Updated 28 October 2014

New natural wonder: Giant living SA flag

A huge South African flag, made up of millions of coloured desert plants and solar panels, will soon be visible in the Karoo – and from space.


The aim of the Giant Flag projectis to create a world-first tourist attraction, as well as green-collar jobs and clean energy in the area it is to be "planted" – the Cambedoo Karoo desert region just outside the town of Graaff Reinet in the Eastern Cape.

At 66 hectares (66 soccer fields), the living flag should be visible from space. The green, red, blue and gold sections will be comprised of appropriately-hued desert plants, while the black section will be formed by a bank of solar panels.

White roads between the coloured sections will represent the white lines on the flag, and provide walkways for visitors.

'Not just planting a few cacti'

The organisers, FCB South Africa, stress that the project is not merely for visual effect: the 2.5 million succulents and cacti, planted in what is currently a barren area, will offset around 87 000 tons of carbon annually - a significant contribution to fighting climate change.

In addition, the 4-megawatt solar field will be able to provide power to over 4000 homes.

Adopt your piece of the flag

The construction will be largely crowd-funded: members of the public can “adopt” a piece of the Giant Flag by buying a plant, a section of road or a solar panel.

The plants that make up the coloured sections cost $10 (R109) each; a section of white road is $100 (1090); and a black solar panel is $250 (R2736).

Red will be denoted by the Mexican Fire Barrel, a drought-resistant cactus with scarlet blooms.

Green: The Spekboom succulent is highly effective at absorbing CO2 and keeping it
out of the atmosphere. Up to four tons of carbon could be captured per hectare annually.

Blue: The 'Blue Butterfly' agave has the potential to serve as a bio-energy crop.

Yellow: The Golden Barrel cactus (‘Mother-in-Law’s Cushion’).

White: The white walkway will allow visitors to tour the Giant Flag up close.

Black: The solar field will also act as a canopy to a conference centre, hotel, training facilities and commercial space. The Flag will be completely “off the grid”, so not reliant on municipal services.

Sponsored "adoptions" of pieces of the flag have already reached 24% of the project's target budget. Construction of the flag is planned to begin in early 2015.

Watch: Giant Flag crowd funder: how it works

Become part of the Giant Flag

Follow the Giant Flag on Twitter and Facebook.

Read more:

The best trees to plant for the environment
Is planting trees stupid?

Olivia Rose-Innes is Health24’s EnviroHealth Editor. Read more of her columns and articles or post a question to her expert forum.


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