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The King Protea (protea cynaroides) flower is a powerful symbol of courage and transformation.

The protea is a truly ancient flower. Literally pre-historic. Scientists think it has been around for 300 million years, which means it was growing hundreds of millions of years BEFORE the dinosaurs showed up. The first written reference to the protea appears in 1605, but it wasn’t officially named until 1735 when the Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus dubbed it protea.

The name was derived from Greek mythology. Proteus was Poseidon’s son, and like the sea itself he was a powerful shape shifter. The protea flower has an incredible variety of forms – colors, shapes and sizes - inspiring Linnaeus’ choice.

The King Protea is the biggest (of course) and can measure 12 inches across. It grows primarily in Africa. It is South Africa’s national flower but holds significant meaning throughout the continent.

What’s incredible about this flower is that it seems to survive nearly everything. In areas devastated by fire, the protea closes itself up to weather the destruction. It then re-emerges, reborn into a world where nearly everything else is dead. And it’s not just fire. The protea has a root system that can survive in soil that can’t sustain most plant life, miraculously drawing nutrients from barren earth.

This combination of a hardy will to survive and incredible beauty have made it a emblem of courage and transformation for many Africans. It survives the worst and then blooms anew. Sound familiar?