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5 things to know about Arizona as it celebrates 109 years of statehood

(Arizona Office of Tourism Images)

PHOENIX — Sharing a birthday with a holiday is always tough on kids. In this case, the kid is Arizona, which turns 109 on Sunday, which also happens to be Valentine’s Day.

In honor of the special event, Gov. Doug Ducey has issued proclamations declaring Arizona Statehood Day during his tenure. Last year he said he wanted the day to celebrate the “striking landscapes, rich history and proud heritage” of the state.

Celebrate this day with five facts about the Grand Canyon State.

Why was Feb. 14 chosen for statehood date?

This is a great story. According to, Valentine’s Day 1912 won by default. The first date to make statehood official was Feb. 12. Hold up, President William Howard Taft. He was reminded that was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Hmm, OK, how about the day after that? What, the 13th? No way, bad luck and all. Hence, the 14th.

Oregon was admitted to the union on the same date in 1859. They are the only Valentine’s Day states.

USS Arizona

USS Arizona circa 1920s. (Public Domain Image)

Almost half the casualties suffered during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, were on the USS Arizona. The battleship took four direct hits from Japanese bombers. The last bomb ignited stored gunpower. When it blew, the ship split in two, sank and became the final resting place for 1,777 officers and crewmen.

The USS Arizona was commissioned in 1916 but had been ordered in March 1913, a little over year from when its namesake state had been admitted to the union.

The ship did not see battle in World War I but was eventually sent to Hawaii in April 1940, as war with Japan became a real possibility. It had been in dry dock for repairs before the attack.

Fuel still leaks from the wreckage, spilling into the harbor from the memorial site built over the ship.

That is a BIG rose bush

Facebook Photo/Tombstone Rose Festival)

The largest rose bush/tree in the world sits in Tombstone. What started out as a clipping sent from a woman in Scotland to friends in Arizona grew to 8,000 square feet.

It is so big it was put on a trellis because it was in the way on the ground.

The rose tree, a Lady Banks species, was planted in 1885 near a shed at a boarding house. The boarding house eventually was turned into a hotel that was renamed the Rose Tree Inn in 1936.

Now the site is a museum and the Devere family sell cutting from the Shady Lady, as the tree is called.

Not exactly ribbit


The official state amphibian is a tree frog. Because who doesn’t think of Arizona and amphibians? Schoolkids came up with that designation in the mid-1980s.

Other facts about these frogs: They’re poisonous; male frogs let loose with a really loud mating call; they mostly live in northern Arizona, starting around Williams and then east into New Mexico.

Save the saguaro

(AP Photo)

It is against the law in Arizona to purposefully cut down, hack or otherwise ruin a saguaro cactus or other native plants. Folks, you can be fined up to $5,000 a day just for moving a saguaro around town without a permit.

That is right there on the books, Chapter 7.

Do not get arrested over a cactus.

Happy Valentine’s birthday, Arizona!

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