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27 Illinois State Symbols

May 8th, 2023

If you live in or near our luxury Chicago apartments, how many of these can you recognize and how many will surprise you? 

27 Illinois-isms that were made official

IL State Amphibian

Eastern tiger salamander

The eastern tiger salamander is a small, colorful amphibian that is native to the eastern United States. Boasting a black body with bright orange spots, it’s found in forests, wetlands and backyards all over Illinois. Though small and seemingly inconsequential, these salamanders play a large role in keeping insect and mosquito populations at bay.

IL State Animal

White-tailed deer

Found all over the state from backyards to meadows to forests, lake shores and more, the white-tailed deer is a common sight for Illinois residents in both urban and country settings.

IL State Artifact


The pirogue is a type of canoe that was used by Native Americans in the Great Lakes Region. Built from a single tree, this hollowed-out log canoe was used for hunting, fishing and transportation all over Illinois. 

IL State Bird

Northern cardinal

Especially noticeable in the snow-blanketed winter wonderland, this bright red cardinal is a common sight in backyards and parks all over the central and eastern portions of the United States. 

IL State Dance

Square dance

The square dance is a traditional American folk dance that has roots in Irish, Scottish, Spanish, French and English traditional dancing. And, since Illinois is such a melting pot of all those heritages, it’s the perfect dance to represent the state’s diverse history!

IL State Exercise


Cycling is a popular pastime in Illinois, especially with all those long, scenic trails across the state. It became the official state exercise in 2018.

IL State Fish


The bluegill is a popular freshwater game fish that is native to North America. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, it’s also often referred-to as “bream” or “brim”. 

IL State Grain


No surprise there, huh?

The corn industry rakes in about 54% of a whopping $19 billion each year in agricultural value, so it’s a big deal!

IL State Flower


Illinois shares this flower with three other states — New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin — who also call the violet their state flower. 

The delicate flower can be found in meadows, lawns, woodlands and wetlands all over the state, appearing in gorgeous purples, whites, yellows and blues of all shades. 

IL State Fossil

Tully monster

The Tully monster is a strange and mysterious fossilized species that, as of this writing, has only been found in ancient river beds in Illinois. 

The Tully monster is thought to have lived in the Pennsylvanian period about 300 million years ago, long before the Great Lakes were ever formed and when dinosaurs roamed freely across the lands and waters of North America. The squid-like fish-like shark-like creature was first discovered in 1958, and has since been the topic of great conversation within the paleontological world. 

IL State Fruit

Gold Rush apple

Elementary school students in Woodlawn chose this delicious fruit to represent the state after a successful lobby back in 2007. 

IL State Insect

Monarch butterfly

The monarch butterfly is a common backyard butterfly that is known for its vibrant orange and black colors and its annual migration across the continent.  

IL State Microbe

Penicillium rubens

Yup, you read that right!

Penicillin rubens is the first species of the genus Penicillium known to have produced the antibiotic we know as penicillin — the life-saving antibiotic discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928.  

IL State Mineral


Fluorite comes in many different colors, despite the fact that the mineral itself is colorless. The calcium and fluorine that make up the base of this soft mineral is clear, but other elements that get trapped in the mineral give each batch of rocks its own color. 

IL State Pet

Shelter dogs and shelter cats

What a great way to show appreciation and love to all the shelter animals and, of course, the hard-working shelter workers who dedicate themselves to finding these sweet animals their own forever home!

IL State Prairie Grass

Big bluestem

The big bluestem is a tall, prairie grass that is native to Illinois and was, at one point, the most abundant grass in the state’s prairies. It’s also often called “turkey-foot” for the three-fingered flowers that grow out of the top of the stem. 

IL State Pie

Pumpkin pie

The Morton region of Illinois is famous for its pumpkins and pumpkin pie — which is (totally objectively) the best pie ever in the world ever. So, why not make it official?

IL State Reptile

Painted turtle

Named for its colorful streaks on its head, neck and shell, the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) became the state’s official reptile in 2005. 

IL State Rock


Dolostone is a sedimentary rock that is found in Illinois and is mined for use in roads, ceramics and erosion control. 

IL State Snack Food


It only makes sense that the state snack should also come from the state vegetable! And, in 2003, some elementary school students in Joliet helped turn popcorn into an official state symbol!

IL State Snake

Eastern milksnake

The eastern milksnake is a harmless snake with a light brown body and dark brown spots encircled with a thin black band. 

Fun fact: the snake is called a “milksnake” because people once thought that it could milk cows!

IL State Soil

Drummer Silty Clay Loam

Loam is a type of soil that is dark, rich and soft, with plenty of nutrients and minerals that make it perfect for growing plants. And, since growing stuff is a pretty big part of Illinois’ economy, this dark, fertile loam from Ford County is pretty important!

IL State Tartan

Officially called the Illinois St. Andrews Society tartan, this official weave was designated a state symbol back in 2012. The blue and white colors represent the Scottish flag and the Illinois State flag, while the streaks of red add a touch of patriotism to create an overall red-white-and-blue color scheme. 

IL State Theater

The Great American People Show

The Great American People Show was a nonprofit theater show that ran for two decades in the 1980s and 1990s, putting on plays about American history and the life of Abraham Lincoln. Today, the site is called Theater in the Park and is located in New Salem. 

IL State Tree

White oak

The white oak is a versatile tree. The acorns can be used to feed animals and people, the wood was used to make boats, fences and homes, and the live trees provide shelter to a wide range of animals and birds all over the state. 

IL State Vegetable

Sweet corn

Corn again! 

Sweet corn is the sweetest of all corns, and as such deserves a sweet spot on the official Illinois State Symbols list!

IL State wildflower


Milkweed flowers are important for pollinators like butterflies and bees who visit the delicate purple flowers to find nectar. The plants and leaves bleed a milky white substance when broken which, unfortunately, is poisonous to most humans and animals. 

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/Charlottees

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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