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23 Important Symbols of Nature With Meanings

Lake waters evening.

Nature is, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful things in this world. Even when you have tall skyscrapers or other incredible man-made structures, there’s nothing that can beat the raw beauty of nature. 

Be it the deep blue sea that stretches out to the horizons, a bewitching sunset casting the skies in a red hue, or even something as simple as a sunny day can lift your spirits like nothing else and put your soul at ease. 

Nature has the power to make you happy as well as sad. It can be tranquilizing as well as terrifying. It is full of secrets and mysteries. No matter how much we try and dig deeper, nature always manages to surprise us and leaves us awestruck. 

More importantly, nature is always around us. The breeze blowing through your window, that leaf pushing its way out of a piece of concrete, the dust particles you see swirling in a patch of sunlight. While we may not realize it, signs of nature are all around us.

Below are 23 of the most important symbols of nature:

1. Leaf (Universal)

A leafy green plant.
A leaf as a symbol of nature
Image courtesy: piqsels.com

When you think of nature, the very first thing that comes to mind is a leaf, or tree, or some kind of plant with leaves. This is what makes it one of the primary and most common symbols of nature. It represents various facets of nature as well. 

For instance, it represents the power of nature and how it enables a seed sown in the ground to grow and become a leaf or even a full tree. Moreover, that same leaf serves as food for other creatures in the world, thereby symbolizing the cycle of life in nature. 

2. Awen (Celtics)

Celtic trinity symbol.
Celtic trinity symbol / British druid order Awen symbol 
Awen by Andrew Cameron from the Noun Project

The Celtic symbol Awen roughly translates to inspiration or signifies the essence of something. Consequently, it is often used to symbolize the essence of nature.

The symbol consists of three concentric circles with three lines, or ‘rays of light,’ leading up to three dots within them. The three lines in the middle, in particular, have a strong connection with nature. 

Sometimes, they are associated with the different realms within nature, such as air, water, and land. According to Druid beliefs, the three lines are used to symbolize knowledge, truth, and nature, the three things needed to erase darkness. 

3. Bears (Universal)

A bear in the woods.
A bear as a symbol of nature
Image courtesy: pikrepo.com

While all animals are a part of nature and symbolize the diversity within it, the bear specifically is most closely associated with nature.

There are many different types of bears, and usually, most of them are found in the deepest parts of nature. Other animals can be found in our urban city settings, but bears are usually restricted to the wild. 

Additionally, bears are associated with power and brute force, which are some classic characteristics of nature as well. They have a strong physical presence, much like nature itself. They can provide protection as well as healing and adapt to various situations.

4. Sun (Universal)

The sun shining over a field.
The sun as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: photostockeditor.com

Similar to leaves, the sun is an integral part of nature. Everyone and everything in the world depends on the sun, in one way or the other.

The sun helps grow plants, which serves as an important source of nutrition for many living things. It controls the weather, climate, oceans, and much more. It keeps the world warm and provides a bright source of light. 

It plays an important role in many of nature’s processes. Without the sun, there would be no nature or any kind of life on earth. Even though it exists millions of kilometers away from the earth, its powerful force continues to impact the world. 

5. Earth (Universal)

A view of earth from outer space.
Planet earth as a symbol of nature
D2Owiki, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The planet earth itself is a big symbol of nature as well. As compared to the other planets in the solar system, the earth is the only one that we know of, with such conditions and climate that allows nature to thrive and sustain life. 

Moreover, the whole world, i.e., the entire earth, is full of nature. From one end to the other, from its surface to its core, the earth is full of nature’s phenomena.

Almost everything that defines or comes under nature can be found somewhere on the planet. In fact, the earth and nature are so expansive that scientists and researchers could probably never uncover all of it. 

6. Soil (Universal)

Soil with plants growing on them.
Soil as a symbol of nature
Image courtesy: wikimedia.org

Leaves are a significant symbol representing nature. However, to obtain leaves, you need soil first. Consequently, soil or mud has come to represent nature in many ways as well. 

It symbolizes an important step within nature’s processes where one has to bury a seed deep within the soil and water it to see the seed sprout into a plant. Almost all living things in nature go through a similar process. 

Furthermore, soil makes up a large part of nature too as most trees, plants, flowers, etc., grow from soil only.

Soil also embodies the miraculous nature of nature and how it has the power to convert something small and insignificant into an essential source of nutrition for all other creatures in nature. 

7. Land (Universal)

Barren land with mountains in the distance.
Land as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: pikrepo.com

The next four symbols are critical elements that are considered to be the pillars of nature. In certain religions and cultures, there can be five or six of these, but most commonly, these four are the most widely accepted.

These four elements are also considered the four elements of matter. 

The first of these is land. Land over here is different from the soil. Rather, it refers to the actual ground or the pieces of land that the world is made of, and is usually referred to as earth. This consists of rocks, stones, and even metal and glass. 

Accordingly, you can see how nature has vast deposits of different rocks and minerals. Similarly, you can find great stone structures, such as the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest which are natural earth structures.

