Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
King protea

King protea

Overview
The King Protea is a flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

. It is a distinctive Protea
Protea
Protea is both the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of flowering plants, sometimes also called sugarbushes.-Etymology:...

, having the largest flower head
Head (botany)
The capitulum is considered the most derived form of inflorescence. Flower heads found outside Asteraceae show lesser degrees of specialization....

 in the genus. The species is also known as Giant Protea, Honeypot or King Sugar Bush. It is widely distributed in the southwestern and southern parts of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 of the fynbos
Fynbos
Fynbos is the natural shrubland or heathland vegetation occurring in a small belt of the Western Cape of South Africa, mainly in winter rainfall coastal and mountainous areas with a Mediterranean climate...

 region.

The King Protea is the National Flower of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. It also is the flagship of the The Protea Atlas Project, run by the South African National Botanical Institute.

The King Protea has several colour forms and horticulturists have recognized 81 garden varieties, some of which have injudiciously been planted in its natural range.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'King protea'
Start a new discussion about 'King protea'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The King Protea is a flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

. It is a distinctive Protea
Protea
Protea is both the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of flowering plants, sometimes also called sugarbushes.-Etymology:...

, having the largest flower head
Head (botany)
The capitulum is considered the most derived form of inflorescence. Flower heads found outside Asteraceae show lesser degrees of specialization....

 in the genus. The species is also known as Giant Protea, Honeypot or King Sugar Bush. It is widely distributed in the southwestern and southern parts of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 of the fynbos
Fynbos
Fynbos is the natural shrubland or heathland vegetation occurring in a small belt of the Western Cape of South Africa, mainly in winter rainfall coastal and mountainous areas with a Mediterranean climate...

 region.

The King Protea is the National Flower of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. It also is the flagship of the The Protea Atlas Project, run by the South African National Botanical Institute.

The King Protea has several colour forms and horticulturists have recognized 81 garden varieties, some of which have injudiciously been planted in its natural range. In some varieties the pink of the flower and red borders of leaves are replaced by a creamy yellow. This unusual flower has a long vase life
Vase life
Vase life is the period of time during which a cut flower or cut foliage retains its appearance in a vase. This is a major consideration in identifying plant species suitable for use in the cut flower industry, plants with a long vase life being far more desirable than those with a short vase life....

 in flower arrangements, and makes for an excellent dried flower.

Protea cynaroides is adapted to survive the fires by its thick underground stem, which contains many dormant buds; these will produce the new growth after the fire.

Taxonomy


P. cynaroides is a species of protea
Protea
Protea is both the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of flowering plants, sometimes also called sugarbushes.-Etymology:...

 in the huge family Proteaceae
Proteaceae
Proteaceae is a family of flowering plants distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The family comprises about 80 genera with about 1600 species. Together with the Platanaceae and Nelumbonaceae they make up the order Proteales. Well known genera include Protea, Banksia, Embothrium, Grevillea,...

. The family comprises about 80 genera
Genera
Genera is a commercial operating system and development environment for Lisp machines developed by Symbolics. It is essentially a fork of an earlier operating system originating on the MIT AI Lab's Lisp machines which Symbolics had used in common with LMI and Texas Instruments...

 with about 1600 species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

. It has Gondwana
Gondwana
In paleogeography, Gondwana , originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago . Gondwana is believed to have sutured between ca. 570 and 510 Mya,...

n distribution, which means that it is mainly spread across the Southern Hemisphere, from Southern Africa
Southern Africa
Southern Africa is the southernmost region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. Within the region are numerous territories, including the Republic of South Africa ; nowadays, the simpler term South Africa is generally reserved for the country in English.-UN...

, across to Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, to South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, although certain species are also found in equatorial Africa, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, southern Asia and Oceania
Oceania
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

 as well.

P. cynaroides is further placed within the subfamily Proteoideae, which is found mainly in Southern Africa. This subfamily is defined as those species having cluster roots, solitary ovule
Ovule
Ovule means "small egg". In seed plants, the ovule is the structure that gives rise to and contains the female reproductive cells. It consists of three parts: The integument forming its outer layer, the nucellus , and the megaspore-derived female gametophyte in its center...

s and indehiscent fruits. Proteoideae is further divided into four tribes: Conospermeae, Petrophileae, Proteae and Leucadendreae. The genus Protea, and hence P. cynaroides, is placed under the tribe Proteae.

Etymology


The name of the plant family Proteaceae as well as the genus Protea, both to which P. cynaroides belongs to, derive from the name of the Greek god Proteus
Proteus
In Greek mythology, Proteus is an early sea-god, one of several deities whom Homer calls the "Old Man of the Sea", whose name suggests the "first" , as protogonos is the "primordial" or the "firstborn". He became the son of Poseidon in the Olympian theogony In Greek mythology, Proteus (Πρωτεύς)...

, a deity that was able to change between many forms. This is an appropriate image, seeing as both the family and the genus are known for their astonishing variety and diversity of flowers and leaves.

The specific epithet cynaroides refers to the artichoke-like appearance of the flower-heads: the artichoke belongs to the genus Cynara
Cynara
Cynara is a genus of about 10 species of thistle-like perennial plants in the family Asteraceae, originally from the Mediterranean region, northwestern Africa, and the Canary Islands....

.

