Kentucky’s official nickname is “the Bluegrass State” because of how prolific the type of grass known colloquially as “bluegrass” is throughout most of the state’s lands. Bluegrass is a specific type of grass belonging to the scientific genus Poa, and it gets its name from the bluish-purplish tint the stalks take on when they go to seed. A genre of music from the region also carries the name, and the northernmost region of the state, where the grass is perhaps most prolific, is commonly known as the “bluegrass region”; though significant, neither of these is the reasoning behind the nickname, though. Fields of waving blue in the distance are often a point of pride for residents, and the association has become tightly bound with the state generally. The legislature approved it as an “official” nickname in the 1960s, and since the late 1970s it’s been printed on most Kentucky license places and tourism materials as a matter of course.
State Nicknames Generally
Most states have a couple of different nicknames, some of which are more popular at certain points of history than others. Many of these are informal, but nicknames that are “official” — like Bluegrass State in Kentucky — usually carry a bit more weight. Most of the time they must be approved by the state’s legislature, often by way of a vote. The biggest difference between official and unofficial nicknames is how they’re used, mostly when it comes to marketing materials and information published formally by the state.
Different legislatures have different criteria when it comes to what makes a nickname worthy of approving, but in general they look for something that’s timeless and permanent, and is likely to hold relevance for a long time. In Kentucky, the choice of a natural phenomenon that holds a place in the imagination of most residents and is associated with the region broadly on a national and international scale seemed a likely choice.
Bluegrass is native to Europe and Asia, and came to the U.S. with some of the earliest settlers. It generally took well to the new soil, perhaps because of how hardy and weather-resistant it is. By most accounts it’s grown more today in Kentucky than in most other parts of the United States, but it wasn’t always this way; settlers brought it to the region from elsewhere, though it quickly took off.
Kentucky’s meadows feed numerous thoroughbred racehorses because this grass thrives on limestone soil. Bluegrass blades are green like most grasses, surprising some people. Its purple-blue buds turn spring bluegrass fields blue. Many individuals in the neighborhood may be producing bluegrass without recognizing it since the grass is clipped or mowed down and not allowed to go to seed.
As a Musical Style
Acoustic bluegrass music comes from Scottish, Irish, and English folk music. In bluegrass ensembles, guitarists, banjoists, fiddlers, bassists, and Appalachian dulcimerists take turns improvising on the song while the others contribute rhythm and backup. Bill Monroe, from Kentucky, popularized this genre. Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys was popular from the 1930s forward. Kentucky festivals commemorate this music.
State Divisions and Regions
Kentucky has five agricultural and geographic areas. The Inner Bluegrass and Outer Bluegrass make up the northernmost Bluegrass Region. Horse ranches don’t work in the Outer Bluegrass’ steep slopes. The Inner Bluegrass is famous in horseracing for its hundreds of thoroughbred horse ranches.
Why is Kentucky known as bluegrass?
Early immigrants in Central Kentucky saw Poa pratensis fields with purple seed heads. Blue-green in sunlight. Thus, bluegrass.
What state has the most bluegrass?
Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass state, but asking why seldom gets you far.
Is Kentucky known as the Bluegrass State?
Millions of tourists flock to Kentucky’s natural beauty, historical sites, and culture.
Where did Kentucky bluegrass come from?
Kentucky bluegrass originated in Europe, Eurasia, and probably North America. After 1600, settlers propagated the plant westward. North America has naturalized Kentucky bluegrass.