Proteas come in so many varieties of form that they were named by Linnaeus after the Greek god Proteus, who could change his form at will. They are the most striking plants in the fynbos, taking on many forms from cones, artichoke, spider and pincushion shapes. Proteas are widely distributed in Southern Africa; the King Protea remains the floral symbol of that country.
The protea family contains about 360 species in Southern Africa and 14 genera. These are some of them :
Leucospermum, commonly known as the pincushion for obvious reasons :
Mimetes, with its colourful bracts and tiny feathery flowers.
Protea repens, (although it does not have a creeping habit as its name ‘repens’ implies) is also known as the sugarbush, producing a large amount of nectar attracting bees and birds.
Their rich shades of yellows. oranges and pinks create a splash of colour in the strong sunlight.
They make excellent and longlasting cut flowers, bringing drama to both traditional and modern settings.
They require very well-drained acidic soil, preferably on sloping ground, which is low in nutrients. They can be grown outdoors in favoured positions in Britain and Ireland but they hate prolonged wet soil. Pots and overwintering in conservatories may then be your answer.
Their sunny faces reflect their country of origin, reminding me of warmer days ahead.