South Carolina – State Symbols and Nicknames

South Carolina SC Facts & Firsts SC State Symbols, Nicknames

SC State and Local Nicknames

South Carolina is widely known as the Palmetto State in honor of our state tree, the Palmetto. However, we were once known as the Iodine State instead. Our state has many other colorful nicknames as well, including many for SC cities and towns. Finally, SCIWAY publishes a wonderful guide to SC Pronunciations that you won't want to miss.

SC State Symbols

South Carolina has many state symbols of cultural and historical relevance. Most have only recently been designated state symbols, although the state seal was first used in 1777. The state flag wasn't adopted for almost another century, when South Carolina seceded from the Union and desired a new flag. The 1900s saw the introduction of many new state symbols such as South Carolina's state tree in 1939, the state animal in 1972, and the state fruit in 1984.


SC Amphibian, Spotted Salamander - Named the official state amphibian in 1999, following a year-long campaign by the third-grade class of Woodland Heights Elementary School in Spartanburg.

Spotted Salamander

SC Animal, White Tailed Deer - Deer can be seen bounding through South Carolina's woods year-round. They are plentiful in our state, and in 1972 the legislature named them the official state animal.

SC Animal


SC Beverage, Milk - There are around 90 dairy farms in our state. Please note that South Carolina also has a "State Hospitality Beverage," which is sweet tea.

SC Bird, Carolina Wren - Known for nesting in unusual places such as bags, boxes, flower pots, and even shoes, the Carolina Wren is beloved by many in our state. Interestingly, our state bird was the Mockingbird from 1939 until 1948.

SC Butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - Named for the long portion of their hind wings which resemble a swallow's tail feathers, each of the forewings of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail has four black stripes resembling a tiger. Butterflies are most prevalent in South Carolina during the autumn.

SC Butterfly


SC Dance, The Shag - The Carolina Shag was designated the official state dance of South Carolina in 1984, but for more than a half-century, it has been synonymous with warm sand, cold beer, and beach music. A form of Southern swing, it's said to have begun along the Grand Strand as early as the 1920s.

SC Dog, Boykin Spaniel - The native South Carolina breed was first bred in the early 1900s by L. W. "Whit" Boykin. Boykin, like other hunters along the Wateree River, had longed for a superior dog to hunt fowl with. Boykin's friend, Alexander L. White of Spartanburg, took in a stray, spaniel type dog which soon showed signs of being a good retriever. White gave the dog to Boykin for training. "Dumpy", the dog, excelled under Boykin becoming a superior hunt dog and retriever. Dumpy became the "father" of the Boykin Spaniel as the bred was developed from him.

SC Duck, Summer Duck (Wood Duck) - Designated as the state duck in 2009, the wood duck can be found in South Carolina year-round. These ducks like marshy areas and can commonly be found in wooded parts of rivers, ponds, swamps, and shallow lakes.


SC Fish, Striped Bass (Rockfish) - This species of bass is among the largest with many adults surpassing 20 pounds in weight. Traditionally favoring coastal rivers for their flowing water, the striped bass has adapted over the years and now thrives in lakes across the state too.

SC Flag - In 1775, Colonel William Moultrie designed a flag based on the blue uniforms and crescent badges which decorated the caps of guards during the Revolutionary War. Over the years, variations of Moultrie's flag flew in the state on which the palmetto tree had been added in recognition of Moultrie's victory over the British at the Sullivan's Island fort constructed of palmetto logs. This flag eventually became recognized as the official South Carolina state flag in 1861. (Note: Though there are many theories, no one is 100% sure why the guards wore the crescent symbol on their caps.)

SC Flower, Yellow Jessamine - Yellow jessamine, pronounced "JES-uh-min" or "jaz'min," became our official state flower in 1924. Because it is native to our state, it is also called Carolina jessamine. Jessamine is an evergreen vine that climbs trees, fences, and latticework across South Carolina. It blooms in very late winter or early spring, offering the first hope of warm weather to come!

SC Flower

SC Folk Art and Craft Center, South Carolina Artisans Center - Located in the heart of downtown Walterboro, the center proudly showcases the work of over 270 South Carolina artisans. The medium of craft and art styles is vast, spanning from the traditional to modern.

SC Folk Dance, The Square Dance - Square dancing was designated the official folk dance of South Carolina in 1994. Sixteenth and seventeenth-century settlers came to America from across Western Europe bringing with them the customs and heritage of their homeland. Eventually, French quadrilles, Irish jigs, and English reels were interwoven and the square dance was born.

SC Food, Grits (unofficial) - Grits are considered a staple in South Carolina, a comfort food, and a symbol of our unique culinary traditions. The color of grits depends on the color of corn used – yellow or white.

SC Fossil, Columbian Mammoth - The bill was signed in 2014 after the efforts of a third-grader from Lake City. In 1725, fossilized mammoth teeth were discovered in a SC swamp.

SC Fruit, Peach - It wasn't until the 1850s that South Carolina began to grow peaches commercially. Then, in the 1920s, their popularity blossomed as cotton farmers stymied by the boll weevil looked for new crops. South Carolina now leads all southern states in peach production – including Georgia! – and are fondly called the "Tastier Peach State."


SC Grass, Indian Grass (PDF) - Typically 3-5 feet in height, this warm weather plant can grow in a variety of soil types. Its adaptivity has lead to the Indian Grass to be declared a weed in some areas of the country.

