All U.S. states, Tennessee included, have state animals and state plants. For example, the state bird of Tennessee is the Northern Mockingbird. Sometimes there is just one state species like this but many times there are multiple. In this article I’m going to give you a list of all Tennessee state animals as well as plants.
Tennessee state animals and plants
Tennessee state wild animal
There is only one animal in the Tennessee state wild animal category, and it’s one we are all very familiar with. We see him in the wild and in our backyards, he even made it to Hollywood (Guardians of the Galaxy). Yes, the trash panda, or raccoon.
The raccoon became the official “state wild animal of Tennessee” in 1972. Raccoons are small nocturnal mammals that are common throughout North America. They grow to about 12-25 pounds in size, so bigger than a house cat but smaller than a medium sized dog. They are known for being very clever and rummaging for food wherever they can find it.
There are 2 Tennessee state birds on the list. The Northern Mockingbird, the official Tennessee state bird, and the Bobwhite Quail, the Tennessee state game bird. Mockingbirds are very common throughout the state and while they can still be commonly found, there has been a population decline of Northern Bobwhites over the last 50 years or so.
The Northern Mockingbird has been Tennessee’s state bird since 1933. Mockingbirds are very common songbirds throughout most of the United States. They got their name because they are able to mimic the songs of other birds, males might learn 200 or more different songs in it’s lifespan.
The Bobwhite Quail was named the official state game bird of Tennessee in 1988. The Northern Bobwhite is one of the most studied birds in history due to it’s game bird status. Their call is very distinct and sounds just like “bob…white!” hence their name. They can be found in open fields and forests in their range and occasionally eating seed at ground feeders in backyards.
Tennessee has 4 state insects; the firefly, the ladybug, the honeybee, and the zebra swallowtail butterfly. All are common throughout the state and can be seen in your backyard if you look.
The firefly was designated as one of the state insects of Tennessee in 1975. Every Tennessean recognizes this little bug and its light as a sign that summer is approaching. There are about 2,000 species of fireflies and not all have the ability to light up. The primary purpose of the light is to attract mates and let predators know, “I have an unappealing taste, so don’t eat me”.
Also named a state insect of Tennessee in 1975, the lady bug is a type of beetle known for it’s red color with black spots. They are used by farmers to control pests, mainly aphids. Ladybugs will only lay their eggs where aphids are presents and may consume over 5,000 aphids in a lifetime.
Ladybugs are the state insect of six states:
- New York
- North Dakota
The common honeybee was made the official state agricultural insect of Tennessee in 1990. The honeybee is an important part of the ecosystem. In order to germinate, many plants rely on the honeybee for the transfer of pollen from male to female plants and flowers. Not only are they an important part of the food chain but people have been harvesting their honey as food for thousands of years.
The zebra swallowtail was designated a state butterfly of Tennessee in 1995. It is recognized by the large black and white stripes on its wings and the red and blue spots on its lower back. Adult zebra swallowtails feed on the nectar of flowers and can be found throughout most of the United States.
There are 2 sate fish of Tennessee, the smallmouth bass and the channel catfish. Both are commonly caught in lakes and rivers with the smallmouth bass being mainly for sport. The catfish can be eaten and is quite delicious!
The official sport fish of Tennessee is the smallmouth bass, as of 2005. The smallmouth bass replaced the largemouth as the Tennessee state fish due to the fact that the 3 largest smallmouth ever caught were in Tennessee. The largest of these was caught in Dale Hollow lake in 1955 and weighed 11 lbs, 15 oz. They can be found in rivers and lakes throughout middle and east Tennessee.
The channel catfish was named the Tennessee state commercial fish in 1988. This bottom feeder is common in rivers, lakes, and other fresh bodies of water all over the state and is regularly stocked in farm ponds. Fried catfish is a very common food in Tennessee.
The channel catfish is the state fish of 5 states:
There is one state horse in Tennessee and it is none other than the Tennessee walking horse known for their numerous different gaits. They are common in horse shows and exhibits.
Tennessee Walking Horse
In 2000 the Tennessee walking horse became Tennessee’s official state horse. They are one of the smoothest riding horses in the world. They are popular for pleasure riding and are a great option for beginners to horse riding. There is also some some bad publicity surrounding the horses due to the abuse that goes on from some of the owners when getting them ready for shows and exhibitions.
There is but 1 state reptile and it’s one we all probably know and may have even stopped and helped move across the road before, the eastern box turtle.
Eastern Box Turtle
The eastern box turtle was made the Tennessee state reptile in 1995 and is also the state reptile of North Carolina. Box turtles can live to be up to 60 years or longer and will live in the same 1 mile radius their entire lives. This makes it very important that you never pick up a turtle and move it outside of their range or they will likely die trying to get back to their home. They are also illegal to have as pets.
The only amphibian on the list is the cave salamander who is found in caves in middle and east Tennessee only. They are also found in some of Tennessee’s neighboring states but that’s it, in the whole world.
The Tennessee Cave Salamander was named the state amphibian in 1995. They are a long salamander growing up to about 6 inches in length. They are orange or red in color with black spots. Their natural habitat is streams inside the caves where there is low light conditions and they are threatened by habitat destruction. They feed on small insects such as beetles, crickets, flies, and moths.
The state tree of Tennessee is the tulip poplar and grows pretty much everywhere east of the Mississippi River in the United States. The official state evergreen is the eastern red cedar.
The Tulip Poplar has been the official Tennessee state tree since 1947. It produces beautiful blooms and was chosen as the state tree because it grows throughout the entire state and was used by early settlers for building houses, barns, and various buildings.
Eastern Red Cedar
The eastern red cedar was declared the state evergreen tree of Tennessee in 2012. Another tree commonly used by the pioneers for building all manner of things. It was one of the first trees used for landscaping and that’s why many can be found at The Hermitage in Nashville, the home of Andrew Jackson. There is a cedar street in almost every town in the state.
Tennessee has 3 state flowers and they are passion flower, the Tennessee coneflower, and the iris.
The first state flower and current state wildflower of Tennessee is the passion flower, aka the maypop, the wild apricot, and the ocoee. It was chosen in 1933 by a group of schoolchildren. It got its name from early Christian missionaries to South America who saw depictions of the crucifixion in the flower. I don’t really see that, but it’s a beautiful flower.
Also known as the Tennessee purple coneflower, or Tennessee Echinacea, the Tennessee coneflower was named as another Tennessee state wildflower in 2012. It was once thought to be extinct but was rediscovered in the 1960s and brought back from being endangered.
Initially the iris was meant to replace the passion flower as the state flower but instead in 1973 the 88th General Assembly named the iris as the official Tennessee state cultivated flower and made the passion flower the state wildflower. Purple is considered to be the color of the Tennessee state iris but the flower comes in many different colors. They are in the perennial family and can commonly be seen on Tennessee license plates.
There is but one state fruit of Tennessee and it’s one that many people think of as a vegetable, the tomato.
In 2003 the 103rd General Assembly designated the tomato as the Tennessee state fruit. The tomato plant is a staple in almost every garden across the country because the plants are easy to grow for beginner gardeners and so much can be done with the fruit including making spaghetti sauce, garden salsa, BLTs, or just slicing them up with dinner and adding a little salt and pepper.