protea, noun

Origin:
modern LatinShow more modern Latin generic name, from Proteus, in Greek and Roman mythology a sea-god renowned for assuming many different shapes, an allusion to the great variety of forms of the various species.
1.
a. Any of a large variety of evergreen shrubs or small trees of the genus Protea of the Proteaceae, bearing cone-like flowers with prominent bracts; the generic name. Also attributive. See also blushing bride, pincushion, sugarbush.
Note:
The national flower of South Africa (but also native to Australia).
1753 Chambers Cycl. Suppl.Protea, in the Linnæan system of botany, a genus which takes in the lepidocarpodendron, and the hypophyllocarpodendron of Boerhaave.
1786 G. Forster tr. of A. Sparrman’s Voy. to Cape of G.H. I. 125This protea is a shrub from two to four feet in height, which sometimes grows up undivided as straight as a rod, and at other times throws out two or three spiral branches.
1819 C. Abel Narr. of Journey 286The fine contrast afforded by the verdant slope of the Lion’s Hill, and the silvery foliage of the dazzling Proteas.
a1827 D. Carmichael in W.J. Hooker Botanical Misc. (1831) II. 262Next to the Heaths in variety and beauty, stand the Proteas...Some have small flowers which attract the attention of no one except the Botanist; others at the elevation of a few inches, bear a blossom that exceeds in size the crown of a hat.
1850 R.G.G. Cumming Hunter’s Life I. 19The splendid protea, whose sweets never fail to attract swarms of the insect tribes.
1853 F.P. Fleming Kaffraria 36The only shrub appearing in such localities being the Protea (Grandiflora), growing to about the height of eight or ten feet, and covered with its rich cuplike flowers of white and pale pink.
1878 T.J. Lucas Camp Life & Sport 18The stately fir, the home-looking oak..are interspersed with the charming protea (Protea argentea) or silver tree of the colonists.
1901 L.H. Bailey Cycl. Amer. Hort. III. 1438Proteas are tender shrubs which are among the most attractive and characteristic plants of the Cape of Good Hope.
1925 F.C. Slater Centenary Bk of S. Afr. Verse 236Proteas are chiefly found in South-West Cape Colony, but some fine ones are found in south-east mountain ranges, and one is common in the Transvaal.
1955 A. Delius Young Trav. in S. Afr. 112Proteas..were the National flower of South Africa. They were shaped rather like brandy goblets and contain a very sweet juice, which is why the Afrikaners call them suikerbossie, or sugar bush.
1961 Palmer & Pitman Trees of S. Afr. 221The Protea family is of special interest to botanists, some of whom see in it possible proof of a former close connection between South Africa and Australia, for this large family is abundantly represented in these two countries, and is more rarely found in other parts of the world.
1971 Baraitser & Obholzer Cape Country Furn. 57A striking feature in the construction of these chairs is the use of proteawood in the dwelling.
1976 W. Héfer in Optima Vol.26 No.2, 46Proteas dominate the indigenous growth on the mountain slope and include the creamy-white and the rarer coloured sugar bush, and, in one area, the beautiful blushing bride.
1987 T.F.J. Van Rensburg Intro. to Fynbos 11The first protea to bloom overseas was a long-bud protea (Protea aurea), which flowered in Utrecht in 1794.
1989 Your Gardening Questions Answered (Reader’s Digest Assoc.) 350Protea, Famous genus of indigenous, evergreen shrubs with tough, leathery, oval, lance-shaped or needle-like leaves. The flowers are composed of tiny, white, pink or cream florets, often with dark tips, surrounded by showy, pink, rose, red, white, cream or green-yellow bracts.
1991 D.M. Moore Garden Earth 196The seeds of many proteas will germinate only after the heat of fire has cracked the hard seedcoat.
b. With distinguishing epithet:
giant protea, P. cynaroides;
giant woolly-beard protea, giant woolly-bearded protea, P. barbigera;
golden protea historical, Mimetes stokoei;
king protea, P. cynaroides;
Marloth protea, P. marlothii;
mountain-rose protea, P. nana;
pincushion protea, see as a main entry;
snow protea, P. cryophila.
1913 C. Pettman Africanderisms 187Giant protea, Protea cynaroides, found on Table Mountain, not often flowering.
1977 S. Afr. Panorama May 30The best-known and most magnificent of all is the King Protea, also known as the Giant Protea.., the Protea cynaroides L.
[1951 S. Eliovson Flowering Shrubs & Trees 114Protea barbigera (Giant Woolly-Beard) is one of the most attractive Proteas, with its large, water-melon pink heads filled with white woolly hairs and a black centre.]
1957 L.G. Green Beyond City Lights 104Mr. E.G. van der Merwe..has been sowing the seeds of the rarer proteas in the mountains year after year for decades. Thanks to his efforts the giant woolly-bearded protea, with its soft white hairs and black centre, is being revived.
1959 L.G. Green These Wonders 166The famous and beautiful new golden protea..was named Mimetes Stokei...[It] was a silver bush growing up to eight feet, with a magnificent collection of crimson and orange blooms shot with silver in the head...It is almost certain that the golden protea is now extinct.
1962 S. Eliovson Discovering Wild Flowers in Sn Afr. 50Often the size of a dinner plate, the flower-head of the King Protea is the most spectacular of a large genus.
1987 S. Afr. Digest 8 May 13The national flower is the king protea, Protea cynaroides.
1957 L.G. Green Beyond City Lights 104He (sc. Mr. E.G. van der Merwe) sows the Marloth protea, too, greenish-crimson when in flower; the slender, wine-coloured ‘mountain-rose’ protea and the ‘blushing bride’.
1987 T.F.J. Van Rensburg Intro. to Fynbos 17The king of the dwarf and ground proteas must surely be the snow protea (P. cryophila), which is found only on certain high peaks in the Cedarberg.
2. Special Combination
protea canary, the bird Serinus leucopterus, which feeds on the seed and nectar of the protea.
1970 O.P.M. Prozesky Field Guide to Birds of Sn Afr. 329Rarer species...Protea Canary (Serinus leucopterus).
1984 G.L. Maclean Roberts’ Birds of Sn Afr. 784Protea Canary,...Habitat: Mainly Protea-covered mountain slopes...Food: Seeds (of Protea..); also nectar of Protea, Halleria and Salvia.
1987 T.F.J. Van Rensburg Intro. to Fynbos 48We know most of the birds and know that only two endangered species are actually dependent on the fynbos for their survival. They are the protea canary..and the Cape sugarbird.
Any of a large variety of evergreen shrubs or small trees of the genus Protea of the Proteaceae, bearing cone-like flowers with prominent bracts; the generic name. Also attributive.