Natural Symbols of the Keystone State
by Rich Wood
illustration-Ted Walke

Did you know that Pennsylvania has official wildlife symbols? Do you know which fish is Pennsylvania's state fish? Do you know the names of our state bird, mammal, tree, flower and insect? If you're a wise nature detective, you would find them in the same habitats. In many areas of Pennsylvania, all of these symbols can be found living together in the same natural community.

Ruffed grouse and deerThe name Pennsylvania means "Penn's Woods." The founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, was amazed by the large forests that covered the land. Tall eastern hemlocks and mountain laurel were plentiful. This habitat was ideal for white-tailed deer and ruffed grouse. The trees offered shade to most of our waters. Brook trout were abundant in these cold forest streams.

These plants and animals are true symbols of the Keystone State. In the early 1930s, Governor Gifford Pinchot officially made the eastern hemlock the state tree and mountain laurel our state flower. At the same time, the ruffed grouse became our state bird. In 1959, Pennsylvania named the white-tailed deer the official state mammal. The firefly became the state insect in 1974.

In 1970, the brook trout became our official state fish. It likes cold water that is not polluted. The state tree and state flower help the trout, too. Their branches shade the water to keep it cool. The roots of these plants hold the soil in place so that it doesn't wash into the stream. The roots of these plants also offer trout hiding places in the stream. The brook trout is also one of the prettiest fish in Pennsylvania. The speckled back and sides help camouflage the fish in the stream. The orange and white fins almost look like racing stripes! Because it needs clean water, the brook trout is a perfect choice for Pennsylvania's state fish.

Today, we find wild brook trout in small, cold mountain streams. The Fish & Boat Commission also stocks brook trout in many streams. Not only are they beautiful fish, but they are a favorite of Pennsylvania anglers.

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PLAY Winter 2000

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