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Kansas State Symbols

Throughout Kansas's history, many state symbols have been adopted. The State Seal was the first symbol in 1861, and many more have been added along the way by legislative statute. Establishment of state symbols is a way for Kansans of all ages to be involved in their state.

1861 - Great Seal of the state of Kansas

The State Seal of Kansas was adopted by the legislature on May 25, 1861. The design, although modified from the original design, was presented by state Senator John J. Ingalls. It contains many elements, such as a landscape facing east where one can see a rising sun, a steamboat on a river, a cabin and man plowing his field, a wagon train, and Native Americans hunting buffalo, 34 stars, and the state motto Ad Astra per Aspera. These elements represent many important things to Kansas such as commerce, agriculture, western expansion, bison, and Native Americans. Kansas is the 34th state to enter the union, hence the 34 stars present on the seal.

Read the statute here.

1903 - State Flower and Floral Emblem

The state flower, the Wild Native Sunflower, Helianthus annus, was adopted in 1903. It has been featured on other notable state items such as the Kansas quarter and state flag. It’s prevalence in Kansas is apparent as the state has earned the nickname “the sunflower state.” There are many species of sunflowers in Kansas. Native Sunflowers grow large at 15 feet and their heads can even get to a diameter of two feet. American Indians used them for food thousands of years ago. The sunflower is resistant to high levels of toxins, adaptable to different types of soil, and is important to many creatures from bees and butterflies, to mammals, birds, and insects that use them for food. They are also beneficial to humans for food and oil can made from their seeds. 

Read the statute here.

1925 - State Banner

The state banner of Kansas was adopted in 1925. It was a horizontally hung and had the name of the state and the state seal surrounded by a sunflower. There were complaints, and two years later the state flag was established. The banner was simplified in 1953 to a sunflower with a blue background.

Read the statute here.

1927 - State Flag

The state flag was established in 1927. It contains the state seal and a sunflower over a bar that is both gold and light blue. In 1961, the flag was modified to have “Kansas” written on the flag. Later, the design of the state seal as portrayed on the flag was altered slightly.

Read the statute here.

1935 - State March

The Kansas March became “the official state march” of Kansas in 1935. Its composer is Duff E. Middleton. A second state march was added in 1992 called “Here’s Kansas.”

Read the statute here.

1937 - State Bird

The Western Meadowlark was made the state bird of Kansas in 1937. It was the choice of a vote by over 121,000 school children in Kansas. The Western Meadowlark is yellow black, brown and white, and has a black “v” on its chest.  Its diet is comprised of insects, seeds, and grains. It is the state bird of five other states in addition to Kansas.

Read the statute here.

1937 - State Tree

The Cottonwood tree, also sometimes called the eastern cottonwood, was made the state tree in 1937. The tree is found in every county in Kansas, and while it likes moist areas to grow, it can grow in drier conditions as well. The tree grows fast and reaches the size of about 70-100 feet in height and spans 50-70 feet. The tree has many uses both past and present. Early settlers used it for buildings, and today it is used for shipping crates and pallet boxes, and the pulp for paper purposes.

Read the statute here.

1947 - State Song

“Home on the Range” was originally written by Smith County, Kansas resident Brewster Higley in the early 1870’s. It was later set to music by Daniel E. Kelley. Higley’s poem was called “My Western Home.” The song would go on to be sung by cowboys and used widely even into modern times. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby both recorded the song. It became the state song of Kansas in 1947.

Read the statute here.

1955 - State Animal

The American Buffalo, or American Bison, became the state animal of Kansas in 1955. It is now also the national mammal of the United States. The buffalo was important to American Indians, especially the plains tribes. It was sacred and a vital part of their lives. In the 1800s, millions of buffalo were killed, eventually leaving just a few hundred. There were a few reasons these animals were killed: food, sport, and even intentionally to negatively impact the American Indians depending on it for survival. It is a large animal, approximately six feet tall and can weigh over a ton. They are also fast when necessary. The buffalo has been a symbol through the United States and even Canada. The species, once in danger of extinction, now numbers in the hundreds of thousands thanks to conservation efforts.

Read the statute here.

