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History of Protea

Beginning in the early 60's, Howard Asper, Sr., propagated seed from the protea, developing the first commercial planting and nursery in 1964 just north of Escondido, California. During those early years, Asper was assisted by his neighbor Gordon Cockran, as they planted seed outside in flats to grow the first seedlings for Asper's GREEN VALLEY NURSERY.

Asper was visited by Frank and Ivy Batchelor of Stellenbosch, South Africa, early pioneers of commercial growing, who were amazed at the growth and vigor of the protea grown in America. Asper's fellow camellia growers, Cecil Eschleman, and Ray and Barbara Schatz, also fell to the call of the protea. They are considered the first commercial growers in California, along with Asper.

Veld Fire Leucospermum Shortly thereafter others joined the ranks of commercial growers: Bill Teague, Ev Ricker, Dick LaRue of Santa Barbara, Bill Clutter, Vern Myers and sons became involved in the production of these uniquely exotic flowers called protea.

The protea industry started expanding relatively quickly during the late 70's and early 80's, as more people became aware of this unique crop as an alternative to tree crops such as avocados and citrus, to grow on the steep hill sides of Southern California. The 80's brought on some of our larger plantings, such as Zorro, Silvermink, Rainbow and Rancho California. These ranches are still in production, but have started replanting programs or have given way to urban progress. The late 80's and early 90's saw a slow down in commercial plantings; however, protea became more fashionable and available for the home gardener.

Today we are starting to see the pendulum swing again toward larger new plantings. Plantings have been established near Ramona, Valley Center, San Marcos and Temecula. Most lie in the sphere of San Diego County, not far from the original plantings, which has proven to be the protea growing hub of North America. Rubrum Protea


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