DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Flower of the King Protea, Protea cynaroides, a native of South Africa, and the national flower of South Africa. The "flower" is a complex inflorescence, consisting of rings of stamens, seen here as red filaments, surrounding a central (star-shaped) boss comprised of stigmas. The outer "petals" - here 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 produces new shoots which grow to produce a replacement plant. Protea flowers are nectar-rich and are pollinated by birds in their native habitat. This picture was taken in Victoria Australia, where the flowers are commonly visited by bees.
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