The daggerleaf protea or scientifically Protea mucronifolia is a worthy member of its genus, deserving more attention from Proteaceae aficionados. This is one of the smaller species with petite creamy-white flowers.
The shrub reaches heights from 50 cm to 1 m. Branching occurs above the single-stemmed base, the branches smooth and light brown.
The leaves are sessile, i.e. without petioles. They are lanceolate in shape, generally point upwards and are distinctly acuminate or attenuating to sharp tips, hence the daggerleaf sugarbush name. The specific name, mucronifolia, is derived from the Latin words mucro meaning point and folium meaning leaf, referring to the sharp-pointed leaves. An Afrikaans name, the kasteelkloofsuikerbos also exists.
The involucral bracts (modified leaves on the outside of the flowerhead) are sometimes lightly tinted pink; they are also pinkish on the bract margins. There are about four or five rows of these bracts. The flowerhead is just over 2 cm long. Shortly after opening it has an attractive cup-shape but the bracts continue to open more widely into an almost horizontal position. This exposes the inner, vital parts of the florets, the anthers and pollen presenters bunched in the centre. Different, but still a very appealing open flower. When the flowerhead dries out, the involucral bracts tend to close again, protecting the developing seeds.
Several insects and birds serve as pollinators. The fruitheads retain the seeds for a long time, releasing them after a fire and dispersed by wind.
The species distribution is restricted in the southwest of the Western Cape, between Hermon and Saron. The photo was taken at Bartholomeusklip by the Elandsberg.
The habitat is gravelly alluvial flats. The species is considered to be critically endangered early in the twenty first century, due to agriculture, alien vegetation invasion and too infrequent fires (Bond and Goldblatt, 1984; Rourke, 1980; http://protea.worldonline.co.za; http://redlist.sanbi.org).