Shrubs or trees. Leaves alternate, occasionally opposite or whorled, mostly leathery or tough, and generally simple with entire or toothed margins, occasionally pinnate or bipinnate; stipules absent. Flower clusters racemose, (sometimes leafy as in Persoonia), in a spike or head, sometimes cone-like, often in more or less one-sided racemes referred to as 'toothbrush-like'. Flowers mostly in pairs, bisexual, regular or irregular. Floral segments 4, not distinguished as petals or sepals, and referred to as tepals, free, or fused into a tube and more or less strap-like. Stamens usually 4, with the filaments at least partly fused to the tepals. Ovary superior, sometimes stalked, containing 1 chamber and 1-many ovules; style expanded at the tip and generally a prominent part of the flower called the pollen presenter. Carpels 1. Fruit either a woody or leathery follicle, a fleshy drupe-like fruit or small nut; seeds 1-many, often winged in dehiscent fruits.
This is an ancient southern hemisphere Gondwanan family. Protea-like plants (Proteoideae) occur in S Africa, Australia and New Zealand; Grevillea-like plants (Grevillioideae) occur predominantly in Australia but also S America and the SW Pacific (and 1 species in S Africa). Some rarely cultivated genera, mostly warm-climate and not described here, include Agastachys, Alloxylon (formerly Oreocallis, a genus now confined to S Africa), Athertonia (as A. diversifolia), Bellendena, Cardwellia, Darlingia, Gevuina, Helicia, Hicksbeachia, Hollandaea, Musgravea, Opisthiolepis, Orites, Triunia, Xylomelum (X. angustifolium, X. pyriforme). These have been included in the key to genera.
80 genera with about 1700 species, mostly southern hemisphere, with centres of diversity in SW Australia and the SW Cape of S Africa. S Africa has about 400 species while Australia has 46 genera and 1100 species. There are about 90 species in C and S America and a few genera extend into Asia, China and Africa.
An important source of bush food, medicine, tools and construction materials. The genus Macadamia is the source of edible nuts. The timber of many species, notably Grevillea robusta, Silky Oak, has been used commercially. Showy flower heads and fruits of many species, especially those of Protea and Banksia, are used widely in the cut flower industry. Many hundreds of species and cultivars are used in horticulture.
Trees and shrubs with leathery leaves, flowers 4-parted, mostly irregular, with 4 stamens attached to the segments; fruit a woody or leathery follicle.
Wrigley &Fagg (1989); Flora of Australia,Vols 16, 17a and 17b (1995, 2000, 1999).
Source: (2002). Proteaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 3. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 2. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.