The precious stones that we mine and use to decorate various things also come from nature and are another example of the land element.

8. Fire (Universal)

Fire as a symbol of nature.
Fire as a symbol of nature
Virginie Moerenhout, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The second element is fire. While fire is seen as destructive and considered dangerous, the truth is that it is an important part of nature.

Even before humans discovered fire for the first time, it still existed in nature and played an important role in maintaining the natural order of things. 

Wildfires helped clear away the dead matter on forest floors and return important nutrients back to the soil. Certain animals and plants actually depend on fires for survival. 

Fires usually don’t cause a lot of animal casualties as they flee to safety and they can actually help get rid of invasive and dangerous species. Therefore, fires play an important role within nature in maintaining balance and helping life to thrive.

9. Air (Universal)

Air above the clouds.
Air as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: piqsels.com

The third element is air. Air is another crucial symbol of nature as it has an interdependent role. Made up of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and many other gases, air is crucial for the survival of many creatures within nature, from humans to animals to plants. 

However, those who use this air also have an impact on the quality of the air present in nature. Places where a volcano erupts can have toxic air which is hard to breathe.

Similarly, in other parts of nature, such as the ocean, the air can be cool and refreshing.

10. Water (Universal)

Turquoise water running in a river.
Water as a symbol of nature
Leo Rivas-Micoud leorivasmicoud, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The last element is water. Nature, which broadly consists of all natural physical matter on earth, is largely made up of water.

The actual earth itself is around three-quarters water and so is the human body that inhabits the earth. 

Besides that, nature is also all about life and nurturing life on earth, and accordingly, water is a major component needed for survival for almost every living thing.

It is a basic physiological need. Many of nature’s phenomena also take up some form of water, such as rains, snows, rivers, and so on.

11. Green (Universal)

The color green.
The color green as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: pixahive.com

The color green is one of the most significant symbols of nature. Nature predominantly consists of objects that are green in color, such as trees, grass, and leaves which are a symbol of nature itself. As a result, green is now associated with nature itself. 

The color is used to symbolize many qualities of nature, such as life, freshness, tranquility, renewal, rebirth, growth, fertility, and much more.

Companies use green to highlight the natural quality of their products and nature-friendly campaigns make heavy use of the color as well to show their love for nature.

12. Circle (Universal)

 A circular moon.
A circle as a symbol of nature / A circular moon.
Image Courtesy: pikrepo.com

Circles are associated with nature for several reasons as well. For starters, the earth is (kind of) a circle. The sun and moon are also circles and they play important roles within nature.

Many of nature’s creations are circles or oval, such as various fruits, plants, flowers, and even some creatures. 

Besides that, circles are also associated with nature because they represent some of its inherent qualities. For instance, just like how nature is reminiscent of life, growth, and a never-ending cycle, a circle symbolizes the same things.

It is a complete and whole shape, much like life. It has no corners and essentially keeps going, thereby representing growth and the cycle of life.

13. Gaia (Ancient Greece)

A figurine of Gaia.
The goddess Gaia as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: pixabay.com

Also known as the earth goddess, Gaia is the very first ancient Greek goddess to live. According to Greek mythology, Gaia represents the earth itself and is considered to be the mother of all living things on earth.

She has given birth to all things and is responsible for nurturing, nourishing, and protecting them as well. 

This is why Gaia is also believed to personify Mother Nature. She is considered the source of all life and fertility. There are several stories about the goddess as well, such as how she gave birth to the titans who later took over the world.

14. Malachite (Universal)

A malachite.
The malachite stone as a symbol of nature
Photo by carole smile on Unsplash

Malachite is a beautiful stone that is used to symbolize nature due to many reasons.

Firstly, the stone is green with intricate patterns and as mentioned before, the color green has a strong association with nature. 

Moreover, the stone is usually associated with abundance, balance, transformation, and overall healing and protection. These are all associations that can be made with nature as well, such as how it is full of abundant resources, how it maintains a balance between life and death, and how it nurtures and nourishes life. 

15. Forest (Universal)

A forest.
Forests as a symbol of nature
Sebastian Unrau sebastian_unrau, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Forests are also a crucial symbol of nature. They are a classic example of how nature always keeps life going, in one way or the other.

The forest has a complete food chain, with every animal serving as food for another. 

Moreover, when the animals die or even old plants and leaves die, they decompose and provide nutrients to the soil. The plants that grow from this soil serve as foods for other animals and so the cycle begins again.

Additionally, forests also represent a fraction of the diversity that is present within nature.

16. Lightning (Universal)

A lightning strike.
Lightning as a symbol of nature
Sunilvirus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lightning is one of nature’s most beautiful yet deadly phenomena. It is basically an electrical discharge that is caused by an imbalance between clouds, or the cloud and the ground.

Lightning strikes are incredibly powerful, with a strike on the ground containing almost one billion volts of electricity. 

