Protea nitida (commonly called Wagon tree, Waboom or Blousuikerbos) is a large, slow-growing Protea endemic to South Africa. It is one of the few Proteas that grow into trees, and the only one that has usable timber.
Uses and cultural aspects
Protea nitida has various common names relating to its historical uses. Baboons would climb up the trees to feed on the nectar of the flowers, or baboon sentries would use trees as lookouts, and therefore the plant was given the name bobbejaansuikerbos. Brandhout, the Afrikaans word for firewood, indicates another use. The name waboom originates from the use of the wood for wheel rims and brake blocks of wagons. Interestingly, the name waboom was first recorded in 1720 and has thus been used for far longer than its scientific name. The wood was popular for the manufacture of ornamental furniture. It also made excellent charcoal. The bark was used for tanning leather. The tannin-rich bark was used to prepare an infusion for treating diarrhea. The leaves were used for making ink. Either dry or fresh leaves were boiled up with a rusty iron nail and a piece of sugar candy. The resulting fluid (a decoction) is a fine blue-black, ideal for dyeing. These days, however, the greatest use for P. nitida is as a garden specimen.