Proteaceae in southwestern Australia have evolved on some of the most phosphorus-impoverished soils in the world. They exhibit a range of traits that allow them to both acquire and utilize phosphorus highly efficiently. This is in stark contrast with many model plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana and crop species, which evolved on soils where nitrogen is the major limiting nutrient. When exposed to low phosphorus availability, these plants typically exhibit phosphorus-starvation responses, whereas Proteaceae do not. This Review explores the traits that account for the very high efficiency of acquisition and use of phosphorus in Proteaceae, and explores which of these traits are promising for improving the phosphorus efficiency of crop plants.