looped style




pronounced: pro-tee-AY-see-eye

the waratah family


The type genus, Protea, was named for the Greek god Proteus, who had the ability to change his shape. This refers to the diversity within the genus. Australia has the greatest diversity of Proteaceæ, including the Banksia, the waratahs (Telopea) and the Grevilleæ . They occur in the rainforests, the deserts, on coastal sand dunes and in alpine regions. Their success in Australia is partly due to their ability to grow on low-nutrient soils. When conditions are favourable, they grow dense mats of fine roots in the soil surface, which can extract otherwise inaccessible nutrients from the soil. When the weather is very dry, these roots disappear, and the plants rely on their deeper roots which can tap into the groundwater. Their leathery leaves also minimize moisture loss. They have also developed various measures for surviving fire, essential for Australian species. These include dormant buds in the roots, stems or trunks of some species, which can survive all but the hottest of fires, and resprout quickly afterwards. Others have fireproof seeds or fruits that do not open until they are burnt. Their inflorescences are made up of a number of small flowers, which in turn are made up of petal-like tepals that are united. Each flower has 4 stamens and a long protruding carpel. The stigma is held between the stamens, forming a loop. When pollen is produced by the stamens, the stigma is released, bearing pollen on its end. The pollen brushes off on to the bodies of the pollinators, who later deposit it on other flowers as they forage for nectar. Most species are pollinated by birds. The fruit is usually hard and woody.


Photograph © Donald Simpson 2014