80 million years in the soil of this earth. Captured in fossils, but thriving today. They lived when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Protea are one of the oldest flowering plant families known to us in the world.
They have seen civilizations rise and fall. Ancient dreams and bygone histories locked in petals and thick, time-hardened stalks. Named in 1735 for Proteus, son of Poseidon. A shape changing god who embodies the liquidity and mutability of water. A god who can tell the future. From his name also comes the word “protean” - meaning capable of assuming many forms. Over 1500 species exist of this mystical bloom. Shape changing, indeed.
They look Iike the foliage of some alien kingdom on another planet. Strange and prehistoric. When I think of them, I am reverent.
Protea can survive in some of the toughest conditions available. Fernlike, wispy, and crystalline in appearance, proteoid root systems twist deep into the ground, chemically modifying the soil in order to flourish when planted in nutrient poor areas. They can survive wildfires, dormant buds re-emerging after the heat of the blaze is gone. Protea can thrive in almost any type of climate or weather.
Their tough and enduring nature is why they have lasted millions of years. It is so humbling to me to be able to buy a flower at the store, that also existed so long ago. Creatures who have been extinct so long that all we are left with is their bones, saw this flower. I wonder if they thought it was as special as I do
The protea in my arrangement is called “Pink Ice”. And fun fact: the king protea variety is the National flower of South Africa.
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