DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Flowers of the King Protea (Protea cynaroides), a native of South Africa, and the national flower of South Africa. The flowers are at different stages of development, with an opening bud to right, and a flower post pollination below. The "flower" is a complex inflorescence, consisting of a ring of stamens surrounding a central boss comprised of stigmas. The "petals" (scarlet) are in fact floral bracts. P. cynaroides is adapted to fire by the development of a swollen underground stem called a lignotuber, a structure shared with many eucalyptus species. Following a catastrophic fire event, the lignotuber develops new shoots which grow to produce a replacement plant. Protea flowers are nectar-rich and are pollinated by birds in their native habitat. Photographed in Victoria, Australia, where the flowers are commonly visited by bees.
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