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Protea lepidocarpodendron x neriifolia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
Order: Proteales
Family: Proteaceae
Subfamily: Proteoideae
Genus: Protea

See text

Protea (pronounced /ˈproʊtiːə/)[1] is both the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of flowering plants, sometimes also called sugarbushes.

The genus Protea was named in 1735 by Carolus Linnaeus after the Greek god Proteus who could change his form at will, because proteas have such different forms. Linneaus's genus was formed by merging a number of genera previously published by Herman Boerhaave, although precisely which of Boerhaave's genera were included in Linnaeus's Protea varied with each of Linnaeus's publications.

Proteas attracted the attention of botanists visiting the Cape of Good Hope in the 1600s. Many species were introduced to Europe in the 1700s, enjoying a unique popularity at the time amongst botanists.

The Proteaceae family to which Proteas belong is an ancient one. Its ancestors grew in Gondwanaland, 300 million years ago. Proteaceae is divided into two subfamilies: the Proteoideae, best represented in southern Africa, and the Grevilleoideae, concentrated in Australia and South America and the other smaller segments of Gondwanaland that are now part of eastern Asia. Africa shares only one genus with Madagascar, whereas South America and Australia share many common genera — this indicates they separated from Africa before they separated from each other.

Most protea occur south of the Limpopo River. However, Protea kilimanjaro is found in the chaparral zone of Mount Kenya National Park. 92% of the species occur only in the Cape Floristic Region, a narrow belt of mountainous coastal land from Clanwilliam to Grahamstown, South Africa. The extraordinary richness and diversity of species characteristic of the Cape Flora is thought to be caused in part by the diverse landscape where populations can become isolated from each other and in time develop into separate species.



Within the huge family Proteaceae, they are a member of the subfamily Proteoideae, which has Southern African and Australian members.


Protea Pink ice

(listed by section: a section has a name in two parts, consisting of the genus name and an epithet).

  • Protea section Leiocephalae
    • Protea caffra (Common Protea)
    • Protea dracomontana
    • Protea glabra
    • Protea inopina
    • Protea nitida
    • Protea nubigena
    • Protea parvula
    • Protea petiolaris
    • Protea rupicola
    • Protea simplex
  • Protea section Paludosae
    • Protea enervis
King Protea (Protea cynaroides)
King Protea (Protea cynaroides)
  • Protea section Cristatae
    • Protea asymmetrica
    • Protea wentzeliana
  • Protea section Paracynaroides
    • Protea cryophila (Snow Protea)
    • Protea pruinosa
    • Protea scabriuscula
    • Protea scolopendriifolia
King Protea (Protea cynaroides)
  • Protea section Ligulatae
  • Protea section Microgeantae
    • Protea acaulos
    • Protea convexa
    • Protea laevis
    • Protea revoluta
    • Protea ungustata
  • Protea section Crinitae
    • Protea foliosa
    • Protea intonsa
    • Protea montana
    • Protea tenax
    • Protea vogtsiae
  • Protea section Pinifolia
    • Protea acuminata
    • Protea canaliculata
    • Protea nana
    • Protea pityphylla
    • Protea scolymocephala
    • Protea witzenbergiana
  • Protea section Craterifolia
    • Protea effusa
    • Protea namaquana
    • Protea pendula
    • Protea recondita
    • Protea sulphurea
  • Protea section Obvallatae
    • Protea caespitosa
  • Protea section Subacaules
    • Protea aspera
    • Protea denticulata
    • Protea lorea
    • Protea piscina
    • Protea restionifolia
    • Protea scabra
    • Protea scorzonerifolia

National symbol

Together with the Springbok Antelope, the Protea had been treated as a sometimes controversial national symbol in South Africa, both during and after apartheid.

The former South African Prime Minister and architect of apartheid, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, had a dream to change the then-current Flag of South Africa and have in its center a leaping Springbok Antelope over a wreath of six Proteas. This proposal, however, aroused too much controversy and was never implemented.

After the demise of apartheid, the ANC government decreed that South African sporting teams, hitherto called "Springboks" were to be known as "The Proteas", although an exemption was made for the rugby union team, who remain "Springboks". In apartheid times, the "Proteas" was the Cape Coloured representative team.[2]


  1. ^ "Protea". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
    Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ Grundlingh, A. M.; André Odendaal, S. B. Spies (1995). Beyond the Tryline: Rugby and South African Society. Ravan Press. p. 92. ISBN 0869754572.  

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Proteas




Greek Linneus 1707 - 1778: Named after Proteus the Greek warden of sea beasts, renowned for his ability to change shape.

Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:



  1. a taxonomic genus, within tribe Proteeae - the proteas
Wikispecies has information on:


See also

  • See Wikispecies for species


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Protea coronata.


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Ordo: Unassigned Eudicots
Ordo: Proteales
Familia: Proteaceae
Subfamilia: Proteoideae
Tribus: Proteeae
Genus: Protea
Species: P. acaulos - P. burchellii - P. coronata - P. cynaroides - P. lepidocarpodendron - P. longifolia - P. neriifolia - P. nitida - P. repens - P. speciosa - P. scolymocephala

Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Protea on Wikimedia Commons.

Simple English

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked) Eudicots
Order: Proteales
Family: Proteaceae
Subfamily: Proteoideae
Genus: Protea

See text

The Protea (giant Protea known as Protea cynaroides) is part of an ancient plant family, the Proteaceae, which had already divided into two subfamilies before the break-up of the Gondwanaland continent about 140 million years ago. Both subfamilies, the Proteoideae and the Grevilleoideae, occur mainly in the southern hemisphere. In southern Africa there are about 360 species, mainly from the subfamily Proteoideae, of which more than 330 species are confined to the Cape Foral Kingdom, between Nieuwoudtville in the northwest and Grahamstown in the east. Protea cynaroides belongs to the genus Protea, which has more than 92 species, subspecies and varieties. Other well-known genera of the Proteaceae are the Leucospermum with the brightly coloured "pincushion" flowers, Leucadendron with yellow or red-brown foliage and Serruria, of which the Serruria florida or "Blushing Bride" with its pale pink flowers is widely used in bridal bouquets. Plants in the subfamily Grevilleoideae occur mainly in Australia. The Protea (Protea cynaroides) is the national flower of South Africa.[1]

The variety in plant size, habit, flower size and colour of the genus Protea was the reason it was named after the Greek god Proteus, who could change his shape at will. The flower bud of Protea cynaroides looks remarkably like the globe artichoke vegetable with the Latin name of Cynara scolymus and this led the botanist Linnaeus to give it the species name cynaroides.[2]


The protea can grow only after a fire.[3] As a simple explanation, it is because the head of this national flower has seeds inside, which can stay tightly sealed in a hard shell for almost 20 years. The shell does not open until it becomes scorched and the fire is all over. The light, fluffy seeds are then blown to the ground by the wind, where they all begin to grow again.[4]


  1. "South Africa's national symbols". South African Government Online. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  2. Cape Flower Fields, Proteas
  3. Haggett, Peter (2002). Encyclopedia of world geography. Volume 17 (Illustrated second edition ed.). Marshall Cavendish. pp. 3456. ISBN 9780761473060. 
  4. Protea atlas Project - growing Proteas


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