The Protea is a genus of South African flower that: "shows an amazing diversity of shape and form, ranging from trees to low-growing shrubs. In recognition of this diversity, it was named after the Greek sea god, Proteus, who was able to change his appearance."1
Robert Jay Lifton, who did some of the great work in defining totalist relationships, wrote a wonderful book, The Protean Self, Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation, where he discusses the opposition of the rigid fundamentalist self with the shape shifting flexible self more adapted to the uncertainties of modern life.
As a South African by birth, I lay claim to the Protea as the flower of one of my nationalities. For me, it symbolises, in its many, shape-shifting forms, the opposite of a rigid fundamentalist unity, and offers instead a beautiful example of complex adaptation.