant and landscape ornamental, especially in coastal regions, where plots help the land resist hurricane damage.

Answer: South Carolina

Answer: Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto)

Clue: South Dakota

You can find South Dakota’s state tree everywhere from Christmas displays to forestry windbreaks, or plots of trees planted specifically to shield farmland from the wind and prevent erosion. This tree can also be used for food: the Plains Native Americans ate the inner bark and shoots and utilized the tree’s sap for gum.

Answer: South Dakota

Answer: Black hills spruce (Picea glauca var. densata)

Clue: Tennessee

Tennessee is the third state to honor this tree and its large, distinctive leaves as its state symbol. In Tennessee, this tree grows throughout the state and was used by early settlers for houses, barns, and canoes; some Tennessee residents know it as the “canoe wood” tree to honor this early use.

Answer: Tennessee

Answer: Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Clue: Texas

Like its neighbor New Mexico, Texas’ state tree honors a producer of nuts; the tree’s (and nut’s) name comes from an Algonquian word meaning “a nut that it takes a stone to crack.” This tree has grown in Texas since prehistoric times and, today, is the key ingredient in one of the state’s favorite pies.

Answer: Texas

Answer: Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)

Clue: Utah

A grove of Utah’s state tree in Fishlake National Forest has been called the “single most massive living organism” discovered on Earth: a single root system connects 106 acres’ worth of trees that all share the same DNA, making them all a singular huge living thing. This grove is in danger because animals are eating the trees faster than they can regenerate, but scientists are hard at work on conserving this unique being.

Answer: Utah

Answer: Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Clue: Vermont

Although Vermont shares its state tree with two other states, the tree is perhaps most distinctively associated with this state because of Vermont’s maple syrup industry. But this industry has been threatened by climate change in recent years, as warming temperatures shorten growing seasons and make production harder to predict.

Answer: Vermont

Answer: Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Clue: Virginia

Virginia shares its state tree with another southern state, but this tree’s distinctive, green-and-white flowers have plenty of beauty to go around. In Virginia, the tree is used for ornamental horticulture, ink production, and the wood for golf-club heads, tool handles, and other small, carved items.

Answer: Virginia

Answer: Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Clue: Washington

Like Oregon, its neighbor in the Northwest, Washington honors a common conifer and popular Christmas tree with its state symbol. The tree has become threatened since 2017 by a fungal disease that may be connected to droughts.

Answer: Washington

Answer: Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)

Clue: West Virginia

You might not associate West Virginia with the unique, pointed leaves and sweet syrup that are the hallmark of its state tree, but this tree is found in all 55 counties of West Virginia, adding its iconic red color to the landscape in the fall. The tree’s hardy, resilient wood is commonly used for bowling alleys, furniture, toys, and fuel.

Answer: West Virginia

Answer: Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Clue: Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s state tree is a popular choice: three other states honor this tree’s brilliant red leaves, hardy wood, and syrup. The tree was officially chosen by Wisconsin schoolchildren in 1893 and reaffirmed by a second vote in 1948.

Answer: Wisconsin

Answer: Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Clue: Wyoming

As the largest broadleaf tree in Wyoming (and neighboring Colorado and New Mexico), this tree dominates the state’s landscapes from riverbanks to canyons. For a tree, this species is relatively short-lived; it rarely lives past 100 years, and bark begins to shed in a painstaking process, so if you see one of these trees in a park with dead limbs, you would be wise to sit somewhere else.

Answer: Wyoming

Answer: Plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides monilifera)

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