Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Floral flags

All my life I have loved flags and pennants even though I'm no nationalist flag waver. Most national flags are simple abstract variations of bold colour blocks, as in the French, British or German ensigns, while another popular design variant is the addition of celestial symbols such as the sun, moon and stars, as found in the flags of the United States, Australia, China, Japan and Turkey. Other designs include religious symbols, crests and weapons.

1983 design by Austrian-born artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser
 for the New Zealand national flag, based on an unfurling fern frond
Sadly this design has not been adopted

As a plant lover I was curious to find examples of botanical imagery used in national flags. After some research I found there were surprisingly few sovereign state flags which fit this criteria. While floral emblems are more common in provincial or sub-ordinate political entities flags (such as Hong Kong or Australia's Northern Territory) they are absent from most national designs; perhaps floral imagery is not macho enough for a national symbol.

Arguably, the best known national ensign using a botanical motif is the Canadian flag which was adopted in 1965. The central feature is a single leaf of the endemic sugar maple (Acer saccharum). While the colour is striking the leaf colour of this plant turns dramatically red prior to leaf drop in Autumn.

[Flag ofCanada]
The Canadian flag must be one of the most identifiable flags in the world

After the Canadian flag, the best known flag using a botanical image is that of Lebanon. Their flag includes a stylised Cedar of Lebanon tree (Cedrus libani) at the centre of the design. This conifer is one of the most attractive trees found in nature and makes a fine choice for a national symbol. With all the tensions in that part of the world this symbol is loved and respected by all Lebanese be they Muslim or Christian. What more would you want from a national flag?

File:Flag of Lebanon.png
The flag of Lebanon

Sadly, there are few other botanical examples apart from the Cypress flag which includes olive branches and the British Indian Ocean territory flag which includes a palm. I'm sure I've missed other examples. If I have please let me know.

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