Description


P. cynaroides is a woody shrub with thick stems and large dark green, glossy leaves. Most plants are one metre in height when mature, but may vary according to locality and habitat from 0.35 m to 2 metres in height.
The "flowers" of Protea cynaroides are actually composite flower heads (termed an inflorescence
Inflorescence
An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches. Strictly, it is the part of the shoot of seed plants where flowers are formed and which is accordingly modified...

) with a collection of flowers in the centre, surrounded by large colourful bracts. The flowerheads vary in size, from about 120 mm to 300 mm in diameter. Large, vigorous plants produce six to ten flower heads in one season, although some exceptional plants can produce up to forty flower heads on one plant. The colour of the bracts varies from a creamy white to a deep crimson, but the soft pale pink bracts with a silvery sheen are the most prized.

Ecology


P. cynaroides grows in a harsh environment with dry, hot summers and wet, cold winters. Several adaptions include tough, leathery leaves, which helps to prevent excessive loss of moisture, and a large taproot
Taproot
A taproot is an enlarged, somewhat straight to tapering plant root that grows vertically downward. It forms a center from which other roots sprout laterally.Plants with taproots are difficult to transplant...

 which penetrates deep into the soil to reach underground moisture. Like most other Proteaceae, P. cynaroides has proteoid root
Proteoid root
Proteoid roots, also known as cluster roots, are plant roots that form clusters of closely spaced short lateral rootlets. They may form a two to five centimetre thick mat just beneath the leaf litter. They enhance nutrient uptake, possibly by chemically modifying the soil environment to improve...

s, roots with dense clusters of short lateral rootlets that form a mat in the soil just below the leaf litter. These enhance solubilisation
Solubility
Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent to form a homogeneous solution of the solute in the solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the used solvent as well as on...

 of nutrients, thus allowing nutrient uptake in the low-nutrient, phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

-deficient soils of its native fynbos habitat.

The flowers are fed at by a range of nectarivorous birds, mainly sunbirds and sugarbirds, including the Orange-breasted Sunbird
Orange-breasted Sunbird
The Orange-breasted Sunbird, Anthobaphes violacea, is the only member of the bird genus Anthobaphes although it is sometimes placed in the genus Nectarinia...

 (Anthobaphes violacea), Southern Double-collared Sunbird
Southern Double-collared Sunbird
The Southern Double-collared Sunbird or Lesser Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris chalybeus , is a small passerine bird which breeds in southern South Africa. It is mainly resident, but partially migratory in the north-east of its range.-Habitat:This sunbird is common in gardens, fynbos, forests and...

 (Cinnyris chalybeus), Malachite Sunbird
Malachite Sunbird
The Malachite Sunbird, Nectarinia famosa is a small nectivorous bird found in the southern part of the Southern African region.- Taxonomy :...

 (Nectarinia famosa), and the Cape Sugarbird
Cape Sugarbird
The Cape Sugarbird, Promerops cafer, is one of the six bird species endemic to the Fynbos biome of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.-Description:...

 (Promerops cafer). In order to reach the nectar, the bird must push its bill into the inflorescence. As it does so, its bill and face gets brushed with pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

, thereby allowing for possible pollination.

Along with birds, a host of insects are attracted to the flowerhead, such as bee
Bee
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila...

s, for example the Cape Honeybee, and various beetle species such as rove beetles and the beetles of the huge family Scarabaeidae
Scarabaeidae
The family Scarabaeidae as currently defined consists of over 30,000 species of beetles worldwide. The species in this large family are often called scarabs or scarab beetles. The classification of this family is fairly unstable, with numerous competing theories, and new proposals appearing quite...

 such as the Protea Beetle Trichostetha fascicularis
Trichostetha fascicularis
Trichostetha fascicularis is a large, metallic-green beetle found in South Africa.-Description:The Protea Beetle is about 25mm long. It has metallic-green wing cases with a black head and thorax which has two white vertical stripes. It has orange hairs growing around the bottom of its...

and monkey beetle
Monkey beetle
Monkey beetles are a group of scarab beetles, comprising the subfamily Rutelinae, and are placed within the tribe Hopliini. Many species visit flowers for pollen and nectar, or browse on the petals.-Overview:...

s.

Like many other Protea species, P. cynaroides is adapted to an environment in which bushfires are essential for reproduction and regeneration. Most Protea species can be placed in one of two broad groups according to their response to fire: reseeders are killed by fire, but fire also triggers the release of their canopy seed bank, thus promoting recruitment of the next generation; resprouter
Resprouter
Resprouters are plant species that are able to survive fire by the activation of dormant vegetative buds to produce regrowth.Plants may resprout by means of lignotubers at the base or epicormic buds on the trunk or major branches....

s
survive fire, resprouting from a lignotuber
Lignotuber
A lignotuber is a starchy swelling of the root crown possessed by some plants as a protection against destruction of the plant stem by fire. The crown contains buds from which new stems may sprout, and a sufficient store of nutrients to support a period of growth in the absence of...

 or, more rarely, epicormic buds protected by thick bark. P. cynaroides is a resprouter as it shoots up new stems from buds in its thick underground stem after a fire.

Sport


The King Protea is the National Flower of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

and as such lends its name to the national Cricket team, whose nickname is the Proteas. In the early 1990s there was a political debate as to how and if the flower should be incorporated onto the national Rugby teams shirts, perhaps replacing the controversial Springbok.