Contrary to popular belief, lightning can strike the same point twice. Besides that, while up till now, we’ve focused on the nourishing and nurturing parts of nature, lightning represents the more destructive part of it.

And, it just goes to show nature corrects itself and restores balance by causing destruction when needed.

17. Motherhood (Universal)

A baby clutching its mother’s fingers.
Motherhood as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: piqsels.com

There is a reason nature is often referred to as Mother Nature. Similar to the Gaia symbol, motherhood is a significant symbol used to represent nature. This is because motherhood is much like nature itself. 

Just how a mother gives birth to a child, nature has given birth to everything on earth. Just how a mother nourishes, protects, and heals her child by sacrificing her own body, so does nature through its own resources.

Just how a child depends on its mother for survival, so do all living things rely on nature.

18. Human Hands (Universal)

A pair of hands holding a plant.
Human hands as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: piqsels.com

Human hands are one of the more recent symbols used to represent nature. This is because today, there is a much more stark contrast between that which is natural and that which is not. 

Things that are not natural tend to come from machines and robots and other similar technical creations.

As a result, human hands and things that come from human hands, which are nature’s creation itself, symbolize nature. 

19. Apple (Universal)

An apple.
An apple as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: images.pexels.com

An apple holds various meanings in different religions and cultures. However, from a very neutral point of view, the fruit is used to represent nature and its abundance. 

While nature consists of many fruits, the apple, in particular, is associated with it the most, due to its long history and many meanings. Apples are associated with health and fertility, which are associated with nature as well.

20. Spring (Universal)

The spring season as a symbol of nature
A field full of spring flowers
Image Courtesy: pixabay.com

Again, all seasons are a part of nature’s cycle, but the spring season specifically symbolizes nature the most.

Much like nature, the spring season is all about new life, growth, fertility, and energy. The season comes right after the cold and dead winter and puts life back into everything.

It showers plants with warmth, brightness, and nourishment, allowing them to grow and flourish. 

21. Flowers (Universal)

A jar full of flowers.
Flowers as a symbol of nature
Annie Spratt anniespratt, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Similar to the spring season, flowers are often associated with nature. For starters, because flowers are a classic sign of spring, and spring symbolizes nature.

Other than that, flowers also come with a lot of diversity and a lot of beauty within that diversity. This is also similar to how nature manifests diversity within its creations as well.

22. Butterfly (Universal)

A butterfly on a flower.
A butterfly as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: piqsels.com

A butterfly is one of the prettiest creatures in nature. It is also one creature that goes through an intense, transformative process, much like how nature has the power to transform things into something you could never imagine before. 

Besides that, butterflies represent an important aspect of life, and that is change. Everyone must go through this change to become a better version of themselves, or else they will not only be putting themselves in danger but also missing out on a lot of life’s opportunities.

23. Bird Songs (Universal)

Birds flying in a city.
Bird songs as a symbol of nature
Image Courtesy: piqsels.com

Bird songs and bird calls are a reminder that nature is always around us, even when we might think that we are far from it. 

Even when you are in the busiest and most urban places in a city, there’s always one part of nature that is always there, and those are bird songs.

You can hear them right as the day breaks every single day, and feel yourself getting relaxed as you absorb those bird songs and chirps in your mind.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps the greatest symbol of nature is us, mankind itself. Nature is key to our survival and where there is no nature and just dead, barren land, it will be hard to find life either.

This is why no planets up till now have shown any evidence of life as their environment does not support the growth of nature. 

Nature is all about life, nurturing it, nourishing it, and we are the emblem of life and nurturing. However, just as we depend on nature, nature depends on us as well. That’s why it is so crucial to remember it and care for it consciously, especially in these environmentally troubling times. 

Hopefully, these 23 symbols of nature will help us all connect better with nature in order to give back and restore balance in the world.

References:

  1. The Awen Celtic Symbol – The Three Rays of Light from Ancient Times. https://irisharoundtheworld.com/awen-celtic-symbol/ 
  2. The 25 Spirit Animals & the Amazing Meanings Behind Them All. https://educateinspirechange.org/25-spirit-animals-amazing-meanings-behind/ 
  3. Elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. https://learning-center.homesciencetools.com/article/four-elements-science/#:~:text=Elements%3A%20Earth%2C%20Water%2C%20Air%2C%20and%20Fire,-Discover%20how%20the 
  4. Color Meaning: Meaning of the Color Green. https://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-green/ 
  5. The Meaning of Shapes in Design. https://www.whiteriverdesign.com/meaning-shapes-design/#:~:text=Circles%20and%20ovals,message%20of%20harmony%20and%20protection.&text=Circles%20have%20no%20beginning%20or,to%20mention%20fruit%20and%20flowers. 
  6. Gaia – The Greek Earth Goddess. https://symbolsage.com/gaia-greek-earth-goddess/ 

Header image courtesy: Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Cite this article

The Editors of Give Me History, "23 Important Symbols of Nature With Meanings," Give Me History, September 2, 2021, https://www.givemehistory.com/symbols-of-nature.

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