Help us save snow protea - flowers in the snow
Snow protea (Protea cryophila) is confined to two of the highest peaks in the Cederberg Wilderness area of South Africa. This plant species is critically endangered and notorious for not flowering and producing seed. You can help Kew safeguard this plant for our future by adopting a seed for yourself, or as a gift for £25.
The search for flowers in the snow
Over a period of two days we climbed the highest peaks of the Cederberg mountains, South Africa, in search of snow protea (Protea cryophila). Leaving our tent at 6am to start the six hour hike to the top each day, the temperature was around -2 °C. Our efforts were not in vain as we trudged up the steep slopes in two-foot thick snow because once we made it to the top, to our delight we found that all plants had produced 3-5 flowers each and most had viable seed.
The flower of snow protea takes a full year to open and plants seldom have more than 3-4 flowers at any one time, while plants can reach 70 years of age. Adult plants are non-resprouting and are killed by fire, which is a major cause of the decline of this plant species. Global warming offers another serious threat, as the snow belt is receding rapidly every year and snow protea (Protea cryophila) cannot keep pace. Sadly snow protea in this region rarely flowers anymore as it depends on the snow as a cue - and in recent years snow fall has been minimal.
Collecting seed for conservation
In January 2005 we received a call from the Cederberg Conservation authorities that both populations were in full flower, so an expedition was planned to go and collect the seed in July. As luck would have it, the Cederberg region had one of its highest snowfalls the week before our trip was planned, so we set out for Cederberg mountain with our thermal underwear and all!
Leaving our tent at 6am, at -2°C, to start the 6-hour hike to the top each day left us feeling a ‘little’ tired by the end of it all.Carly Cowell
With collecting bags full of snow protea seed heads, we headed down the treacherous slopes of Sneeuberg mountain. But alas, one of our team unknowingly dropped a precious bag of seed on the mountain slopes.
Fortunately for us, the following week the Cape Mountain Rescue Team were called out to assist a luckless hiker and as luck would have it, they came across our Millennium Seed Bank collecting bag full of snow protea (Protea cryophila) and returned it unharmed.
So it is safe to say that this plant species has been ‘rescued’ more than once from being lost…
Story by Carly Cowell, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town, South Africa.
You can adopt this seed for yourself, or as a gift for £25.
When you Adopt a Seed, you'll receive a personalised certificate, featuring your plant species, as a downloadable PDF document you can print off, and regular updates over the year from the Millennium Seed Bank.
For an additional £2, you can have an Adoption Pack posted (either to you, or direct to a gift recipient) featuring a certificate and a full colour picture of your species (UK only).
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