A budding flowerhead of Protea cryophila is tightly enveloped by narrow, white, woolly and densely overlapping involucral bracts. They curve inwards, fitting into a regular (imbricate) pattern like roof tiles. Inside these bracts a compact cone of thread-like individual flowers or perianths are hidden inside the bud until opening. The upper rows of bracts are progressively narrower. Buds take about a year on the plant to mature. Opening flowerheads coincide with next season’s nascent buds.
As the bunch of burgeoning perianths or individual flowers develops, standing erectly upon the basal receptacle of the flowerhead, the bracts are forced open to expose the velvety white perianth tips inside. As the flowerhead matures, opening more widely, the bracts spread away from the wide central cone gradually, exposing the pink inner bract surfaces to full view, as in this picture.
The lower sections of the perianth buds, still all closed here, have similar pink colouring below their velvety tips. The inside of the bowl formed by the spreading bracts may also be crimson or ivory cream in colour. People sometimes find the pale forms of P. cryophila flowerheads disappointing, compared to the colourful ones like these in picture (Rourke, 1980; Eliovson, 1973; iSpot).