''Protea'' () is a
genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circumscribing) and classifying gr ...
of South African
flowering plant Flowering plants include multiple members of the clade Angiospermae (), commonly called angiosperms. The term "angiosperm" is derived from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greec ...

flowering plant
s, also called sugarbushes (
Afrikaans Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most po ...
: ''suikerbos'').


The genus ''Protea'' was named in 1735 by
Carl Linnaeus Carl Linnaeus (; 23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778), also known after his ennoblement Ennoblement is the conferring of nobility—the induction of an individual into the noble social class, class. Currently only a few kingdoms still grant nob ...

Carl Linnaeus
, possibly after the Greek god
Proteus In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A ...

, who could change his form at will, possibly because they have such a wide variety of forms. Linnaeus's genus was formed by merging a number of genera previously published by
Herman Boerhaave Herman Boerhaave (, 31 December 1668 – 23 September 1738Underwood, E. Ashworth. "Boerhaave After Three Hundred Years." ''The British Medical Journal'' 4, no. 5634 (1968): 820–25. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20395297.) was a Dutch botanist ...

Herman Boerhaave
, although precisely which of Boerhaave's genera were included in Linnaeus's ''Protea'' varied with each of Linnaeus's publications.


The family Proteaceae to which ''Protea'' species belong is an ancient one among
angiosperms Flowering plants include multiple members of the clade Angiospermae (), commonly called angiosperms. The term "angiosperm" is derived from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greec ...
. Evidence from pollen fossils suggests Proteaceae ancestors grew in
Gondwana Gondwana () or Gondwanaland was a supercontinent In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (g ...

, in the
Upper Cretaceous The Late Cretaceous (100.5–66 Ma) is the younger of two epochs into which the Cretaceous The Cretaceous ( ) is a geological period A geological period is one of the several subdivisions of geologic time enabling cross-referencing of rocks a ...
, 75–80 million years ago. The Proteaceae are divided into two subfamilies: the
Proteoideae Proteoideae is one of five subfamilies of the flowering plant Flowering plants include multiple members of the clade Angiospermae (), commonly called angiosperms. The term "angiosperm" is derived from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refe ...
, best represented in southern Africa, and the
Grevilleoideae The Grevilleoideae are a subfamily In biological classification, a subfamily (Latin: ', plural ') is an auxiliary (intermediate) taxonomic rank, next below family (biology), family but more inclusive than genus. Standard nomenclature rules end ...

, concentrated in Australia and South America and the other smaller segments of Gondwana that are now part of eastern Asia. Africa shares only one genus with
Madagascar Madagascar (; mg, Madagasikara), officially the Republic of Madagascar ( mg, Repoblikan'i Madagasikara, links=no, ; french: République de Madagascar), and previously known as the Malagasy Republic The Malagasy Republic ( mg, Repoblika Mal ...

, whereas South America and Australia share many common genera – this indicates they separated from Africa before they separated from each other.


Most proteas occur south of the
Limpopo River The Limpopo River rises in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area ...
. However, '' P. kilimanjaro '' is found in the
chaparral Chaparral ( ) is a shrubland Shrubland, scrubland, scrub, brush, or bush is a plant community characterized by vegetation dominance (ecology), dominated by shrubs, often also including grasses, Herbaceous plant, herbs, and geophytes. Shrublan ...

zone of Mount Kenya National Park. About 92% of the species occurs only in the Cape Floristic Region, a narrow belt of mountainous coastal land from Clanwilliam, Western Cape, Clanwilliam to Grahamstown, South Africa. The extraordinary richness and diversity of species characteristic of the Cape flora are 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.

Botanical history

Proteas attracted the attention of botanists visiting the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th century. Many species were introduced to Europe in the 18th century, enjoying a unique popularity at the time amongst botanists.


Proteas are currently cultivated in over 20 countries. Cultivation is restricted to Mediterranean and subtropical climates. Three categories of traits have to be considered before developing a new cultivar. The yield or production capacity of the cultivar must be considered. The ease of handling and packaging of the cut stems and the last category is to consider the perceived market value of the cultivar The cultivation of a ''Protea '' plant is time-consuming, so good planning when developing the cross combinations and goals are of great importance of the breeding programme. Some protea flower species, like the king protea flower, are self-pollinating flowers. Other protea species, however, such as ''P. cordata'', ''P. decurrens'', and ''P. scabra'' are self-incompatible, thus rely on cross-pollination for successive seed set. The main Pollinator, vectors responsible for the transfer of pollen in protea cultivation are birds, insects, and wind. Some ''Protea'' species exhibit both self-pollination and cross-pollination as a method of reproduction. Cross-pollination is preferred, though, as a method of reproduction because it provides genetic diversity in the population. When cultivating proteas, breeders use hand pollination as a controlled method to transfer pollen from one flower to another. Proteas usually flower during spring. The general structure of their flower heads consists of a mass of flowers on a woody receptacle (botany), receptacle. The ovary is protected by the receptacle, thus is not seen when looking at the flower, but the anthers are present at the top of the flower, which can then easily transfer the pollen to the vectors. The common Proteaceae plants, e.g. ''Protea'', ''Leucospermum'', and ''Leucadendron'' are diploid organisms, thus they can freely hybridise with closely related species to form new cultivars. Unusually, not all the genera within the family Proteaceae are able to hybridise freely; for example, ''Leucadendron'' species cannot be crossed with ''Leucospermum'' species because of the difference in their haploid chromosome number (13 and 12, respectively). This genetic incompatibility results in pollinated flowers that yield either no fruit, or seedless fruit, as the resulting plant embryos, from the incompatible pollen and ovum, fail to develop.


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


(listed by section: a 'section' has a name in two parts, consisting of the genus name and an epithet). * ''Protea'' sect. ''Leiocephalae'' **''Protea caffra'' (common protea) **''Protea dracomontana'' (Drakensberg sugarbush) **''Protea glabra'' (Clanwilliam sugarbush) **''Protea inopina'' (large-nut sugarbush) **''Protea nitida'' (wagon tree) **''Protea nubigena'' (cloud sugarbush) **''Protea parvula'' (dainty sugarbush) **''Protea petiolaris'' (sickle-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea rupicola'' (krantz sugarbush) **''Protea simplex'' (dwarf grassland sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Paludosae'' **''Protea enervis'' (Chimanimani sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Patentiflorae'' **''Protea angolensis'' (woodland sugarbush) **''Protea comptonii'' (saddleback sugarbush) **''Protea curvata'' (Barberton sugarbush) **''Protea laetans'' (Blyde sugarbush) **''Protea madiensis'' (tall woodland sugarbush) **''Protea rubropilosa'' (Transvaal sugarbush) **''Protea rupestris'' (rocket sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Lasiocephalae'' **''Protea gaguedi'' (African sugarbush) **''Protea welwitschii'' (dwarf savanna sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Cristatae'' **''Protea asymmetrica'' (Inyanga sugarbush) **''Protea wentzeliana'' (Wentzel's sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Protea'' **''Protea cynaroides'' (king protea) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Paracynaroides'' **''Protea cryophila'' (snow protea) **''Protea pruinosa'' (frosted sugarbush) **''Protea scabriuscula'' (hoary sugarbush) **''Protea scolopendriifolia'' (Hart's tongue-fern sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Ligulatae'' **''Protea burchellii'' (Burchell's sugarbush) **''Protea compacta'' (Bot River sugarbush) **''Protea eximia'' (broad-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea longifolia'' (long-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea obtusifolia'' (limestone sugarbush) **''Protea pudens'' (bashful sugarbush) **''Protea roupelliae'' (silver sugarbush) **''Protea susannae'' (stink-leaf sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Melliferae'' **''Protea aristata'' (Ladysmith sugarbush) **''Protea lanceolata'' (Lance-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea repens'' (common sugarbush, Honey flower, Sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Speciosae'' **''Protea coronata'' (green sugarbush) **''Protea grandiceps'' (red sugarbush) **''Protea holosericea'' (saw-edge sugarbush) **''Protea laurifolia'' (gray-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea lepidocarpodendron'' (black-beard sugarbush) **''Protea lorifolia'' (strap-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea magnifica'' (queen sugarbush) **''Protea neriifolia'' (oleander-leaf protea, narrow-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea speciosa'' (brown-beard sugarbush) **''Protea stokoei'' (pink sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Exsertae'' **''Protea aurea'' (common shuttlecock sugarbush) **''Protea lacticolor'' (Hottentot sugarbush) **''Protea mundii'' (forest sugarbush) **''Protea punctata'' (water sugarbush) **''Protea subvestita'' (waterlily sugarbush) **''Protea venusta'' (creeping beauty) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Microgeantae'' **''Protea acaulos'' (common ground sugarbush) **''Protea convexa'' (large-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea laevis'' (smooth-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea revoluta'' (rolled-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea angustata'' (Kleinmond sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Crinitae'' **''Protea foliosa'' (leafy sugarbush) **''Protea intonsa'' (tufted sugarbush) **''Protea montana'' (Swartberg sugarbush) **''Protea tenax'' (tenacious sugarbush) **''Protea vogtsiae'' (Kouga sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Pinifolia'' **''Protea acuminata'' (blackrim sugarbush) **''Protea canaliculata'' (groove-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea nana'' (mountain-rose sugarbush) **''Protea pityphylla'' (Ceres sugarbush) **''Protea scolymocephala'' (thistle sugarbush) **''Protea witzenbergiana'' (swan sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Craterifolia'' **''Protea effusa'' (Marloth's sugarbush) **''Protea namaquana'' (Kamiesberg sugarbush) **''Protea pendula'' (arid sugarbush) **''Protea recondita'' (hidden sugarbush) **''Protea sulphurea'' (sulphur sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Obvallatae'' **''Protea caespitosa'' (bishop sugarbush) * ''Protea'' sect. ''Subacaules'' **''Protea aspera'' (rough-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea denticulata'' (tooth-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea lorea'' (thong-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea piscina'' (Visgat sugarbush) **''Protea restionifolia'' (reed-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea scabra'' (sandpaper-leaf sugarbush) **''Protea scorzonerifolia'' (channel-leaf sugarbush)


External links

Protea Atlas Project
a project to map the distribution of South African plant species, using ''Protea'' as a flagship.
{{Taxonbar, from=Q227822 Protea, Proteaceae genera