Protea caffra (sometimes called the common protea), native to South Africa, is a small tree or shrub which occurs in open or wooded grassland, usually on rocky ridges. Its leaves are leathery and hairless. The flower head is solitary or in clusters of 3 or 4 with the involucral bracts a pale red, pink or cream colour. The fruit is a densely hairy nut. The species is highly variable and has several subspecies.
Upright shrub to small tree 3 – 8m in height with a definite main stem up to 400mm in diameter, crown uneven and spreading. Bark black to dark brown with net-like fissures when mature. Leaves linear-elliptic to linear-falcate, narrow to broadly elliptic, narrow to broadly invert lanceolate, occasionally falcate; 70 – 250mm in length, 4 – 45mm wide, tips blunt to acuminate; smooth, leathery to thin and papery, light green to glaucous green, have a tendency to clump in each year's growth.
Flowers carried at the end of leafy twigs 4 – 12mm in diameter, usually singly but up to 4 heads may be grouped at the tip; globose to egg-shaped, broad and shallow when fully open, 45 – 80mm in diameter, base broad convex to flat, 20 – 30mm in diameter. Involucral bracts in 6 – 8 series; outer series broad oval to deltoid, 10 – 20mm wide, 5 – 7mm long, usually with silky silvery pelt of varying thickness at the distal ends but may be hairless, closely and densely shingled; inner series elongated to broadly elongated spatulate, 30 – 50mm long, 10 – 20mm wide, tips rounded to almost acuminate, slightly concave, smooth, varying in color from pale cream to brick red; very variable.