Protea is the name of a genus of flowering plants. Protea is the botanical name as well as the English name of the genus. Proteas first captured the attention of botanists during the Europeans’ exploration of South Africa in the 17th Century.
They are sometimes also called sugarbushes.
Proteas are evergreen trees and shrubs and they grow mostly in dry regions of the southern hemisphere, especially in Australia and South Africa.
The flowers of many species of proteas are pollinated by birds, bats, and small marsupial mammals.
The protea flower family has two important adaptations to the dry habitats in which they grow. First, their leaves are thick and hard which prevents moisture loss and decreases damage. Second, their roots are clumped and very thin for efficient absorption of water and mineral nutrients.
Because the protea flowers and plants occur naturally only in the southern hemisphere, it is believed that the family originated on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana.
Greek legend tells us that protea were named after Proteus, the son of Poseidon.
The King Protea is the largest of all proteas and South Africa’s national flower, appearing on birth certificates, passports and the R5 coin.
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