Types of proteas found in South Africa 

South Africa is known for its rich wildlife and floral diversity. While the country is internationally recognised for its fynbos in general, it’s important to note the many different types of proteas that South Africa is home to. Fynbos, for the most part, grows wild in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and the gigantic flowers that are produced within this floral kingdom are beautiful and hard to miss. Although South Africa is thought of first when it comes to proteas, these special flowers can actually be found scattered throughout the Southern Hemisphere, notably in Australia.  

Protea bushes, which come in a wide range of colours and shapes, grow wild on the South African mountain tops and the most gorgeous of all, the King Protea, graces the locals with her presence every winter (which in the Southern Hemisphere is from June to August). Although the King Protea flowers in winter, different types of proteas flower at different times of the year, guaranteeing the avid hiker a look at this glorious plant.  

Proteas are built to thrive through harsh, hot climates with animals and fires that would cause many other flowers to die off. The Proteoideae category of protea is found in South Africa and has proven time and time again that adaptability and working with what is in your environment definitely wins the race.  

The history of proteas  

This vibrant floral family first evolved over 300 million years ago and there are over 1600 species classified as different types of proteas. Even though there are so many species of protea, only about 80 species are commercially used and even fewer are considered well known or popular.   

The Genus Proteas were named after the Greek God, Proteus, in 1735 by Carl Linnaeus. He is the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and had the gift of changing and transforming at his leisure. Proteas, also having the ability to change and transform, took on the fitting name. Another name that proteas go by is “sugar bush.”  

Picking wild proteas in South Africa comes with a fine, so many local farmers are now cultivating different types of proteas for both local and international flower industries.  The cultivation of proteas has evolved greatly since the protea flower became sought after on the international flower market. Proteas have been genetically altered so that they are more pest-resistant and have longer, straighter, and thinner stems which are more suitable for bouquets.  

Types of proteas in South Africa 

It would be impossible to have an in-depth look at all the different types of proteas in South Africa in one sitting, as there are simply way too many. We’ll be having a brief look at some of the most exquisite flowers in the genus. 

The King Protea 

The largest flower n the Cape Floristic Region and the most widely recognised flower in the protea family is used by many brides in their bouquets and graces many families with its presence in their homes. The scientific name for the flower is Protea cynaroides. The King Protea became South Africa’s national flower in 1976 and the nation’s cricket team was also named in its honour. You’ll also spot this gorgeous flower in the South African R5 coin, birth certificates and passports. This is definitely a fitting treatment for a flower that resembles a crown.   

This stunning protea grows a massive flower and boasts beautiful shades of blush pink, pastel pink, and white on the outside, while the inside of the flower is yellow or red. The two varieties that you find of the King Protea are King White and King Pink. The King White variety has white petals, green-lime spikes, and a big center. Rocky soil and full sun is where this variety grows best. The King Pink, on the other hand, has pink petals and bright yellow leaves. This variety is massive and requires a lot of space.  

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The Pincushion Protea (Leucospermum cordifolium)  

The Pincushion Protea is one of the easiest proteas to recognise because their stunning flowers look just like pins that have been poked into a pincushion. Their long flower stems work their way around the center of the plant and they can grow up to around 1.2 meters. Insects and hummingbirds absolutely love feasting on the Pincushion Protea.  

These proteas flower from July to November and the flower heads last long and come in bright yellows, oranges, and reds bringing a fiery and energetic aspect to every arrangement they are placed in. The texture of the flower’s long tubes can create depth in a bouquet.  

The Queen Protea (Protea Magnifica) 

It’s in the name, the Queen Protea is purely magnificent. The flower comes in a lilac-pink tone and is the perfect match for the King Protea. In fact, the Queen Protea is just as sought after as her royal counterpart.  The beautiful colour of her petals, her rounded center and dark leaves have caused florists around the globe to do whatever it takes to get their hand on the Queen. Insects and birds also seem to love this protea which boasts the 2nd largest flower head in the family.  

Other notable types of proteas in South Africa  

A protea called “Possum Magic” is a cross between the Queen Protea and protea longifolia. It is a thick bush and the petals are golden pink or creamy yellow with orange tips. Their centers are dark brown or black and they are a crowd favourite for bees and other pollinators. They are the perfect addition to low maintenance, low water consumption gardens.  

Raspberry Frost, or Bansia Menziesii, is an eye-catching, cone-shaped protea. The heads are great for decoration purposes and have a red tone to them with silver stripes and a yellow bottom ring. They grow extremely well in containers and flower from late winter into spring  

The final protea worth a mention is the Madiba Protea, which is a similar yet smaller version of the King Protea. The flower was named after a great South African political hero and president, Nelson Mandela. The red and pink flowers with bright green leaves make this protea a market favourite.