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Why Is Mississippi Called the Magnolia State?

Dan Harkins
Updated May 17, 2024
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The state quarter of the southern state of Mississippi features a prominent bouquet of magnolia flowers, the state flower and tree since 1952. The distinctive magnolia blossom, with broad and durable petals in a myriad of colors, still can be found on trees throughout the bayous and byways of Mississippi. When referring to the state, many call it "The Magnolia State."

Grouped under the genus Magnoliaceae, which was officially catalogued by Frenchman Pierre Magnol, the magnolia could be any one of about 200 species of bush and tree found throughout the southern United States. Some shed with the seasons, while those farther south are generally more evergreen. According to anthropologists, the magnolia genus has existed for almost 100,000,000 years, which is older than even the bees and other flying insects now needed to cross-pollinate their often massive flowers.

The evergreen Magnoliaeae grandiflora, is an iconic and prominent example, with its shiny leaves and white flowers giving the downwind breeze a distinctive aroma. Another prominent variety found in "The Magnolia State" is the saucer magnolia, or Magnoliaeae soulangeana, with flowers in more vibrant colors. The figo species blooms in violet, and other species sport yellow, red or light pink flowers.

Though striking, many magnolia species are not as hardy as other locals like the pin oaks and pines. It takes many as long as a decade to even mature enough to bloom. Others, however, like the grandiflora species can thrive in soil as dry as beach sand. Most others require richly fertilized soil, regular water, pruning and full sun to achieve a steady, noticeable growth.

"The Magnolia State" is a nickname that could have been used to describe many geographical regions. Magnolia species are native to large swaths of the American East, though mostly in the South. They are also found throughout parts of Asia, Central and South America, and even the island nations of the West Indies.

Mississippi is named after its most prominent natural feature and nicknamed "The Magnolia State" for another feature. The state is not confined to just those names, though. "The Bayou State" is another popular name, hearkening to the state's rural, backwater flavor. Other common nicknames are "The Eagle State" or "Border-Eagle State," since the state's coat of arms features that native animal. This state is also known as the "Mud Waddler," "Mud Cat" or "Groundhog State" — all references to common fish or fauna found throughout the state.

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Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his journalism degree, he spent more than two decades honing his craft as a writer and editor for various publications. Dan’s debut novel showcases his storytelling skills and unique perspective by drawing readers into the story’s captivating narrative.
Discussion Comments
By JimmyT — On Jan 12, 2012

@jcraig - I have visited the South on numerous occasions and I have noticed that the Magnolia is very prevalent in some states.

I have visited Georgia and have seen that this type of flower does not necessarily dot the landscape, but it does in fact appear a lot in decorations in peoples gardens and yards.

I am wondering if the state of Mississippi picked the Magnolia as the state flower since it naturally grows there more prevalent than in other states or if I am off on this observations and the Magnolia is simply a very common flower in the SOuth that the state of Mississippi simply picked because they have a lot of them, just the same as other states in the South.

By jcraig — On Jan 11, 2012

@Izzy78 - I absolutely agree with you especially concerning this particular state flower of Mississippi.

The state flower of Mississippi is something that does dot the SOuth but is very prevalent in Mississippi and makes the state unique and known for having just fine flowers naturally dot its landscape.

I will say that I get a little annoyed at states that pick flowers or birds simply because they are very common animals or plant that dot several states and are common everywhere, but the magnolia is different and makes the state unique from others.

Measures taken like this allow people to embrace the character and heritage of the state and allow for it to stand out from others and give government recognition to things that should be celebrated. When done the right way these can be great things to have and Mississippi is a great example of such.

By Izzy78 — On Jan 10, 2012

@matthewc23 - A lot of people feel the same way you do, but one thing that I would like to point out is that in order to promote state heritage and history and make their state unique from others states must do things like this.

I do not feel that picking a state flower is too much of a burden on the tax payers and that it is actually something that can have a positive impact on the state.

With a state flower you can see people take pride in this type of flower and dot their gardens with it and celebrate something that is prevalent and unique throughout the state.

I do understand that sometimes states go a bit far, such as picking a state rock, but items like flowers simply celebrate the natural history of the state and allow for one to take pride that they live in a state that offers such a thing.

By matthewc23 — On Jan 09, 2012

I have always thought that things such as the state flower are a waste of time and tax payer money that can be utilized for other ventures that are needed in the state.

I know that in order to approve these types of state sponsored items they have to be passed through the legislature and feel like they are not necessarily needed and simply distracts away from other items on the agenda.

I understand that state history and heritage is important, but I doubt that many people care that the state flower is something that continually dots the country side and is something they see on a daily basis. They do not need to be reminded of this each and every day.

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his...
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