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 the 32nd
state in the union on May 11; and 1893, the year the
original flag was adopted. There are 19 stars on the
flag because 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
Minnesota's first governor, Henry Sibley, chose the
design for the state seal and picked the state's motto,
which were officially adopted by the legislature in
1861. The seal depicts a farmer plowing a field and an
American Indian riding a horse. The stump is a symbol
of the importance of Minnesota's lumber industry.
The state's motto, L'Etoile du Nord, is French for
"Star of the North" and is the basis for Minnesota's
nickname, "The North Star State."
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 in the region
that is now 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
It is popular to polish agates to a high sheen,
accentuating their bands, especially for
The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) became the
state butterfly in 2000. 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 1977. A staple food of the Ojibwe for
centuries, it has cultural and economic significance.
Minnesota produces over half of the world's handharvested
wild rice—Canada produces the rest. Wild
rice occurs naturally in shallow 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
growing season the field is drained and the grain is
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 100,000 years ago—from a yeast.
As a result, morels are more delicate than other
mushrooms. Morels live in and on the edge of
The red pine (Pinus resinosa) was chosen the official
state tree in 1953 to recognize its important role
in Minnesota's history, economy, and environment.
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 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
4 to 16 years to produce its first flower. It may live as
long as 50 years. The showy lady's-slipper blooms in
late June and early July. Since 1925 this wildflower has
been protected by state law, making it illegal to pick or
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 green-tinted feathers 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 is
easily identified over Minnesota lakes in the summer.
In the winter it flies to warmer ocean water on the
Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The Honeycrisp apple (Malus pumila cultivar
Honeycrisp) became Minnesota's state fruit in 2006
thanks to petitioning from students at Anderson
Elementary School in Bayport, Minnesota. This apple
was developed by the University of Minnesota's
apple breeding program in 1960 and released in 1991.
Ever since, this exceptionally crisp and juicy fruit
is consistently ranked as one of the highest quality
apples due to its sweetness, firmness, and tartness.
Honeycrisp apple trees are hardy and able to survive
normal Minnesota winters.
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 clean, windswept lakes in