The snow protea is confined to a 25 km long strip along the snow line of the Cederberg mountains of South Africa, growing on sandstone soils, on rocky ledges and scree slopes Sadly, as the climate warms the snow belt is receding, and heavy snowfalls, which the Protea cryophila needs to trigger flowering, are becoming less frequent.
It survives a wide range of weather conditions, from extremely hot and dry in the summer, to freezing cold and covered by snow for weeks in the winter.
The snow protea forms dense, tufted clumps, growing to 0.5 m tall and 1-3 m wide. It has a single main stem and creeping branches. The leathery leaves are 300-500 mm long, 50-70 mm wide, folded lengthwise and are clustered at the tips of branches. The striking flower head is 130-160 mm in diameter. The involucral bracts (leaf-like structures around the edge of the flower head) are pointed, with a white, woolly-haired outer surface and a carmine inner surface. The centre of the flower head, containing the mass of individual flowers, is creamy white to pink. Flowering occurs from January to April.
This species is Critically Endangered and notorious for not flowering and producing seed. Adult plants are non-resprouting and are killed by fire, which is a major cause of the decline of this species.
Global warming is now also a serious threat to this plant as the snow belt is receding rapidly every year and the snow protea cannot keep pace.
" One of South Africa's rarest and most threatened plants"