Protea rank among the most ancient plants in the world. Dating from fossils over 300 million
years old, they number approximately 1500 species and varieties.
The name "protea" is derived from the scientific name Protea which in turn has legendary
roots in Greek gods Proteus, a remarkable creature who was able to change himself into
innumerable shapes. Such an appropriate name alludes to the extraordinary diversity and
specialization of the protea family.

Proteas are very different from ordinary flowers - each protea bloom is not a single flower
but a tight mound of filamentous, modified flowers surrounded by brightly colored, petal-like
leaves called bracts.

The protea family (pronounced PRO-tee-uh not pro-TAY-uh), which includes true proteas,
banksias, foliage proteas (leucadendrons), pincushions, and dryandras, is native to the
Southern Hemisphere, primarily South Africa and Australia. Two groups are most notable:
the fancy true proteas (genus Protea, over 100 species), which hail originally from the
southernmost tip of Africa, and the banksias (genus Banksia, 73 species) from Australia.

Almost all cultivated proteas closely resemble those in wild situations. This is a sharp
contrast to many garden and nursery flowers (for example, roses, chrysanthemums), which
have undergone many years of hybridization and improvement over their (often puny) originals.