Why This Protea Is Our National Flower

Protea cynaroides courtesy Andrew Baxter

I came across this perspective today that brought a smile to my face, as it hope it does to yours …  

There are many reasons why this protea is our national flower … 
Proteas have an amazing root system which allows them to survive in soil with very few nutrients.
This gives them the strength to thrive in many different climates and soils.
A lot like South Africans themselves – they can put down roots anywhere and survive.

Everywhere I’ve travelled in the world, no matter how off the beaten track, I’ve bumped into a South African who is making something of their life.
Usually there’s a story as to why they’ve found themselves in the places they’ve ended up, and yet, they scratch out a living and a life for themselves in the most unusual circumstances, and thrive.

Protea cynaroides! It’s part of the Proteaceae family, commonly known as the King Protea or Cape Artichoke Flower. As the national flower of South Africa it’s also the symbol of a number of local sports teams. It’s a hardy plant that can survive harsh conditions; drought, heavy rains and even massive bush fires because it’s a re-sprouter, a very effective survival strategy after seemingly being wiped out by fire. 
For more on the Cape Floral Kingdom and why it’s a fascinating botanical treasure chest …

Its common name,’sugarbush’ (suikerbossie, honey protea), is after the sweet nectar the flowers produce – see the nectar-loving pollinator in action.
In the early days of the 150-year Dutch occupation of the Cape, settlers would collect the nectar and reduce it into a syrup called bossiestroop – ‘bush syrup’ and it became an essential component of 19th century boereraad medicine (home remedy) chests in the Cape.

It’s one of the easier proteas to cultivate, it tolerates a wide variety of soils and growing conditions, but won’t survive in temperatures below -4C … a lot like many South Africans too.

Acknowledgement: Lauren Bradley, a South African who returned a few years ago from living abroad, and hasn’t looked back, writing for SA People
Image credit on Home page and top of this page: Andrew Baxter   

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