Our beautiful fynbos icons, the proteas, belong to the family Proteaceae. It is an ancient family that existed in the time of the dinosaurs. Our best known species is the national flower, Protea cynaroides, or king protea. It has the largest flower head of all the proteas. What appears to be one large flower is actually a collection of hundreds of small individual flowers at the centre of the flower head. The beautiful red ‘petals’ surrounding the flower are actually modified leaves called bracts. Protea leaves are hard and leathery, perfectly adapted to withstand drought. This ensures that the flowers last very well as cut flowers contributing hugely to our cut flower industry.