Mississippi is a combination of fertile river bottom lands, loam bluffs, pine forests and grasslands, with these ecosystems supporting a varied collection of plants and animals. The wildlife is diverse and features a skilled imitator of songs and calls as well as many types of mammals. The plant life ranges from brilliant wildflowers to handsome trees, including one that is a symbol of the state.
Wildflowers abound throughout Mississippi, with many possessing brilliant colors and distinctive shapes. The jack-in-the-pulpit grows a foot tall, with an upright and curving top that envelops the spadix, a part of the plant on which small red berries emerge. Goat’s beard is a Mississippi flower that can grow to 6 feet tall, highlighted by 10-inch plumes of white blossoms. April and May is the best time to spot the flowers on a crested blue iris in the state, while the wild lily of the valley blooms in this Deep South location in spring, producing its berries later in the summer. Wild hyacinth, swamp hibiscus, blazing stars and cardinal flowers are other Mississippi wildflowers.
The southern magnolia holds two places of honor in Mississippi, as it is both the state tree and the state flower. The evergreen tree produces large, showy blooms that are fragrant, with the tree preferring rich, damp soils found along rivers and swampland. Other trees of significance in Mississippi include pines such as the loblolly, slash, longleaf and spruce types. The tulip tree, red maple, paw paw, sweet gum and a number of oaks, including southern red oak and the evergreen live oak, also grow in Mississippi.
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Among the animals that inhabit Mississippi are such furbearers as skunks, opossums, otters, muskrats, beavers and raccoons. As many as 100 black bears inhabit the state, according to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The eastern gray squirrel, southern flying squirrel and eastern fox squirrel are denizens of the woodlands, while the American alligator is native to the state’s wetlands. The white-tailed deer, the state mammal, lives throughout Mississippi.
The northern mockingbird is the state bird of Mississippi. This species is gray, with trademark patches of white on its tail and on its wings. The northern mockingbird is about the size of a robin, notes the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds,” and the bird can imitate the songs of other species. In Mississippi, the northern mockingbird resides in orchards, open urban areas, farmlands and parks. The northern mockingbird is a year-round native that subsists on a diet of insects and seeds. The bird will defend its territory, with no fear of perceived intruders close to its nest.