A small Protea glabra plant established among rocks in sandy soil and subjected to unrelenting summer heat east of Clanwilliam may appear like a branch of leaves taken from a mature plant.
Leathery and hairless with veining obscure, the flat blades are stalkless. The rigidly angled leaves point in many directions. This allows them to absorb sunlight at some times during the day while shunning it at other times. Some are luckier, more opportunely positioned than their mates for receiving temporary shade relief from each other on and off, depending on the time of day. This allows them all to keep looking their best for extended periods on their branches, in spite of the hours under sun ray bombardment through long and hot, dry summers.
The small plant’s age should not be underestimated though, as growth does not proceed without setbacks and trials in the natural habitat of the Clanwilliam sugarbush. Being multistemmed and resprouting from a large woody rootstock means that more of the plant’s life history and past action is likely to be represented in this invisible, underground rootstock that becomes up to 30 cm in diameter in mature specimens.
Clusters of erect branches growing from a large rootstock are known as a fastigiate growth habit, represented also by this species (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Rourke, 1980).