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• Biodiversity Home • Field surveys • Biodiversity in Perth • Flora and Fauna in Art • Encouraging Biodiversity •

Flora and Fauna in city art and architecture

Native plants and animals have been used to decorate items from ball gowns to city buildings. Here are some of our favourites in the city of Perth.

This kangaroo is in the stained glass window above the entrance of the Young Australia League (YAL) building on Murray St, Perth.
Swans have been used as decoration on buildings, on bridges. Here is a particularly nice one on the front of 57 Murray St, Perth.

57 Murray St, Perth

The Perth Mint, Hay St The Perth Mint, which was built in 1896, has banksia nuts in the decorative frieze around the outside of the building.
Gumnuts and gum leaves of the marri tree inspired this more sophisticated vent by sculptor Edward Kohler in the Karrakatta Crematorium (now demolished). Our thanks to Dr Robyn Taylor for this photo (right). Marri vent. Edward Kohler

Gleddon Arcade, Hay St, Perth

Gleddon Arcade, Hay St, Perth

Gleddon Arcade, Hay St, Perth Gleddon Arcade, Hay St, Perth

Swans, pelicans and cockatoos decorate the upper walls of Gleddon Arcade (corner Hay and William Streets, Perth). (Above) The University of Western Australia commissioned paintings with flora, fauna, fish and birdlife characteristic of Western Australia. The nankeen night herons (above right) can be seen today fishing from the river's edge along Mounts Bay Road at night.

Illuminated Address Native flora was also used in design and decorative work on paper. This illuminated address, presented to the Governor in 1895 was decorated with Calothamnus quadrificus a popular garden plant today. From Wildflowers in Art by Janda Gooding (1991).
A Highgate Primary School student in 1909 used red and green kangaroo paws, cowslip orchids and a swan for this design on paper which was included in a presentation booklet given to a visiting dignitary. From Wildflowers in Art by Janda Gooding (1991). Floral Design


In the good old days, when the range of available vices were much less than today, businesses such as E.S. Lazarus of Standard Place, Perth used to advertise on the back of Collector's cards included in cigarette packets. This handsome swan was one in a series of 60 cards featuring Australian birds and animals.

Wildflowers have always been an important tourism drawcard for Western Australia. This is the cover of a 1939 brochure.

This striking poster shows the city menaced by a giant kangaroo paw .

This friendly Dentist's sign on Hay St is decorated with gum leaves and flowers.

Where else would you expect to find a numbat reading a book...

than at the State Library.

Native animals remain popular themes for public art in the city today, with the kangaroo perhaps just beating the swan for popularity.

This swan is returning to the river after visiting the Bell Tower ...


While this kangaroo contemplates St George's Terrace.


Three topiary kangaroos are emerging in Stirling Gardens next to Council House.

Local company Pennant House have designed this lovely flag for boats on the Swan River. Click here to read more about the flag.

This pair of fish join a seahorse, a turtle balancing on its back, a snake, bearded dragon lizard and other animals in the fountains around the central pagoda in Russell Square, Northbridge. Artists Drago Dadich and Greg James used the animals to tell a story about the history and cultural diversity of Northbridge.

Five boomers bearing briefcases head up the Terrace.


You might think this thong a little over the top for beachwear, but it's actually a fridge magnet complete with black swan, city buildings and wildflowers gracing the heavens.




The black swan reigns supreme on souvenirs with a "Perth" theme. Kangaroo means Australia, but the Black Swan means Perth.

There is a dreamtime story of how two white swans stole the boomerangs of eagles, and as punishment the eagles pulled out all their beautiful white feathers and left them in the desert to die. Their blood stained their grey bills, and crows feeling pity for the swans plucked out their own black feathers and covered the swans in them, so that they would never again be recognized by the eagles.

From Claire Stevenson's Birds of Perth website.

Each State had its own stamps, even after Federation in 1901. Nearly all of Western Australia's stamps, which were produced up till about WWI featured the Swan, though only the first issue was black. The Black Swan was also used on Duty stamps (centre) and other similar products.

Swans have been used as decoration at Parliament House. The old carpet, shown above, was recently replaced by the design below. There are also swans in stained glass windows and in a marquetry floor.
My thanks to John Hyde MLA and Katrina and Mark at John's office for these photos.

Window, Parliament House

Floor, Parliament House

Black Swans were sent around the world as a gift from the people of Western Australia. These swans were sent to Winston Churchill and lived at his country property, Chartwell, where he painted them in 1948.

Matthew Bourne's interpretation was recently seen on Perth. Click here to read about how swans featured in folk tales.

Following are some images from East Perth

This wooden boat on Claisebrook Cove has a water rat inside! Artist Tony Jones


The banksia's distinctive serrated leaves and flowers decorate this screen at the Chinese Consulate in East Perth. Artist Kevin Draper.

