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protea aristata

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Protea Aristata photographer Grant Hearn

Protea Aristata      photo Grant Hearn

Genus:     Protea

Species:  P. aristata

There are so many unique, special plants in our area that it would be impossible to list even a fraction of them.  But when you visit certain places of interest it is nice to know that apart from magnificent scenery, you might just be in the right spot at the right time of the year to see a special plant in full bloom.

This beautiful deep pink protea gets its name from the word ‘aristata’ which means ‘sharp tipped leaves or pine foliage’.  Endemic to the spectacular Seweweekspoort in the Cape fold Swartberg mountains,  specimens were first first collected by the botanists Thomas Pearson Stoekoe and Richard Primos in 1928

Not seen for many years after this, it was believed to be extinct – until its ‘re-discovery’ in 1953.

aristata 3Although rare elsewhere it is fairly common in the Seweweekspoort where it grows at altitudes of 750 – 2000 m on rocky outcrops.  It seldom grows in groups and its survival has probably been helped by its choice of difficult rocky areas not favourable to communal grouping and protecting it to a certain extent from fire.

The bush has an upright growth reaching 2.5 m in height and approximately 3 m in spread. Slow growing, the Aristata lives for up to 50 years and is fairly drought and frost resistant.

Blooming from October to December, the flowers are bell-shaped when fully open, with deep carmine or crimson on the inside and the outer bracts being dark to almost black at the base.  This is one of South Africa’s more beautiful – and famous – proteas despite it’s late ‘discovery’.

protea aristata postage sstamp 1977One limitation to ornamental cut flower propagation is the unpleasant odour emitted when the stem is cut. This hasn’t stopped its spread across the world where it is now being grown on commercial flower farms as far afield as Hawaii and California in the United States of America.

The Aristata was proudly presented on the South African 10 cent postage stamp in 1977.