Sunshine State Specialties
By Ava DePersio
Florida has several specialties that represent the Sunshine State, and its well-known history.
Florida is nicknamed the Sunshine State because of the amount of sunshine the state receives, but that is not the first name it has had. “[Florida’s original Spanish name] is La Florida…Ponce De León [named it that] because of his discovery [of it] during the Easter feast,” according to ‘History.com.’ The name La Florida also signifies the abundance of flowers that grow throughout the state. There are several flowers that grow in the state, but the Florida state flower is the orange blossom. The orange blossom is, “…one of the most fragrant flowers in Florida… [and] was selected as the state flower by the 1909 legislature,” according to the ‘Florida Department of State.’ The flowers that grow and the constant sun that Florida receives is so well-known that it was referenced in the state anthem.
A state anthem should represent what is unique to the state, and in Florida’s anthem, it references the sunshine and the incredible flowers that bloom. The anthem is called “Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky” and it states, “…Florida, land of flowers, land of light.” The anthem “Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky” was written by Jan Hinton, and became the state anthem in 2008, but it was not the first song Florida had. The first state song was called, “Florida, My Florida” written by Reverend Chastain V. Waugh, and was deemed the state song in 1913, until 1935, when it was replaced with the new song “Swanee River (Old Folks Home)” written by Stephen C. Foster. It is spelled “Swanee” instead of the proper spelling for the Suwannee River because, “… changing the name of the Suwannee River in Florida to “‘Swanee’” … fit the syntax of the melody [for the song],” according to ‘Music K8.’ The state anthem was created to replace the state song, “The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home),” but it was later decided to, “…[keep] the state song and designate “Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky” as the… state anthem,” according to the ‘Florida Department of State.’
There are also several animals that are well-known in Florida. The northern mockingbird is the official state bird for Florida, and was declared the state bird in 1927. Northern mockingbirds are known for their vocal abilities, and can mimic sounds they hear around their environment. Throughout the night, their voice can be heard as they sing one of the hundreds of ‘songs’ they know. Florida even has an official state reptile. The American alligator was named the official state reptile in 1987. “Alligators are found throughout Florida… they prefer lakes, swamps, canals, and other wetland habitats,” according to ‘West Palm Beach Parks.com.’ Since wetlands are prominent in Florida, alligators have several places to reside in. According to ‘United States Geological Survey (USGS.gov),’ “Wetlands represent a greater percentage of the land surface in Florida than in any other state in the conterminous United States.” The abundance of wetlands allows for alligators to thrive in the state, and can explain why they are common to see in Florida.
The official state motto for Florida is, “In God We Trust.” This may sound familiar as it is also the United States official motto. “[The motto] was adopted by the Florida legislature as a part of the state seal in 1868,” according to the ‘Florida Department of State.’ The first state motto was originally “In God is our trust,” but in 2006 the Florida state motto was changed to say “In God We Trust,” to match the state seal.
No state is complete without a signature dessert, and Florida’s state dessert is key lime pie. It was invented in Key West, and became the state dessert in 2006. “.. key lime trees [are] native to Malaysia, [and] first arrived in the Florida Keys in the 1500s with the Spanish,” according to ‘What’s Cooking America.’ Along with a state dessert, Florida also has a state beverage. Orange juice has been a popular drink in Florida and became the state drink in 1967. Orange juice gained popularity outside of Florida when it was used as a beverage and a source of Vitamin C for World War II troops. According to ‘Time.com,’ “…troops [needed to be] well fed with Vitamin C… [and] in 1945… the army asked [Richard Stetson Mores, inventor of the orange juice concentrate] to produce 500,000 of…orange juice concentrate [for the troops].” The state of Florida has produced several nationwide staples and also has unique specialties that represent Florida since it first became a state in 1845