A black duck rests on the back of a bronze turtle in the lake above Claisebrook Cove, East Perth.



Identify the five mystery swans below to be in the running for a great prize.

Email your answers or click here to download a printout of the photos and clues to post in. All photos were taken in the city of Perth, Western Australia within 2km (as the crow flies) of Council House.


1. This swan can be seen if you take a cycle ride along the river.

2. This swan is located in the Cityís heart on a public building.

3. This weathered limestone carving of a swan is located between Kings Park and the river on a culturally significant site.

4. This tiny wooden swan is in a prominent location in the city.

5. This metal swan swims along quite close to where the riverís edge used to be.

Email your answers or click here to download a printout of the photos and clues to post in.

Early design for WA Coat of Arms

Here's an early design for a coat of arms for Western Australia featuring the black swan both entire and decapitated while a lady revealing a lot of leg holds a cornucopia of wildflowers. The latin motto "Cygnis Insignis" meaning "distinguished by its swans" was the unofficial motto of WA but was not included when the official design was finally approved in 1969.

And here is "cygnis insignis" on a Wembley Ware plate.
I believe this is State Government crockery.

The entrance to the WA Club on St George's Terrace.

The kangaroo and emu admire the southern cross constellation on this variation on the Australian emblem seen around town on many heads, young and old.

The City of Perth's crest features two swans grasping a shield. This striking version is at Council House.

Either side of the shield are Swan wings elevated Sable, beaked and legged Gules, and gorged round the neck with a Mural Crown Or - that is black swans with their wings raised wearing a gold brickwork crown around their necks in the form of a collar.

The black swan is on the emblem of Hale School which opened in 1858 at the Cloisters with 22 students. The school later moved to Havelock St in West Perth then out to the wilds of Wembley Downs.

The Black Swan is also on the emblem of Scotch College and PLC (Presbyterian Ladies' College). Both of these schools also started in the city and moved elsewhere as they grew.

This swan, which appears to be coming in to land, is on a shield at the southern end of London Court. Most of the decorations in London Court are rampantly British ('a richly detailed Tudor pastiche'), so this black swan is unusual. The pose is also unusual. (Above and below)

Cast iron swans decorate the Horseshoe bridge which connects Perth city to Northbridge (above and below). Built in 1903.

Barrack St bridge, Perth

The nearby Barrack St bridge, constructed in 1894 is also decorated with black swans. (Above and below)

This china ornament celebrated Perth's Centenary in 1929.

Lots of swans and red and green kangaroo paws were in evidence at the bike to work breakfast on March 9th 2007, proudly proclaiming the West Australian nature of clubs and businesses.

The swan logo shows that this company is local.

The over 55s cycle club used a red and green kangaroo paw as the emblem for their 2004 Wildflower Tour. The members of this club are so fit and healthy. Could it be something to do with the kangaroo paw?

WA members of the national Audax cycle club at the bike to work breakfast had this beautiful combination of the state floral and faunal (bird) emblem on their cycle shirts. They also looked fantastically fit and healthy. There's something about these native flora and fauna emblems.

The Australian emblem features a kangaroo and an emu holding a shield representing the states and territories with a background of yellow wattle. According to folklore, the kangaroo in the emblem on the Post Office in Forrest Place is looking over his shoulder towards the city because the maker of the shield had not been paid for his work so he made the kangaroo look towards those who owed him money.

This is the official WA coat of arms featuring the black swan, two red kangaroos holding boomerangs topped by red and green kangaroo paw flowers on either side of the royal crown.

Stamp 1962

The red and green kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos manglesii the Western Australian floral emblem) was featured on a stamp during the 1962 Empire and Commonwealth Games

Stamps 2006

and featured again in 2006.

and again on the front of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's cycling shirt.

The Country Women's Association Western Australian banner.

This seat on the river, by artist Anne Neil has a school of fish as a backrest.

Geckos surround the meteorite in Forrest Place. Artist: Malcolm McGregor.

The sign for this Adelaide Terrace dentist has a Western Spinebill resting on a red and green kangaroo paw flower facing a colourful reef fish. Quite a refreshing sight in the city centre.

These little mice have crept out of a hole in a prominent St George's Terrace building. Not native, but I couldn't resist including them.

Another swan on a shirt used for a WA sporting association.

Flowers and dolphins are used to decorate limestone walls in East Perth. Dolphins are sometimes seen in the river and cove near here.

The East Perth Redevelopment Authority's swan logo tries to fly free.




Swans seen around town (above) and floral logos (below).


Please send in photos where you have seen native flora or fauna used in art, architecture or decoration in Perth city.

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Last updated: 24/03/2014