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The Scotch Bonnet, North Carolina’s State Shell

Posted by Jody on January 5, 2012

North Carolina was the first state of the USA to designate an Official State Shell.  The idea to name the Scotch Bonnet as the official state shell of NC was introduced by the North Carolina Shell Club. The State’s General Assembly formally adopted the Scotch Bonnet as a state symbol on May 25th, 1965.  The move honored the early Scots who settled in the State of North Carolina and also paid tribute to the State’s flourishing shellfish industry. states: “First cataloged by Ingaz, Edler von Born, in 1778, the Scotch Bonnet (Phalium granulatum) is found along the the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Brazil. The shell was so named because of its resemblance to the caps worn by Scottish peasants, and because the coloration resembles a Scottish plaid or tartan.”

Scotch Bonnet (Photo by Joshyhmarks / Wikimedia Commons)

According to The North Carolina Shell Club, “Scotch bonnet shells wash ashore in abundance on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They are rare elsewhere in the state. Where can Scotch Bonnets be found in North Carolina? The Gulf Stream moves tropical waters close to the North Carolina coast.Tropical water mollusks, like the Scotch bonnet, can survive cold winter months in the Gulf Stream. After storms, hundreds of Scotch bonnets may be washed ashore on the Outer banks especially between Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout due to the close proximity of the Gulf Stream to that section of the coast.”

The Scotch Bonnet (Phalium granulatum) is a bonny seashell (I couldn’t help myself!). A member of the Helmet Shell Family, the Scotch Bonnet lives on sand in shallow water, feeding on various kinds of sand dollars and sea urchins. This beautifully shaped sea snail grows to lengths of 1 to nearly 4 inches.

Lang may yer lum reek! – May you live long and stay well. ~Old Scottish saying~

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