Bot River protea (Protea compacta)

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Bot River protea fact file

Bot River protea description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderProteales
FamilyProteaceae
GenusProtea (1)

Belonging to one of the world’s oldest, most widespread groups of plants, the Bot River protea is a large, single-stemmed shrub, endemic to the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa (3). Striking, bright pink inflorescences protrude from elongated, sparse branches, and large, oval, pink bracts, fringed with hairs, curve inwards over the top of the flowers. Soft and hairy on young plants, the green elliptical leaves are leathery and hairless on mature plants. Attractive white morphs, a great favourite in horticulture, grow in some localised parts of the species’ range. The fruit of the Bot River protea is a flat, soft-shelled nut that is hairy (2).

Also known as
Bot River sugarbush, Pink protea, Pink velvet protea, Prince sugarbush.
Size
Height: 2 – 3.5 m (2)
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Bot River protea biology

The Bot River protea is a perennial plant that flowers between April and September (5) (6). Birds such as sunbirds, and sugarbirds, are attracted by the sweet, sugar-rich nectar and the brightly coloured bracts and styles, and are the main pollinators. The seeds are stored on the plant in fire-proof cones, with the seeds usually released after a fire, which kills the parent plant. Once dispersed by the wind, the seeds will be fertilised by the ash of the fire, allowing the seeds to germinate in nutrient-rich conditions (2) (6). This behaviour serves to protect seedlings from fires, which may kill much of the above-ground vegetation, and allow the young plants to thrive in open, less competitive areas, in the fire’s wake (2). Plants flower for the first time about 3 years after a fire, and will reach maturity after some 10 to 15 years (4).

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Bot River protea range

The Bot River protea is endemic to the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa, where it is found along a narrow strip of Cape coastline, from Bettys Bay to Cape Agulhas (2) (4).  

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Bot River protea habitat

The Bot River protea grows amongst the fynbos shrubland on the foothills of coastal mountains, coastal forelands and sand flats, between sea level and 100 metres, on deep, acidic sands (2) (4).

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Bot River protea status

This species has yet to be classified by the IUCN.

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Bot River protea threats

Already restricted in range, the Bot River protea is further threatened by a continuing loss of habitat, through urbanisation and habitat conversion to agriculture and plantations. As a result, it is listed as Near Threatened on the South African Interim Red Data List (7). In addition, around urban areas, the natural fires, upon which the Bot River protea is dependant for reproduction, are suppressed, reducing the species’ ability to reproduce (2). This is compounded by the introduction of non-native plant species, which increases competition for natural resources, and the introduction of cultivated varieties within its natural habitat, which reduces the species’ habitat and contaminates its natural gene pool (2) (7)

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Bot River protea conservation

The Bot River protea is restricted to the botanically rich habitat of the Cape Floristic Region, where conservation is a high priority. Conservation measures currently being undertaken in the region include the restoration of the landscape to its natural state, through the burning and cutting of invasive alien plants, the purchasing of land to protect against the threats of encroaching urban development and agriculture, and the establishment of new protected areas (4) (8) (9). In addition, the conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International are coordinating projects that promote ecologically and financially sustainable cultivation of fynbos plants, to provide long-term, community directed protection of this fragile ecosystem (9).

At present only a small proportion of the Cape Floristic Region lies within reserves, with the majority of these protected areas in mountainous areas, and very few in coastal regions, where the Bot River protea resides. Some Bot River protea populations are protected by privately owned reserves, but these tend to be very small, and the level of protection provided varies. In order to ensure the preservation of coastal fynbos habitat, and Bot River protea populations, a larger network of protected areas should be established with greater connectivity between reserves (8).

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Find out more

For more information on the Cape Floristic Region and its conservation, see:

For more information on African plants, see:
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Authentication

Authenticated (09/04/10) by Tony Rebelo, Threatened Species Research Unit, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch, South Africa.
http://www.sanbi.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=287&Itemid=617

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Glossary

Bract
Modified leaf at the base of a flower.
Cape Floristic Region
An area occupying about 90,000 square kilometres in South Africa that contains an incredibly high diversity of plant species (around 8,700 species), of which 68 percent are found no where else.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Fynbos
The natural shrubland vegetation occurring in the south-western and southern Cape of South Africa, holding the greatest diversity of plant species in the world. Fynbos is characterised by tall shrubs with large leaves, heath-like shrubs, wiry reed-like plants, and bulbous herbs.
Germinate
The beginning of growth, usually following a period of dormancy and in response to favourable conditions. For example, the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.
Inflorescence
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
Perennial
A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
Pollinators
Animals that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
Style
An elongated part of the female reproductive organs of a flower that bears the stigma (the receptive area where pollen germinates), usually at its tip.
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References

  1. ZipcodeZoo (January, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. PlantZ Africa (January, 2010)
    http://www.plantzafrica.com/
  3. Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Rebelo, T. (2010) Pers. comm.
  5. SANBI’s Integrated Biodiversity Information System (January, 2010)
    http://sibis.sanbi.org/
  6. Protea Atlas Project (January, 2010)
    http://protea.worldonline.co.za/
  7. Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa (January, 2010)
    http://www.sanbi.org/
  8. Cowling, R. and Richardson, D. (1995) Fynbos: South Africa’s unique floral kingdom. Fernwood Press, South Africa.
  9. Fauna and Flora International (January, 2010)
    http://www.fauna-flora.org/fynbos.php
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Image credit

Protea compacta flower  
Protea compacta flower

© Farm 215 Nature Reserve and Fynbos Retreat

Farm 215
http://www.farm215.co.za

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