.A Vote For California’s State Slug

The banana slug glides its way into legislation

Gliding across the California redwood, a 10-inch slimy and bright yellow slug has weaved its way into the 2024 California legislative session with Assembly Bill 1850, which would make the banana slug the official state slug. 

A banana slug is a member of the Ariolimacidae family and can be found up and down the California coast from San Diego to Del Norte and, of course, Santa Cruz. They are most prominently found within California and are very beneficial to the state’s plant life.   

The goal of recognizing the banana slug as the official state slug is to help preserve the species. By naming the banana slug the official state slug, California hopes to enhance education, appreciation and research of the banana slug, according to the bill’s text.   

AB1850, authored by Gail Pellerin, (D-Santa Cruz), was introduced in January.  

 “I see this bill as a way of demystifying government and making that connection with civic engagement from a young age,” Pellerin said.  “A lot of kids in our district and actually around the state have been really interested in this bill and kind of following it through the government process and the legislative process.”    

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  All over Santa Cruz, the banana slug is a prominent figure; it can be found within the redwood forests and on the UCSC campus. 

  The banana slug is so sacred to the University of California Santa Cruz, that they have made it the campus mascot for more than 25 years, naming it Sammy the Banana Slug.

It is known by pronouns “they/them,” said Scott Hernandez-Jason, UCSC assistant vice chancellor of communication and marketing.

“I think this bill is another way to draw attention to the amazing biodiversity of our state and also at the same time teach people about why the banana slug deserves to be our state slug,”  said Hernandez-Jason.

Unlike some garden slugs, the banana slug is very helpful, said nursery technician at the University of California Davis, Marlene Simon.  “They’re almost kind of like the recyclers and composers of the forest. They’re the good slugs,”  said Simon.

There are multiple species of banana slugs all ranging in size and color.  

“You can find banana slugs all over the redwood forest and it’s really interesting because they eat a little bit of everything, ”said scientist Laura Lalemand of Save the Redwood League. “They’ll eat dead animals, they’ll eat dead vegetation and plant material, and they’ll even eat plants, but they do not eat redwoods.”  

They clean up the environment as they go by nourishing the forest trees by breaking down and composting waste on the forest floors.  Banana slugs can be bright yellow, brown, white and green. In Santa Cruz, yellow is the most common color. 

The state tree of California is the redwood and around California the banana slug can often be found in the nook and crannies of the tree’s branches. They are also known to eat the competing young shoots that go against the redwood species.   

Without banana slugs, there would be no thriving redwood trees and without the moist redwood forest environment,  there would be no slugs.   

“Redwood trees create this nice moist environment that allows the banana slugs to thrive and move around while finding mates,” Lalemand said. “Besides the moisture part of it all, all those nook and cranny places to hide and store food are what make the redwood a great habitat for the banana slug.”  

The banana slug would join other state symbols including the state bat, the pallid bat, and the state mushroom, the Californian Golden Chanterelle. 

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