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The family Proteaceae to which Proteas belong is an ancient one among angiosperms.

Africa shares only one genus with Madagascar, whereas South America and Australia share many common genera — this indicates they separated from Africa before they separated from each other. However, Protea kilimanjaro is found in the chaparral zone of Mount Kenya National Park.

92% of the species occurs only in the Cape Floristic Region, a narrow belt of mountainous coastal land from Clanwilliam to Grahamstown, South Africa.

The extraordinary richness and diversity of species characteristic of the Cape Flora are thought to be caused in part by the diverse landscape where populations can become isolated from each other and in time develop into separate species.

traits considered by breeders in the selection process for cultivation are long lasting bloom, flowering time, plant architecture, general appearance and adaptability.

There are four main methods of selecting Protea flowers for further cultivation: Mass selection, Single plant clonal selection, Chance interspecific hybrid selection, Controlled-pollination interspecific hybrid selection.

The ovary is protected by the receptacle and thus not seen when looking at the flower, the anthers are however present at the top of the flower which can then easily transfer the pollen to the vectors. Protea, Leucospermum and Leucadendron are diploid organisms and thus they can freely hybridise with closely related species of Protea flowers to form a new cultivars.

Unusually, not all the genera within the family Proteaceae are able to hybridise freely, for example the Leucadendron mentioned previously, cannot be crossed with the Leucospermum because of the difference they display in a haploid chromosome number.

The main vectors responsible for the transfer of pollen in Protea cultivation are birds, insects and wind.