The current state flag was approved in 1957 by the Minnesota State Legislature. It is royal blue, bordered with gold fringe. The state seal is in the center of the flag. Circling the seal are three dates woven into a wreath of lady's-slippers: 1819, when Fort Snelling was established; 1858, when Minnesota became a state; and 1893, the year the original flag was adopted. There are 19 stars on the flag–Minnesota was the 19th state admitted to the union after the original 13. The top star is larger than the rest and represents Minnesota, the "North Star State."
Minnesota became the country's 32nd state on May 11, 1858. Minnesota's first governor, Henry Sibley, chose the design for the state seal, which was officially adopted by the Legislature in 1861. The seal depicts a farmer plowing a field and an American Indian riding a horse. The state's motto, L'Etoile du Nord, is French for "Star of the North." Minor modifications were made to the seal in 1983.
The Lake Superior agate was named the official gemstone in 1969. It is a quartz mineral called chalcedony with varying red, brown, gray, and white bands. Over a billion years ago, it was formed by fluids pulsing through porous volcanic rock along Lake Superior. These gemstones were dispersed when glaciers tore at the rock and moved across Minnesota. You can find them on beaches and in gravel pits in the northeast to north-central part of the state. It is popular to polish agates to a high sheen, accentuating their striations, especially for making jewelry.
The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) became the state butterfly in 2000. Though a common butterfly, it is mysterious. Every fall monarchs migrate great distances along the Mississippi River, all the way to central Mexico. Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains migrate to California. Millions swarm in small areas and completely cover trees. Monarchs mate in late winter and begin heading north again in March. Females lay eggs on milkweed plants along the way, then die. The larvae feed on the milkweed plant and absorb a substance that is distasteful to predators. Young butterflies continue migrating north to their parents' origin.
Wild rice (Zizania aquatica) or manomin, a unique resource in Minnesota, was adopted as the official state grain in staple food of the Ojibwe for centuries, it has cultural and economic significance. Minnesota produces over half of the world's hand-harvested wild rice—Canada produces the rest. Wild rice occurs naturally in shallower lakes and streams and ripens in late August or early September. The grain is harvested traditionally from canoes by bending the plant over the boat and lightly raking it with a hand-held wooden flail. Some wild rice is grown commercially in flooded fields. At the end of the season the field is drained and the grain is harvested mechanically.
The morel (Morchella esculenta) became the state mushroom in 1984. It is a highly desirable, edible mushroom sought after by mushroom hunters. Morels have an unusual, spongelike appearance and are sometimes called "sponge mushrooms." Their physiology is unusual as well, having only recently evolved—about 100 thousand years ago—from a yeast. As a result, morels are more delicate than other mushrooms.
State Tree: The red pine (Pinus resinosa) was chosen the official state tree in 1953. Some of the tallest red pines in Minnesota are located in Itasca State Park. Many are over 120 feet tall and more than 300 years old. The red pine has a straight trunk, reddish-brown bark, and needles 4 inches to 6 inches long, growing in pairs. It is usually bare of branches for two-thirds of the way up the trunk, with a rounded top or "crown."
The showy lady's-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) was adopted as the state flower in 1902. The lady's-slipper is a member of the orchid family and classified as a perennial herb. Its habitat is swamps, fens, bogs, and damp woods. This rare wildflower grows slowly, taking four to 16 years to produce its first flower. It may live as long as 50 years. Lady's-slipper orchids bloom in late June and early July. Since 1925 this wildflower has been protected by state law, making it illegal to pick or collect them.
The common loon (Gavia immer), also known as the "great northern diver," was chosen Minnesota's state bird in 1961. The loon is a large black and white bird with deep tints of green and dark red eyes. It has a wingspan of up to 5 feet and body length of up to 3 feet. The loon is an excellent swimmer and diver, and can fly at high speeds. Its loud, haunting call easily identified over Minnesota lakes in the summer. In the winter it flies to warmer ocean climates on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The Honeycrisp apple (Malus pumila cultivar Honeycrisp) became Minnesota's state fruit in 2006. This apple was first developed by the University of Minnesota's apple breeding program in 1960 as a cross of Macoun and Honeygold apples. Ever since, this exceptionally crisp and juicy fruit is consistently ranked as one of the highest quality apples in sensory evaluations. Honeycrisp apple trees are hardy and able to survive normal east-central Minnesota winters.
State Fish: The walleye (Stizostedion v. vitreum) became the state fish in 1965. Due to their elusive behavior and quality of fillets, walleyes are the most popular fish to catch in Minnesota. They average 1 to 2 pounds but can grow as large as 18 pounds. The name walleye comes from its pearly eyes—caused by a reflective layer of pigment that helps them see at night or in murky waters. They range in color from dark olive brown to yellowish gold. They prefer to inhabit clean, windswept lakes in northern Minnesota. Weather can greatly affect walleye spawning in the spring. To ensure sustainable walleye populations, lakes are monitored, habitats are conserved or enhanced, catch limits are regulated and some lakes are stocked as needed.
Hail to thee our state so dear!
Thy light shall ever be
A beacon bright and clear.
Thy sons and daughters true Will proclaim thee near and far.
They shall guard thy fame
And adore thy name;
Thou shalt be their Northern Star.
Like the stream that bends to sea,
Like the pine that seeks the blue,
Minnesota, still for thee,
Thy sons are strong and true.
From thy woods and waters fair,
From thy prairies waving far,
At thy call they throng,
With their shout and song,
Hailing thee their Northern Star.
"Grace" became the Minnesota state photograph in 2002. It was originally taken in 1918 by Eric Enstrom at his photography studio in Bovey, Minnesota, and has become a widely recognized image that hangs in many homes, restaurants, and churches across America. The photo shows an elderly, white-haired man seated at a table with his head bowed, giving thanks for the simple meal before him.
The blueberry muffin became the state muffin in 1988. Wild blueberries are native to northeastern Minnesota, growing in bogs, on hillsides, and in cut-over forested areas. These small, sweet berries keep their color, shape, and texture during baking.
Milk became the official drink in 1984. Minnesota ranks sixth among all states in milk production. Dairy products are Minnesota's fourth most valuable agricultural commodity following corn (first), soybeans (second) and hogs (third).