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 description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.
Range: Zones 10-12: