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2 Indiana State Animals (Official Symbols)

Nestled in the heartland of America, Indiana, fondly known as the Hoosier State, isn’t only famous for its auto racing and limestone resources but also for its unique assortment of state-designated animals. Each of these animals plays an important role in the diverse ecosystems and historical traditions that make Indiana what it’s today.

According to the state’s Department of Natural Resources, over 400 species of birds, 200 species of fish, and an abundance of mammals and insects are all found in Indiana.

This article aims to delve into the characteristics, habitats, and cultural significance of the 2 Indiana state animals, offering readers an insight into the living symbols that form an integral part of Indiana’s identity.

2 Indiana state animals

1. Northern cardinal

Male Northern Cardinal perched on a tree branch
Male Northern Cardinal perched on a tree branch | image by Andy Morffew via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
  • Status: Indiana State Bird

The Northern Cardinal, also known as the Red Bird, is a mid-sized songbird noted for its vibrant red hue in males, and a reddish-olive color in females.

The General Assembly of Indiana chose this bird, which can be found living in woodlands and wetland areas across the Eastern United States, to be the state bird of Indiana in 1933. 

This choice was motivated by the fact that it’s present all through the year, nests in the dense undergrowth of the state, and has an impressive appearance.

In addition to its stunning appearance, the cardinal’s tenacity to survive through the state’s four distinct seasons is another reason it was chosen to serve as the state’s official avian symbol.

2. Say’s firefly

Say’s firefly
Say’s firefly | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Pyractomena angulata
  • Status: Indiana State Insect

Say’s Firefly is a native insect to North America that’s best recognized for its distinctive yellow-orange bioluminescence. This insect was given its name after the naturalist Thomas Say, who was from Indiana.

In 2018, Indiana was one of the very few states to select it as their official state insect, making it one of the rare states to have an indigenous state insect. 

The decision was influenced by educational initiatives that involved several schools with the goal of better understanding the legislative process.

This species’ connection to the state, through its namesake and natural occurrence, ecological importance, and charismatic display of bioluminescence, made it an appropriate choice for the state insect.

Other state symbols of Indiana 

1. Peony

Peony flowers in pot
Peony flowers in pot | image by llee_wu via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Paeonia
  • Status: Indiana State Flower

Peonies are vibrant perennial plants that are well-known for the large, fragrant flowers that they produce. They bloom in a variety of colors, including red, pink, and white, and were chosen to be the official state flower in 1957. It replaced the zinnia, which had been the state flower from 1931 to 1957. 

Chosen for its beauty and popularity across the state, the Peony particularly shines as a decoration for gravesites on Memorial Day. Its striking appearance makes it a treasured symbol of the state, even though its blooming season is only a few short weeks long (late May through early June).

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2. Mastodon

Mastodon | image by James St. John via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Mammut americanum
  • Status: Indiana State Fossil

The extinct proboscidean known as the American mastodon, which roamed North and Central America up until approximately 10,000 years ago, was selected to serve as the state fossil in the year 2022. The exhibition of a mastodon skeleton at Hanover College gave Representative Randy Frye the impetus to implement this idea. 

After years of discussion regarding potential candidates, the honor was bestowed upon the mastodon, known for being the Ice Age fossil discovered the most frequently in Indiana. Its widespread presence and historical significance make it a suitable emblem of the state’s rich geological past.

3. Tulip tree

Tulip tree
Tulip tree | image by Malcolm Manners via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Liriodendron tulipifera
  • Status: Indiana State Tree

The Tulip Tree, which is also known as the yellow poplar, was chosen to be the official state tree of Indiana in 1931. This tree is notable for its height as well as its distinctive leaf shape, which can be seen on the state seal.

The tree’s bell-shaped, greenish-yellow flowers, similar to tulips, bloom in May or June. You can find this tree all over the state, and the soft, white wood it produces is in high demand.