Proteas with fleshy fruits: a glimpse at the time of dinosaurs?

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Proteaceae are so ancient that they coexisted with 'dinosaurs' for at least 25 million years (e.g. see This is a period of presumable coevolution with archosaurs longer than the combined Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene.

It therefore seems fair to assume that various species of proteas were dispersed and sown by 'dinosaurs' during the Cretaceous.

The presumed mutualism is so archaic that we might have been left with no trace of it in the modern world.

And indeed in southern Africa, where Protea cynaroides is the national flower (,cynara%27%20(the%20artichoke).) and the Cape Floristic Region ( is renowned for several genera of subfamily Proteoideae, there is no species of protea with fleshy fruits (see

However, the circumstances on several other landmasses have been such that perhaps as many as 20 genera of proteas remain reminiscent of the ancient syndrome.

And it may come as a particular surprise to South African naturalists that proteas with fleshy fruits include:

The role of dispersing and sowing proteas with fleshy fruits has been inherited by various mammals, birds and reptiles. However, no protea has adapted to the modern world to the extent of having fleshy fruits attractive mainly to the relatively small passerine birds - such as Turdidae and Pycnonotidae - typically associated with the consumption of ripe fleshy fruits in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

The main continent retaining proteas with fleshy fruits is Australia. Here, about 110 species, in four subfamilies (Persoonioideae, Grevilleoideae, Proteoideae and Bellendenoideae), have fleshy fruits and seed-dispersal by archaic birds and mammals. These plants vary 150-fold in height from shrubs reaching only 20 centimeters (e.g. see to trees reaching 30 meters, but the fruits tend to fall to the ground when ripe regardless.

In Australasia, the main agents of dispersal and sowing seem to be the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae, and cassowaries (Casuarius spp.,

However, marsupials ( and, certain large passerine birds ( and large skinks (e.g. and;database=;collection=;brand=default;;query=tiliqua) also participate in the case of Persoonia (

Only one species of protea with fleshy fruits remains in South America (, associated with the understorey of forests/woodlands of Nothofagus. It is surprising that the agents of dispersal and sowing remain unknown, because its ripening to red ( makes this one of the brightest-hued on Earth of all the fruits of proteas.

New Zealand, too, retains only one species of protea with fleshy fruits ( Here the likely agents were extinct moa (

On other Pacific islands, "Weston and Crisp (1996) consider the fruits of Virotia, Kermadecia, Turrillia, and Sleumerodendron to be typical bat fruits, with their dull color, sour or mildly sweet odor, lack of protective rind, and possession of large hard parts." (See page 846 in

Most of the proteas with fleshy fruits are odd w.r.t. either their survival post-dispersal (grevilleoids) or their germination (persoonioids).

A puzzling aspect of the grevilleoid species is that their relatively large seed-kernels tend to be free of toxins, and thus edible to humans.

A puzzling aspect of the persoonioid species - which unlike the relevant grevilleoids are adapted to wildfires and nutrient-poor soils - is their slow and unpredictable germination (e.g. see and Nonetheless, certain species of Persoonia regenerate only germinatively (see section 6.4 in

The following compendium of illustrations is arranged in alphabetical order by genus and species. In addition Garnieria spathulifolia (,at%20Prony%20Bay%20in%201868%E2%80%931870%20by%20Benjamin%20Balansa.), some species of Heliciopsis (see and Bleasdalea may qualify.

Acidonia microcarpa: no photos available

Athertonia diversifolia

Bellendena montana: no photos of fruits available despite the many photos of flowers

Catalepidia heyana

Cenarrhenes nitida

Gevuina avellana

Helicia: this genus includes species with fleshy fruits and species in which the fruits ripen dry and brown.

Helicia australasica

Helicia cochinchinensis

Helicia glabrifolia

Helicia nortoniana

Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia

Kermadecia: no photos available

Persoonia: all of the approximately 100 spp. have fleshy fruits, but most do not change from green when ripe, instead falling to the ground in a state in which the fruit-pulp is green, moist and relatively soft.

Persoonia spp. indet.

Persoonia falcata

Persoonia gunnii

Persoonia juniperina

Persoonia lanceolata

Persoonia linearis (seed mass about 1.9 grams)

Persoonia mollis

Persoonia muelleri

Persoonia pinifolia

Persoonia silvatica: Floyd (1989) states on page 296: "Drupe, purplish lemon-green...15-18 mm diameter. Flesh edible, mucilaginous and fibrous, tasting like passionfruit."

Persoonia virgata

Sleumerodendron: no photos available

Toronia toru

Triunia youngiana

Turrillia: no photos available

Virotia: no photos available

Publicado el febrero 4, 2022 09:04 TARDE por milewski milewski


Publicado por milewski hace alrededor de 2 años
Publicado por milewski hace alrededor de 2 años
Publicado por milewski hace alrededor de 2 años
Publicado por milewski hace alrededor de 2 años

In Orites myrtoideus the developing fruit-capsules look like fleshy fruits: However, once mature they dry out, turn brown, dehisce, and release winged seeds (

Publicado por milewski hace alrededor de 2 años
Publicado por milewski hace alrededor de 2 años

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