Located in the southeastern corner of the United States, Florida is often referred to as the Sunshine State. As the 27th state in the United States, Florida's subtropical climate and beaches are a major part of its appeal to tourists. The state is well-known for its agricultural production, particularly oranges. In addition, it is also recognized as the home of the Kennedy Space Center and entertainment attractions such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida. There is more to Florida, however, than its tourist attractions. It is also an interesting state in terms of its history, people and wildlife.
The modern history of Florida began with the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century. It was from the Spanish that the name Florida has its roots, as it was dubbed La Florida by the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon. The name was given in reference to Pascua Florida, which is a term for a Spanish Easter celebration. The right to live in Florida was also the root of conflicts such as the Seminole Wars that took place in Florida. The economy of Florida has also undergone many fluctuations over the course of its history.
Florida's geography is one of the most recognizable in the United States. As opposed to being surrounded primarily by land, it is instead a peninsula that is bordered by both water and land. At the state's northern border, there is Alabama and Georgia and the Atlantic Ocean is to the east and south. The state's panhandle extends to the west which is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama. At 65,758 square miles, it is the 22nd largest state in the country.
The climate in Florida is affected by its geography and proximity to the water. Primarily, it has a tropical climate. This varies, however, depending on the region. Hurricanes, tornadoes and thunderstorms are also common occurrences in the state. Spring and summer are the months usually associated with tornadoes, while hurricanes typically occur in September and October. Depending on the time of year, Florida is also prone to periods of drought as well as flooding during the rainy season.
Florida's wildlife is as interesting and diverse as the state itself. The Florida state animal is the Florida Panther while the state's marine mammal is the manatee. Other symbolic fauna include the Mockingbird, which is the state bird and the zebra longwind butterfly which is the national insect. In addition to the animals that represent the state, there are many other animals, such as the diverse species of birds that can be found. These birds include the wood stork, white pelican, and flamingo. Dangerous species of animals are known to exist in Florida as well, such as crocodiles and the American alligator.
The land that is currently Florida came into existence over 500 million years ago when most of the continents of the world were united in the super continent known as Gondwanaland. It later became sandwiched between Gondwanaland and a new super continent known as Pangea. When the Pangea separated into individual continents, the landmass of Florida stayed connected to North America. Florida boasts the second longest coastline in the country, and it mostly comprises of a peninsula that extends into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The land is low-lying, with the highest elevation being lower than 350 feet, and is based mainly on limestone created by the skeletons of various sea life. As a result of its limestone foundation, Florida is host to a large number of sinkholes, and is also known for its swampland.
Florida has the distinction of currently being number four when it comes to the most populous states within the U.S. Although its population is primarily Caucasian, its ethnic makeup is relatively diverse, with some of the largest African-American and Latino populations in the country. A large percentage of the residents within the state are considered senior citizens and are over 65. There are also a large number of immigrants that reside in the state.
Florida's government is based on the Florida State Constitution. This constitution was originally drafted in 1838; however, in 1968 Florida adopted its most current constitution. The Constitution establishes the laws of the state and the function and duties of Florida's government. There are three branches to the state's government. These branches are the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. At the head of the executive branch is the governor of the state.
Post-secondary education in Florida consists of several systems. One of these systems is the State University System of Florida, which consists of eleven four-year universities. Florida State University and the University of South Florida are examples of universities that are a part of this system. The Florida College System is another educational system. The colleges within this system are community and state colleges and there are approximately 28 total. Both the State University System of Florida and the Florida College System are public systems. Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida consist of private educational colleges and universities. There are approximately 29 of these institutions in Florida. The Florida Department of Education manages public education in the state from kindergarten through the 12th grade.