State emblems and insignia


Sturt's desert pea

The government adopted Sturt's desert pea (Swainsona formosa) as the floral emblem of South Australia on 23 November 1961.

The plant formerly known as Clianthus dampieri was first collected by William Dampier when he visited the north-western coast of New Holland in the seventeenth century. The specimens he collected are now in the herbarium at Oxford University. Sturt's desert pea is found over a greater range of South Australia than almost any other plant and is probably the most striking and distinctive of all the plants of inland Australia. The major portion of the state receives less than 381 millimetres of rain per annum and it is in these regions that Sturt's desert pea thrives.

The nearest points to Adelaide that it grows naturally are Burra, and Orroroo. Sturt's desert pea is a member of the legume family and because of its habit of growth and distinctive long and curiously shaped flowers it is highly ornamental. The flowers are usually coloured a scarlet or blood red with a central blue-black blotch or 'boss' in clusters of up to six or eight which are held erect on a short stem above the plant. Variations in colouring are recorded from pure white to pink and through to purple. Such flowers may or may not possess the black blotch.

The plant is picturesque and most attractive with its soft grey foliage produced on the many prostrate stems often up to one to one and a half metres in length. Flowers are produced every 10 to 15 centimetres along these stems and the plant in flower is beautifully set off by the attractive grey pinnate foliage. Sturt's desert pea can be grown readily in a very well draining potting mix or soil mix. The seed should be sown in September or October but because the coating of the seed is impermeable, it should be rubbed between sand-paper or a file or the seed nicked with a knife or soaked in hot water (not boiling) to aid germination. The plant needs a warm, well drained position and it should not be disturbed after planting.

The remarkable outline, shape, and startling colour of the flowers and the leaves of Sturt's desert pea lend themselves to be easily incorporated into design emblems representing South Australia.

Hairy-nosed wombat

The hairy-nosed or plains wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) was adopted by the government as the faunal emblem of South Australia on 27 August 1970.

It is a marsupial indigenous to Australia and totally protected in South Australia. The generic name, Lasiorhinus, means hairy-nosed and the specific name, latifrons, means broad-fronted.

The hairy-nosed wombat is a thick-set powerful mammal with a broad blunt head, small pointed ears, short muscular legs, strongly clawed feet and a rudimentary tail. It has soft grey-brown silky fur.

Adults are up to 30 cm high, 75 to 95 cm long, and weigh between 18 and 32 kilograms. The animal is adapted to life in semi-arid and arid zones and apart from some small colonies in the south-east of Western Australia, is confined to South Australia.

It is most abundant on Eyre Peninsula, the Gawler Ranges and the Nullarbor Plain. Smaller colonies occur on the west bank of the Murray River and on Yorke Peninsula. The hairy-nosed wombat is essentially a plains dweller inhabiting many combinations of soils and vegetation, especially open woodlands and shrub lands.

It is a very powerful digger—only deterred by soft sand and unbroken sheet limestone—and excavates deep cool, humid burrows which are essential for survival in its hot, waterless environment. The wombat feeds exclusively on plant material which often is its only source of water.

A single young measuring only 2 cm in length, is born between September and January and remains entirely confined to its mother's backwardly directed pouch for the next five months.

After this, the young ventures out for increasing periods, continuing to suckle while accustoming itself to adult food. Young wombats continue to live in their mothers' burrows for a further two years before being driven out.


Opal was adopted as the gemstone emblem of South Australia on 15th August 1985. Precious opal ranks with diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire as one of the most valuable of gemstones. South Australia is the world's most important source of this uniquely beautiful gem.

The state's three major opal fields - Coober Pedy, Mintabie, and Andamooka - supply an estimated eighty per cent of total world production. Precious opal, supplied from South Australian mines to the gem centres of the world, will maintain this state's position in the forefront of gemstone producers for many years to come.

Leafy sea dragon

The leafy sea dragon (Phycodurus eques) was adopted by the Government as the marine emblem of South Australia on 8 February 2001.

