Strelitzia reginae Aiton
Bird of paradise, bird-of-paradise, crane flower
These beautiful but bizarre plants are native to South Africa, from Cape Province to KwaZulu-Natal. They are not found in the wild in North America. It was introduced to central and tropical South America, where it is cultivated as a popular garden plant. There is a reason for the strange shape. Bird-of-paradise is pollinated by birds, which land on the spathe and flower. This causes the stamens to protrude and paint pollen on the birds.
Identification: Plants are 3-6½' (1-2 m) tall, stemless, forming clumps. Leaves are oblong or lanceolate, 9-30" (22-75 cm) × 1¾-6" (5-15 cm), bluish- or grayish-green, leathery, arranged in fan-like groups. They appear on long petioles up to 3' (1 m) in length. Flowerheads are on erect stocks above the leaves, with a horizontal bract up to 9" (22 cm) long that looks like a crane’s bill. Several orange flowers open one at a time from May to December; flowers are 3½-6" (9-15 cm) across. In addition to the orange portion there are a set of inner fused petals that are deep blue in color. They fuse into a sharp point, a nectar dispenser. Seeds are round, black to brown, with a little yellow tuft of hairs. The overall effect is unmistakable: that of a bird’s head and beak.
Strelitzia reginae on pza.sanbi.org
Strelitzia reginae at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens
Strelitzia reginae at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Strelitzia reginae on Wikipedia
Fayaz, Ahmed, Encyclopedia of Tropical Plants: Identification and Cultivation of Over 3000 Tropical Plants, Firefly Books, 2011, p. 307
Strelitzia reginae description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.
Range: Zones 10-12: