Tag Archives: protea

The Fynbos, a unique community of plants

April 27th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

South Africa’s national flower is the protea. Most of us are familiar with the king protea — it’s available in florist’s shops around the world. But finding it in the wild is a totally different experience.

Wild king protea growing in the fynbos, east of Cape Town.

The area around Cape Town, South Africa, is the richest floral kingdom in the world. Protea abound, so many different types that I can’t begin to identify them all.
Identification is particularly tough because the varieties look so different, one from another. That difference accounts for the flower’s name: it comes from the Greek god Proteus, who could change his shape at will.

I think this is Protea compact

Up close, the king protea is a prickle of colours and shapes.

The leaves of the king protea are thick and slightly waxy.

I saw many types of protea — and many other flowers, too, all growing wild on the hillsides in the fynbos. (The name comes from the Dutch words for fine leaf.)  In bloom everywhere was this beauty, colloquially called wild dagga.

A hillside of wild dagga, ericas and multiple other fynbos species.

Up close, the dagga (Leonotis leonurus) has a fascinating form, whether in full bloom,

I love the contrast between the bright orange and green.

or in bud.

The form of this wild flower, with buds spaced along the stem,
reminds me of a plant commonly grown in England.
Who can remind me of the name of that flower?

Gorgeous flowers abounded… but I can’t identify them, so you’ll simply have to enjoy the photos.

I think this is a type of erica. Correct me if I’m wrong.

I love the colour variation in the plant below.

What is it?

Equally striking was the height of this member of the reed family, silhouetted against the ocean in the distance.

One of the many restios growing in the fynbos.

But I must confess that my favourite newly-seen flower was a scraggly looking one I came across at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, one of the great botanical gardens in the world. (More on that in next week’s post.)

Why on earth would I like this flower best?

It’s called Erica patersonii. I’m not sure who Paterson was, only that his, or her, name is the same as mine.  (Pat is short for Patterson, not Patricia.) While it’s true that I spell my name with two ‘ts’ and the paterson of the plant world has only one ‘t’, I still plan to claim it as my personal South African flower.

Or perhaps I’ll claim this lovely leaf from another member of the protea family , Leucospermum patersonii.

Sun highlights the red-tinged edges of the leaf.

Can anyone tell me something about Paterson? I’d love to know who s/he was.