Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Is anything in this article factually incorrect? Please submit a comment.

Printer-friendly page


Scotch Bonnet

by Sarah Spink Downing, 2006

See also: North Carolina State Symbols and Official Adoptions main page

Scotch bonnet shellScotch bonnet is the official state shell of North Carolina. The shell's inhabitant (Phalium granulatum) is a member of the helmet family, marine snails whose shells are characterized by short spires, large body whorls, and thickened outer lips. The scotch bonnet is found from North Carolina to Brazil and is distinguished by its pattern of small orange squares, which give it a plaid appearance (hence its name). The shell usually reaches 3 to 3½ inches in length when fully grown.

In the mid-1960s, state representative Moncie Daniels of coastal Dare County introduced the legislation naming the scotch bonnet as the official state shell and promised a keepsake shell to any of the 170 legislators who supported him. When he was able to find only two scotch bonnets, his colleagues grew hesitant to select such a rare shell. State senator Jimmy Johnson of Iredell County stated that inlanders "don't want to spend their time . . . horsing around for something that's extinct." Johnson suggested naming the chicken eggshell the official shell of Iredell County. Governor Dan K. Moore avoided the question and recommended the decision be left to those who knew more about shells. The bill passed in the Senate on 21 May 1965 and consequently became law after weeks of campaigning by Daniels and the bill's sponsor in the Senate, Ashley Futrell of Beaufort, who had acquired a box full of scotch bonnets and handed them out to his fellow senators.


William K. Emmerson and Morris K. Jacobson, The American Museum of Natural History Guide to Shells (1976).

Additional resource:

North Carolina General Assembly. 1965. "An act to adopt an official state shell for the State of North Carolina." Session Laws. c. 681. Online at:

Image credit:

"Scotch Bonnet." Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.




This doesn't help very much at all


needs more



Thank you for visiting NCpedia. Please let know what other information you need and we try our best to update the article.

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library


yes it does


No it doesn’t


where can you find this shell?


It is very unlikely to find Scotch Bonnets north of the Hatteras point at Buxton. The water is too cool to the north. South of the point, the Gulf Stream is close to shore, and all kinds of tropical species can appear on the beach from time to time. I found a lovely bonnet right at the point when Shelly Island still existed, and my favorite place to look is on Ocracoke Island near the Hatteras Inlet.


All along the Atlantic Coast in NC. 


Does nc have a state horse?




Thank you for taking the time to visit NCpedia. NC does have a state horse, the Colonial Spanish Mustang. You can find out more about them at:


Best wishes,

Elizabeth Hayden, Government & Heritage Library

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at