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A symbolistic portrayal of South Africa

Are South Africa’s 5 national symbols timeless? Many of the country’s national symbols are on the endangered list, namely the  Blue Crane, Yellowwood tree, and the Galjoen fish. The Rainbow Nation of South Africa has 5 national symbols. Namely the King Protea flower, Blue Crane bird, Yellowwood tree, Galjoen fish, and Springbok animal.

King Protea South Africa

The King Protea

Something unusual about this plant is that it gets its water from the fog. Moist collects on the surface of the leaves. Subsequently, the leaves absorb the moist.

This beauty is not just a feast for your eyes but also a feast to sunbirds, sugarbirds, honeybees, monkey beetles, rove beetles, and scarab beetles for its nectar. In return, they are responsible for the pollination of the King Protea. Its seeds are also a favorite of many birds and mammals.

The King Protea, also the national cricket team’s nickname (“Proteas”), is the ultimate portrayal of endurance. Wildfires often ravage through fields, yet this indigenous plant survives time after time. Thanks to its underground stem filled with dormant buds, the plant sprouts shortly after a fire. It will survive up to 15 years through similar conditions.

Galjoen South Africas national fish


Also known as the Blackfish or Black Bream, it is an integral part of South African cuisine. That is if you can find it.  The Galjoen is on the endangered list. Only recreational fisherman with a valid permit may catch them. However, they are not allowed to sell their catch.


bream fish lemon
A mature Yellowwood tree
Yellowwood foliage South Africas national tree

The Yellowwood tree (Podocarpus latifolius)

To maturity, this national symbol can take up to 10 years. This Broad-Leaved Yellowwood or Real Yellowwood (as it is also known) can grow up to 35 meters with a trunk up to 3 meters in diameter.

Its wood is popular in Cape Dutch architecture for the making of floors, roof beams, and furniture. Because the wood is so hard and without any scent, it’s also a popular butcher’s block. In some regions of South Africa, the tree is extinct and may only be damaged if formally permitted by the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

Blue Crane bird

These elegant light blue-grey birds are native to South Africa and classified as critically endangered. The Blue Crane has largely disappeared from the Eastern Cape, Lesotho, and Swaziland.

Thanks to the efforts of the Overberg Crane Group to protect the Blue Cranes, you will spot them in fields of the Overberg region.  By the way, the Overberg region sits east of Cape Town beyond the Hottentots-Holland mountains on the south coast.

In Xhosa tradition, you would be awarded feathers from the Blue Crane bird if you did something heroic or outstandingly important. In the Zulu tradition only, royalty was allowed to wear the Blue Crane’s feathers.


The Springbok is in the same family as antelope and goats. You are most likely to spot them around dawn and dusk. Springboks love pronking (or stotting). Pronking is when they jump up to 2 meters high with all four feet lifted into the air simultaneously. This jump is not only an act of pleasure but a signal to predators that they are not worth pursuing!

South Africa’s national rugby team is named after the Springboks.

Springbok South Africas national animal
Springbok pronking
Blue Crane South Africas national bird
Blue Crane South Africas national bird 1

With such beauty, no wonder South Africans are so very proud of their 5 national symbols.

Plan your trip to discover South Africa's 5 national symbols

International airport

  • O R Tambo International Airport serves as the country’s primary international airport and is located in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa

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