Photo source: A. Douglas

Proteaceae is a moderately sized family consisting of 79 genera and approximately 1700 species, distributed predominantly in the Southern Hemisphere. Members of the family are found in Australia, South Africa, South America, New Caledonia, Madagascar, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and other Malesian regions. The family is recognized by several features, most distinct of which are tetramerous flowers. All flowers of Proteaceae have four tepals that are valvate in bud, four basifixed stamens, each one directly opposite or attached to a tepal lobe, and a single carpel. Despite this conserved floral organization, there is a tremendous amount of architectural diversity among floral organs, fruit morphology, pollen, leaves, and inflorescences.

Based on molecular data, the closest relative to Proteaceae is the family Plantanaceae (planetrees; see Ranunculales page).

Figure 1 below is a phylogenetic tree with the various subfamilies as described by earlier workers indicated.

Figure 1. Phylogeny of Proteaceae based on chloroplast atpB and atpB-rbcL spacer region. Numbers above the lines indicate the number of nucleotide changes supporting each branch. Numbers below the branches are the percentage of times that the branch was recovered in 100 bootstrap replications. Dotted lines indicate branches which collapse in the strict consensus tree derived from 63 shortest trees.


Douglas, A.W. (1995). Morphological features. Flora of Australia 16: 14-20 (CSIRO: Melbourne).

Hoot, S. B. and A. W. Douglas. 1998. Phylogeny of the Proteaceae based on atpB and atpB-rbcL spacer region sequences. Australian Systematic Botany 11: 301-320.

Johnson, L.A.S. and Briggs, B.G. (1975). On the Proteaceae – the evolution and classification of a southern family. Botanical Journal of the Linnaean Society 70: 83-182.