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Seed Setting

A conspicuous feature of protea pollination is the extremely low seed set in hermaphroditic species: only 1-30 per cent of flowers result in seeds. The reason for this is not known. The 70-99 per cent of flowers which do not set seed may function as male flowers, ensuring that there is sufficient pollen for fertilization. The high seed set of dioecious species (70-100%) suggests that this is part of the answer, and the similar ratio between male to female flowers in dioecious species with flowers (males) to seeds (females) in hermaphroditic species supports this. This would explain why, even although seed set is so low, most protea flower-heads could not physically accommodate a higher seed set due to lack of space [they would explode if all the seeds were fertile). Protea Atlas Logo

The extra flowers may also serve to confuse seed eaters after the fruit has been released after a fire: this will mean that birds and mice will have to spend a large time searching among the duds for the nutrient-rich seeds.

This means that in many protea species there may be only a single seed in each flowerhead. So sort your protea fruit carefully before trying to Grow Proteas from Seeds

The low seed production is probably coupled to the need to produce nutrient-rich seeds in a nutrient-poor environment. These seeds thus have a head start on other seeds. But this restricts the total seed production, and results in a few large seeds: these large, nutrient-rich packages therefore require special protection. Have a look at Fruit Dispersal and Safe Storage.

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