The leafy sea dragon's distribution is centred on South Australian coastal waters, ranging from Geraldton in Western Australia, along the southern Australian coastline, to Wilsons Promotory in Victoria. Under the Fisheries Act 1982 the leafy sea dragon is a protected species in South Australian waters.

The leafy sea dragon or 'leafy' as it is popularly known, is a relative of the seahorse and belongs to the pipefish family Sygnathidae. It is a unique and spectacular fish, being the only species of the genus Phycodurus. It is one of only two species of seadragons in southern Australia, the other being the weedy seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus).

Their distinguishing and elaborate leaf-like appendages help to camouflage leafy sea dragons among the seaweed. They can change their colour depending on age, diet, location or stress, although most adults are green to yellow-brown with thin, bands or stripes across the body. Being slow moving, they rely heavily on camouflage for survival, however they are also equipped with several long sharp spines along the side of the body which are thought to be used as a defence mechanism against attacking fish.

A unique characteristic of the seahorse, including the leafy sea dragon, is the parenting role of the males. After male and female seadragons pair up in late winter, the female develops around 300 orange coloured eggs in her lower abdominal cavity and the male develops about 120 small pits or 'egg cups' on his tail. The eggs are transferred from the female to the male and fertilized, then carried by the male for an incubation period of about four weeks before young seadragons hatch over several days.

At birth the young are around 20 mm long and so highly susceptible to predation from fish, crustaceans and sea anenomes. The hatching itself is staggered to assist with dispersal and avoid competition for food amongst the young. The young dragons are fast growing, reaching 20 cm after one year and attain mature length after about two years. It is not known how long wild sea dragons live. While they can reach up to 43 cm in the wild, the average size is closer to 30 cm.

The leafy sea dragon inhabits rocky reefs, seaweed beds, seagrass meadows and structures colonised by seaweed. They are highly susceptible to pollution and disturbance and loss of habitat is a major threat to their survival.

Fish such as the sea dragon highlight the high degree of uniqueness or endemism of species that exists in southern temperate waters. Many Australians are not aware of the immense marine biodiversity present off the southern coast.



The State Flag, which is flown from Government buildings and vessels, was authorised by Proclamation on 13 January 1904, and comprises the Blue Ensign with the State Badge in the fly.

In a 1829 mm x 914 mm flag the Badge is 406 mm in diameter and is located in the centre of the fly half of the flag.


The State Badge is described heraldically as:

the Rising Sun Or (gold) with thereon an Australian Piping Shrike displayed proper, and standing on a staff of a gum tree raguly (bough), gules (red) and vert (green)

The State Badge was notified by a proclamation gazetted on the 14th January, 1904. This proclamation declares the Badge of the State to be a Piping Shrike, the original drawing of which was carried out in 1904 by Robert Craig of the School of Arts and a later drawing in 1910 by Harry P Gill, who was the Principal of the School of Arts.

The Piping Shrike or White Backed Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen leuconota) is found in open timbered country in South Eastern Australia and has been introduced into New Zealand.

State colours

Red, blue and gold were adopted as the official State Colours of South Australia on 25 November 1982.

The colours can be used by individuals or organisations without permission.

Coat of arms

The State Coat of Arms conferred in a proclamation gazetted on the 19th April, 1984 replaces an earlier Coat of Arms conferred by King Edward VIII in 1936.

The Armorial Bearings are described heraldically as:

for Arms, Azure on the rising sun depicted as a roundel or an Australian Piping Shrike displayed and standing on the staff of a Gum Tree proper and for the Crest on a wreath or Azure and Gules Four sprigs of Sturt's Desert Pea proper the Shield upon a Compartment comprising a grassy mount and in front of two Vines growing therefrom each entwining their stakes proper on either side thereof stalks of Wheat and Barley and the dexter side scattered with Citrus Fruits and lying on the sinister side two Cog Wheels with between them a Miner's Pick also proper together with on a Scroll the name "South Australia ".

Related information


Protocol Unit
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
GPO Box 2343
Adelaide SA 5001

Phone - 8226 3631
Fax - 8226 9421
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Page last updated: 24 February 2014