We headed out to the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve west of Port Elizabeth the other day and found lots of Pin Cushion Proteas (Leucospermum cordifolium) in flower. Caroline has pointed me to the PlantZAfrica website which has great information on South African plants and flowers. Pin Cushion Proteas are part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, better known as the Fynbos biome. The Cape Floral Kingdom is indemic to South Africa and found mainly between the Cape West Coast area and Port Elizabeth.
The Leucospermum cordifolium is a rounded spreading shrub up to 2 m in diameter and about 1,5 m high, with a single main stem and horizontally spreading stems, hard green leaves and 1 to 3 large inflorescences borne at the end on the stem. The interesting part is that what we see as a flower is actually a large collection of small flowers. Each of the pins of the "pin cushion" is the pistil of an individual flower. The bright red, orange or yellow (depending on the colour of the flower) pointed end (stigma) is the female organ of the plant. The flowers are not self-pollinating and depend on the small Scarab beetles and the birds for pollination.
As was amazed at the colours ranging from reddish to orange and yellow. How fortunate we are indeed. The most amazing part of the protea plants are that the hard nut like seeds are normally collected by ants, stored in the soil, and germinate only after a fire has killed the mature plants and returned the nutrients back to the soil.