Strelitzia, known more commonly as birds of paradise flower, is the name of a group of five distinctive flowers which each has the semblance of a tropical bird. Each of the five flowers of this genus has their own distinctive apperance.
The genus, Strelitzia o birds of paradise flower, is found in the Strelitziaceae family. Plants in this family are all found to grow in tropical regions of the world. One of the most commonly found palm-like tree in this family, the Traveller’s Palm, originally from Madagascar is also part of this family of plants. The closest families of plants to the Strelitzia o birds of paradise flower are the Heliconiaceae which has only one member, the flower nicknamed the false bird of paradise (heliconias) and the Musaceae or banana family. Interestingly, all three families of plants were originally classified under the banana family name, Musaceae.
Each of these floral plants grows long, broad banana-like leaves, which can span half a foot by foot and a half. They are perfect for capturing the tropical sunshine all across Africa where they are natively found thriving. These giant leaves spread out in a fan-like layout creating a great contrast of dark green against the brilliant color of the flowers.
The name of this genus was created as a tribute to the Queen Charlotte’s birthplace, Mechlenburg-Strelitz, a small duchy situated in the northern part of Germany. It made its first appearance to the European society in 1773, carried over from Africa by English naturalist and botanist, Sir Joseph Banks. The flower’s nickname is dubbed because of its resemblance to the family of birds found in the New Guinea. The vibrant colors of the Birds-of-Paradise’s plumes are reflected in the Strelizia’s flower’s petals.
The largest plant of the Strelizia family, the Strelizia Nicolai, can tower over thirty feet tall. Its blooms are a composed of deep blue outer petals with spikes of white petals bursting out the centers. Each individual flower can reach over two yards high. This species of Strelizia are mostly found along the eastern coast of South Africa in the thick forests of the area. The rich, moist soil in the area allows this towering tree to thrive. Although the plant takes many years to mature, once it has taken hold in the area, it readily spreads through its massive root system and the sowing of its triangular seeds.
The Strelizia Alba looks very similar to the Nicolai, making it often hard for amateurs to distinguish the differences between these two plants. The flowers of these two plants are almost identical but the distinguishing feature between these two plants is the slightly different shades of leaves that they produce. While the Nicolai develops a deep green, blue leaf, the Alba leaf comes in a distinguishing lighter shade of green.
The Strelitzia Caudata is a slightly smaller form of the Strelitzia family. It has multiple nick names from Mountain Strelitzia to Wild Banana. Although not quite as tall as the Nicolai or the Alba, this massive plant manages rise easily over 25 ft tall. The Strelitzia Caudata follows the same color scheme as its larger brother with a deep blue exterior petal and white interior petals. The smaller Caudata tree has the closet resemblance to a banana plant compared to any other member of this genus. These rugged Strelitzia can be found throughout the mountain regions of South Africa.
The remaining two Strelitzia plants are dwarfs compared to their larger brothers but they still tower a respectable 6 to twelve feet in the air. These two plants also both display a wonderful yellow, orange flower. The Strelitzia Juncea can be found scattered across South Africa. Although it is the most resilient of the Strelitzia plants o birds of paradise flower, it can only be found sparsely scattered across the country because of the long maturing time, over 3-4 years. The leaves of this Strelitzia birds of paradise flower, unlike any of the others, are formed in a tubular shape. The outer petals of the flower can come in a deep, royal red. The center of the flower is a wonderful yellow to orange coloring. There is a law to prevent the cultivation of the Jancea but it has not stopped this plant from finding its way into gardens all around the world.
The Strelitzia Reginae is probably the most well known plant of the family. Its evergreen leaves and golden, orange flower petals are coveted for both home gardens and floral arrangements. This floral plant can be found throughout its indigenous land of South Africa and throughout the world in gardens where the weather is warm enough to sustain this plant.
To plant any Strelitzia plant in a home garden requires a bit of work and dedication. These plants survive best in a moist soil with constant drainage. The plants are naturally pollinated by native birds but when taken away from their indigenous land, they must be manually pollinated to survive. Most people plant these flowers using cultivated root sections but planting from seeds is possible. For those who want to sprout their own Strelitzia o birds of paradise flower, these plants can take as many as 5 to 6 years to flower depending on the variety. Because of the wonderful large leaves on most of the Strelitzia plants, many gardeners enjoy using these floral plants as shade around their gardens. For the best flower yield, plenty of space should be allowed between each Strelitzia plant. Strelitzia can only survive in warmer climate although the Juncea is more tolerant of mild frost then any of its sibling plants. Strelitzia o birds of paradise flower, although originating mostly in South Africa, has spread its beauty throughout the world, making itself an icon of tropical flowers.