Protea repens or as it is better known by its afrikaans name – Suikerbos, was once the national flower of South Africa.
However something happened in 1976 and it was deposed by Protea cynaroides which is currently our national flower. I have no idea what heinous crime our Suikerbos committed and I certainly think that our current national flower is magnificent, but Protea repens certainly has enough features to warrant its prior status.
The plant has a very wide geographical distribution through the Cape Floral Kingdom as well as being found in a variety of habitats and at a variety of elevations. In the past it was used for firewood. Its afrikaans name “suikerbos” means sugarbush and refers to the copious amount of nectar produced by the flowers. In times past, this nectar was an important source of sugar. In addition the early white settlers used to boil this nectar to produce a medicine which was used for chest complaints.
What I find particularly intriguing about this plant is the variability in the colour of the flowers, ranging from almost white to deep red. All of the above pictures are of Protea repens and all of them where taken in the same locality within a space of about 80 metres.