1976 - State Insect

The Honeybee is an important pollinator that produces honey. Honey is produced by the insects for food for the hive, but they produce much more than they need. This overproduction allows humans to enjoy the tasty food. In 1976 school children made a petition asking for the honeybee to be the state insect of Kansas. That same year their wish was granted and it became Kansas' state insect.

Read the statute here.

1986 - State Reptile

The Ornate Box Turtle became the state reptile in Kansas in 1986. The turtle lives about 32-37 years, and resides in prairies and pastures. It’s protected in several states, including Kansas. In Kansas there is a law against removing turtles from the wild and keeping them as pets.

Read the statute here.

1990 - State Soil

Harney Loam Silt became the Kansas state soil in 1990 after a five year effort. The word “Harney” originates from a Wichita word that meant “Pawnee Indian.” Soil is important in Kansas because of its agricultural prevalence. It’s the most prevalent soil in Kansas and many crops are grown upon it. The top layer of silt loam is dark grayish brown that is about a foot deep, followed by a subsoil layer and parent layer.

Read the statute here.

1992 - State March

Although Kansas had made “The Kansas March” the official state march of Kansas in 1935, in 1992 an additional state march was added to the list called “Here’s Kansas.” Its composer is Bill Post.

Read the statute here.

1994 - State Amphibian

The Barred Tiger Salamander was made the state amphibian of Kansas in 1994. The effort to make it the state amphibian was first started in March of 1993 in a second grade class at Wichita, Kansas’ OK Elementary. Through much work and many learning opportunities for the students, it was officially made the state amphibian in April of 1994. The Barred Tiger Salamander has a “tiger-like” look due to the yellow spots on its body. While its adult life is more terrestrial, its larval stage is completely aquatic. 

Read the statute here.

2010 - State Grass

Little Bluestem is a grass that is native to all of Kansas, and a majority of North America. It can grow up to 5 feet tall, and is a good source of food for animals such as cattle and bison. It has bluish-green or grayish-green blades in early summer, such as May and June, and by July develops flowering stalks. It became the state grass in 2010.

Read the statute here.

2014 - State Flying Fossil and State Marine Fossil

In 2014, the Tylosaurus and Pteranodon were made the state fossils. Kansas provides the most complete specimens of both, and they were both part of the system in and around the Western Interior Seaway in the Late Cretaceous period. The Tylosaurus was a large lizard that lived in the sea and grew up to around 45 feet. It was a mosasaur, not a dinosaur. The Pteranodon was also not a dinosaur but rather a Pterosaur. It was a flying creature with a large wingspan of around 12 feet to 18 feet.

Read the statute for the State Flying Fossil here and the State Marine Fossil here.

2018 - State Rock

Limestone (greenhorn) was made the state rock of Kansas through the work of Overland Park fourth grader, Casey Friend. He also helped get the passing of a state mineral, gemstone, and fish. He had the support of State Representative Jan Kessinger who sponsored Friend’s bill. Friend had come up with this idea years prior to 2018, when his bill was passed. He addressed the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.   

Limestone is a sedimentary rock, made significantly from the skeletal remains of organisms. It is often used for building materials.

Read the statute here.

2018 - State Mineral

Galena was made the state mineral in 2018 thanks to the work of Overland Park fourth grader, Casey Friend. He also helped get the passing of a state rock, gemstone, and fish. He had the support of State Representative Jan Kessinger who sponsored Friend’s bill. Friend had come up with this idea years prior to 2018, when his bill was passed. He addressed the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.   

Galena, a lead ore, has been not only mined in Kansas, but also used throughout history, including in Ancient Egypt.

Read the statute here.

2018 - State Gemstone

Jelinite Amber was made the state gemstone in 2018 thanks to the work of Overland Park fourth grader, Casey Friend. He also helped get the passing of a state rock, mineral, and fish. He had the support of State Representative Jan Kessinger who sponsored Friend’s bill. Friend had come up with this idea years prior to 2018, when his bill was passed. He addressed the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.   

Jelinite Amber, once called Kansanite, has only been found in Ellsworth County, Kansas, and no other location.

Read the statute here.