SC Gemstone, Amethyst - A variety of quartz, amethyst became our official state gemstone on June 24, 1969. This designation followed the discovery of several world-class amethysts at the Ellis-Jones Mine near Due West. Samples of these amethysts are presently on display at the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

SC Gemstone


SC Handcraft, Sweetgrass Basket - Woven with a native plant, sweetgrass baskets are valued for their complexity, their beauty, and their utility. They also serve to remind us of the rich African heritage brought to this country by slaves.

SC Horse, Marsh Tacky - Tracing its heritage back to stock that arrived with Spanish explorers, the Marsh Tacky has been in our state for over 400 years. Once thought extinct, DNA testing in 2005 proved the breed was still alive in coastal South Carolina.

SC Hospitality Beverage, Tea - Tea was first brought to North America in 1799 by famed French botanist Francois Andre Michaux, who planted it near Charleston at Middleton Barony (now known as Middleton Place). Today, "America's Only Tea Garden" is located on Wadmalaw Island at the Charleston Tea Plantation.


SC Insect, Carolina Mantid - Ranging in color from light green to brown-gray, the Carolina Mantid can easily blend into its environment. With eggs hatching in the spring, the insects are mature by the end of summer and are most commonly seen from then through early fall.


SC Mace, Mace of the House of Representatives - Made for the Commons House of Assembly in 1756, the SC mace is the oldest, continuously used one by any US state legislature. At almost 4' long and weighing over 10 pounds, the mace stands for the authority of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

SC Marine Mammal, Bottlenosed Dolphin - Bottlenosed dolphins can be found worldwide in temperate ocean waters and coastal areas. In South Carolina, these mammals can be seen offshore as well as in bays and estuaries. Typically 8-9 feet in length, the bottlenose dolphin is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

SC Migratory Marine Mammal, Northern Right Whale - This critically, endangered species is found off the South Carolina shore late winter through spring, during its breeding and calving season. At a population estimated at just 450, the Right Whale Sighting Advisory System has been developed to reduce collisions between ships and the northern right whale. If you spot a whale, please report it here.

SC Mottos - South Carolina has two state mottos. Both were first used in 1777 when the state seal had two sides. On the front of this seal was, "Animis Opibusque Parati," which is Latin for "Prepared in Mind and Resources." And the back, "Dum Spiro Spero," which is Latin for "While I Breathe, I Hope."

Music, The Spiritual - Although not officially designated until 1999 as the state music of South Carolina, the Spiritual has been a part of the state's culture for generations. Originating in the slave era, these songs have strong religious foundations and roots that stretch to African ancestors.


SC Opera, "Porgy and Bess" - Charleston native DuBose Heyward wrote the novel "Porgy" in 1925 about the fictional Catfish Row and its Gullah residents. Famed composer George Gershwin immediately contacted Heyward after reading it in hopes of forming a collaboration to develop a folk opera based on the book. Stymied by other work commitments, it wasn't until 1934 that George Gershwin, along with his brother Ira, and DuBose Heyward gathered at Folly Beach to pen the opera. Debuting in New York City in 1935, the opera's first run was cut after just 124 shows. However, the production became very popular in Europe and eventually was acclaimed in the US for its music, jazz satire, and characters.


SC Pledge - Penned by Mrs. John R. Carson in 1950, "I salute the flag of South Carolina and pledge to the Palmetto State love, loyalty and faith." was officially designated the state pledge in 1966.

SC Poet Laureate, Marjory Wentworth - Selected by the state's governor, Marjory Wentworth has served since appointed by Governor Mark Sanford in 2003. Previous Poet Laureates were Bennie Lee Sinclair, 1986-2000; Grace Beacham Freeman, 1985-1986; Ennis Rees, 1984-1985; Helen von Kolnitz Hyer, 1974-1983; Archibald Rutledge, 1934-1973.

SC Popular Music, Beach Music - Originated around the time of the second World War, and has come to be regarded as synonymous with the official state dance, the Shag.

SC Popular Music


SC Reptile, Loggerhead Turtle - Named for their large, log-shaped heads, loggerhead turtles are the most common species of saltwater turtle in the United States but have been on the threatened species list since the late 1970s. Nests are made on beaches during mid-to-late summer and depending on the temperature, incubation in South Carolina lasts between 53 and 68 days.


SC State Seal - Originally dual sided, the state seal has included both mottos since its inception in 1777. The two sides were combined into one when it proved difficult to include impressions of both sides in wax to affix onto documents. The seal, pictured below, includes these mottos along with the palmetto tree and Roman goddess Spes.

SC Mottos

SC Shell - Lettered Olive

SC Snack Food - Boiled Peanuts

SC Songs - "Carolina" and "South Carolina on My Mind"

SC Spider - Carolina Wolf Spider

SC Stone - Blue Granite

SC Sword - Sword of the Senate


  • SC Tartan - Carolina Tartan
  • SC Tree - Sabal Palmetto (Cabbage Palmetto) - the flexibility of its trunk, together with its strong root system, enable the palmetto to withstand the fierce winds that so often strike our coastline.

    SC Tree



  • SC Waltz - The Richardson Waltz
  • SC Wildflower - Goldenrod
  • SC Wild Game Bird - Wild Turkey - these turkeys are very good fliers. Even though they fly relatively close to the ground and only for short distances, they can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour!

    SC Wild Game Bird

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