Official State Crap

Official State Crap: Idaho

The slimiest of Idaho's official state symbols (image: Andy Kraemer via flickr)

Oh my God, you guys, this is so exciting. It’s time to move ahead on the Official State Crap project. Not exciting enough to use an exclamation point anywhere in this paragraph, apparently, but still. This time: Idaho.

  • Official state bird: the Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides). Why the mountain bluebird? Probably because lots of them live in the Craters of the Moon National Monument, which is in Idaho. Bluebirds like to nest in enclosed spaces, and the lava fields at Craters of the Moon have a lot of those. So if you like bluebirds, and lava fields, the Craters of the Moon National Monument is the place for you. The National Park Service “invite[s] you to explore this weird and scenic landscape where yesterday’s volcanic events are likely to continue tomorrow,” and hopefully will not happen today.
  • Official state flower: the syringa (Philadelphus lewisii). The syringa has other common names, including “Lewis’s mock-orange,” which like the Latin name commemorates the smart half of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. According to Wikipedia, Native Americans used this shrub for all kinds of things, but Lewis was the first white person to “discover” it, hence the name. Note: Idaho has for some reason made it illegal for private citizens to sell or export certain plants native to Idaho, including the syringa, so be advised.
  • Official state song: “Here We Have Idaho,” sometimes known as “Our Idaho,” which seems more positive than that first title. “Our Idaho” at least suggests you identify with the state to some extent. “Here We Have Idaho” just seems like, “well, over there is Montana, and here we have Idaho.” Okay.
  • Official state tree: the white pine (Pinus monticola). Also known as the Idaho pine, the California mountain pine, or just the Western white pine, which should give you a clue that it grows in lots of places other than Idaho. This species has been seriously affected by the white pine blister rust fungus, which some a-hole seems to have accidentally brought here from overseas around the turn of the 20th century.
  • Official state gem: The star garnet. Idaho does seem to have a special claim to this one because, for a reason not clear to me but presumably involving continental drift and/or aliens, it is found only in Idaho and India.
  • Official state horse: the Appaloosa. According to Wikipedia, the name may derive from the Palouse River, which runs through Idaho and southeastern Washington. The modern breed is said to descend from horses bred by the Nez Perce tribe, who had a lot of them until 1877, after which they didn’t have much of anything.
  • Official state fish: the cutthroat trout. There are multiple species of “cutthroat trout” in the western U.S., which might be why Idaho doesn’t specify one in particular. It could claim at least the Westslope and Yellowstone varieties, though, so this designation is acceptable.
  • Official state insect: the monarch butterfly. Six other states have also made the monarch their official state insect, which is not too surprising because butterflies and honeybees are pretty much the only insects anyone likes, and monarchs are popular butterflies. They live all over the place, but some probably touch down in Idaho from time to time, so, fine.
  • Official state fruit: the huckleberry. Again, no particular species is specified, but the most likely candidates seem to be the black huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) or the blue Cascade huckleberry (Vaccinium deliciosum). Although it would have been funny if the latter species tasted awful and had been named as a joke, in fact it is said to produce “especially tasty berries.”
  • Official state vegetable: the lima bean. No, just kidding, it’s the potato.
  • Official state raptor: the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). Presumably Idaho is reserving space for other official birds, but at the moment it only has an official raptor. And this one does live in Idaho, but peregrines “can be found nearly everywhere on Earth,” so I’m not sure what Idaho’s particular claim to it would be. I can see why Idaho would want to claim it, because this is one badass bird. It regularly reaches over 200 mph when diving on prey (one was clocked at 242 mph), making it the fastest animal on the planet.
  • Official state noxious and invasive weed awareness week: the week before Memorial Day. I foolishly assumed that Idaho might be the only state that has one of these, but it looks like most if not all of them do. I don’t think other states put this right in the “state symbols” section of the law, but I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. (See also National Invasive Species Awareness Week, which I’m sorry to say you have already missed this year, but the next one will be Feb. 28 through Mar. 4, 2022, if you want to start making plans.)
  • Official state amphibian: the Idaho giant salamander (Dicamptodon aterrimus), which is only about a foot long but I guess that does make it a giant among salamanders. It is also “the darkest and most intricately blotched of the giant salamanders,” and is known for biting, barking, and secreting a toxic substance from its skin in order to deter predators. So not, perhaps, quite as cool as the peregrine falcon, but I guess if you need an official amphibian, you go with what you have.

Source: Idaho Stat. §§ 67-4501 through 67-4514.