The protea: true king of the mountain

The protea: true king of the mountain

Proteas are blooming, gloriously, on Table Mountain. The protea is South Africa’s national flower and appears on our coat of arms. Besides being a popular vase flower, people also used the nectar of the suikerbossie as a sugar substitute.

image The king protea is one of more than 300 varieties of protea. Photo courtesy of Derek Keats

Our resident expert, Fynbos Guy Dominic Chadbon, says proteas bloom throughout the year but now is the time to watch out for the suikerbossie (sugar bush). “It’s full of nectar, which is why it is always prime real estate for Cape sugarbirds. The early settlers harvested the nectar, boiled it into a syrup and the result was bossiestroop (bush syrup),” Chadbon said.
 
Proteas are also classified as fynbos. Table Mountain forms part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom.

The king protea has been South Africa’s national flower since 1976. The protea was chosen as it symbolises SA’s beauty and, according to www.info.gov.za, the protea represents the “flowering of our potential as a nation in pursuit of the African Renaissance”.

“The protea symbolises the holistic integration of forces that grow from the Earth, and are nurtured from above. The most popular colours of Africa have been assigned to the protea – green, gold, red and black.”
 
Proteas belong to the Proteacea family and the genus Protea, the name derived from the Greek god Proteus, who was able to change his form at will. There are hundreds of varieties of Protea, which can be found in South Africa, Australia, Asia and parts of South America.

Look out for conebushes that are turning luminous yellow and lime. Other flowers blooming on the mountain during July include aster, romulea, sage and sweet pea, climber’s friend and anemone.

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