2018 - State Fish

Thanks to the work of Overland Park fourth grader Casey Friend, Kansas got a state rock, mineral and gemstone. During Friend’s quest to add these symbols, it was suggested that the Channel Catfish become the state fish. Friend had the support of State Representative Jan Kessinger who sponsored Friend’s bill. Friend had come up with this idea years prior to 2018, when his bill was passed. He addressed the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs. The channel catfish officially became the state fish in 2018.

The channel catfish is extremely common in Kansas, and is a fish that is typically around two to four pounds, although in more rare cases it can be 10-20 pounds or even more.

Read the statute here.

2019 - Official Red Wine Grape and White Wine Grape

Despite Kansas’ history of prohibition, it has a rich history of vineyards. In 1901, there were 5,000 acres of vineyards in the state. Later, as prohibition was lifted in the early 1930s and Kansas’ laws remained more strict, vineyards began to decrease. After the passage of the Farm Winery Act in 1985, vineyards have once again increased in recent years. In 2019, Chambourcin, a French American hybrid, was made the State Red Wine Grape. It is light to medium in body with a fruity aroma. Chambourcin wines pair well with barbecue, pork, or grilled dishes. Also that year, Vignoles was made the State White Wine Grape in 2019. It produces a variety of wines from sweet to dry. Vignoles wines pair well with Thai and Mexican dishes.

Read the statute for Chambourcin (red) here and Vignoles (white) here.

2022 - State Fruit

The sandhill plum, also known as the Chickasaw plum or American plum, was made the state fruit in April 2022. This tart fruit is a popular choice for making jams and jellies. When it ripens, the plum changes from a green color to an orange-red blush color and eventually to a dark red.

Read the statute here

2023 - State Land Fossil

On April 7, 2023, Governor Laura Kelly signed a bill designating the Silvisaurus condrayi, or woodland lizard, as the state's land fossil. Discovered in May 1955 by a rancher checking on his cattle, this lizard lived from the Early to Late Cretaceous period and is the only known dinosaur from the Dakota Formation in Kansas. The 3-foot-tall, 10-foot-long lizard of the forest had a fierce appearance but was a gentle herbivore.

Read the statute here

Other popular symbols

1890s - Kansas: Wizard of Oz

The 1939 Academy Award winning film for Best Original Song and Best Original Score, the Wizard of Oz, has earned its well-known place in film history. The movie is based on the L. Frank Baum children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the film Kansan Dorothy Gale, played by Judy Garland, is swept away in a tornado. She lands in Oz, and is given a pair of ruby red slippers that belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East who had been killed by Dorothy’s house when it landed in Oz. In being given these slippers by Glinda the Good Witch of the North, Dorothy acquires the hatred of the Wicked Witch of the West who had come to claim the slippers. In her journey to the Wizard of Oz to ask for his help in returning to her home, she meets many unique characters. In the end the ruby red slippers get her home along with the phrase “There’s no place like home.” Dorothy awakens back in Kansas with a new appreciation for home. 

1900s - Kansas: Wheat State, Breadbasket

These days farming is much more mechanized but the nickname “Wheat State” represents more to Kansas than simply wheat. It represents a family working together. Kansas has long been an agriculture state and wheat has been a vital piece of that history. The early farmers planted corn, but when the Russian Mennonites arrived in the 1870’s and brought a winter wheat by the name of Red Turkey Wheat, agriculture in Kansas was changed forever. Through droughts and years of excellence, Kansas continues to grow the important economic staple of wheat.

2005 - State Quarter: Kansas Quarter

In the late 1990’s, the “United States Commemorative Coin Program Act” was enacted. From 1999 to 2008 all fifty states had a quarter, where a design for their state was displayed on the reverse side of the quarter. The coins were released in the order that they ratified the constitution at a rate of five coin designs a year. Kansas’ coin displays the sunflower and the American Bison, and was released in 2005.

2011 - State Stamp: 150 Kansas Stamp

In 2011, the postal service released a forever stamp for the 150th Anniversary of Kansas’ statehood. On the stamp is featured an old windmill, an important item in Kansas history, as the central focus, with five modern wind turbines in the distance. The artwork was created by Dean Mitchell who is a fine arts and commercial painter. While Kansas had had other stamps in its honor in the past, this stamp made Kansas the first state to have a forever stamp.

Entry: Kansas State Symbols

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2021

Date Modified: November 2023

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.