Pawpaw and hellbender could gain Missouri recognition

Hellbender (Photo: Brian Gratwicke, Wikimedia Commons)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – An oddly named tree and an odd-looking salamander could soon gain fame in Missouri.

Lawmakers sent the governor a bill Thursday that would declare the pawpaw tree the “state fruit tree of Missouri” and designate the hellbender salamander as the “official endangered species.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation says the hellbender population has declined drastically since the 1970s. The salamanders live under rocks in rivers and streams.

The pawpaw tree produces sweet fruit and grows in shaded valleys across Missouri.

The legislation also would declare an official state tartan — a crisscrossed pattern of blue, brown and silver horizontal and vertical lines.

Missouri already has more than two dozen state symbols, including a state tree (flowering dogwood), state tree nut (eastern black walnut), and amphibian (American bullfrog).

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