Protea – National Flower
The King (or giant) Protea is the national flower of South Africa and is widely distributed in the South-western and Southern areas of the Western Cape. This is a beautiful pink flower that can be found in the Fynbos area. There are over 114 species in Africa, of which 82 occur in Southern Africa. Of these, 69 are found in the coastal region of the Cape Province. The genus is part of the Proteacaeae and is confined to the Southern Hemisphere. The Protea also lends its name to the national cricket team of South Africa.
Springbok – National Animal
The Springbok is a small brown and white antelope that stands about 80 cm high. The male can weigh anything up to 50 kg while the females can weigh up to 38 kg. Typical of this species is the jumping display, which leads to its common name. “Spring” is the Afrikaans word for jump and “bok” means antelope or deer. The springbok lives in the dry inland areas of central Africa. They used to be very common, but the numbers have been declining, due to increased hunting and more land being fenced off as farms. They do remain common though on privately owned land and in national parks. The Springbok is also the name of the national rugby team.
From time to time the Springbok goes into repeated high leaps of up to 4 meters into the air. This is known as “pronking”. “Pronk” is the Afrikaans word for showing off. While the Springbok does this, he leaps back into the air as soon as it lands again, with his back bowed and the white fan lifted. Springboks show this behaviour when they are nervous or otherwise excited. One of the theories why they “pronk”, is to show off their strength and fitness to their predators so they can go focus a weaker member of the group. Another theory is that this indicates to the predator that they have been spotted. When they try and flee from a predator, the Springbok doesn’t “pronk”, but they run at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour.
Galjoen – National Fish – Native to South Africa
The Galjoen (known as black bream or black fish in KwaZulu-Natal) is a game fish that is only found along the South African coast. It keeps to shallow water, often found in rough surf or sometimes right next to the shore, known to every angler. The Galjoen is almost completely black when near the rocks, while its colour is silver-bronze when in sandy areas.
This fish can be over 50 cm in length and 6 kg in weight, but the average fish is a little smaller. Its fins are well-developed with a prominent spine and the scales are very firmly attached. The Galjoen mainly eats red bait and small mussels.
Blue Crane – National Bird – Native to South Africa
The Blue Crane (bloukraanvoël) is very elegant, stands about one meter high and is almost entirely restricted to South Africa. It is pale blue-grey in colour with a white crown, a pink bill and a long and very dark grey wing tip feathers which trail to the ground. They live of the dry, grassy uplands and feed on seeds and insects. They are altitude migrants, moving down to lower altitudes for the winter.
The Blue Crane is the most restricted in its distribution of the 15 crane species. A sudden population decline from around the 1980 has caused for the Blue Crane to now be classified as critically endangered. The population in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and Gauteng Provinces has declined by 90% in the last two decades and has largely disappeared from the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and Swaziland. A small number still remains in Namibia and isolated breeding pairs are found in the bordering countries. The 2 biggest reasons for the decline are human population growth and deliberate poisoning to protect crops. The government has stepped up legal protection and conservation measures are taken to protect this endangered bird.
Real Yellowwood – National Tree – Native to South Africa
The real Yellowwood has been present in this part of Africa for more than 100 millions years. This is a very large, slow-growing, evergreen tree that grows up to 40m high with a trunk diameter of around 3m. The leaves are strap-shaped and can be around 25 mm long on mature trees or even 100 mm on larger trees. The cones are berry like and have a single seed that is around 10 mm. The aril is edible and nice and sweet. The bark is a khaki colour when young, but can turn greyish when it is old. Only a little of these trees are being cut down today.
The real Yellowwood is native to the moister southern areas of the country. It is widespread and can be found from Table Mountain in the Western Cape, along the Drakensberg in the KwaZulu-Natal province (in the east) up to the Soutpansberg and Blouberg in the Limpopo Province, up north.
I was born in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa and grew up in Vereeniging. The first time I left home was in 2002 to go to England on a working holiday. Met my husband halfway around the world, got married in South Africa and now have 2 beautiful children. One boy and one girl... Started writing down recipes I grew up with when I was living in England and love sharing them with others.