A couple of years ago, a friend gave us a Strelitzia reginae to celebrate our move from an apartment to a quaint little cottage with garden. I also thought it quite cute and clever that this particular species carries my name, in Latin format. 🙂
It is an indigenous plant, well adapted to the growing seasons and soil conditions of South Africa, and quite hardy. (Which is definitely a good thing, given my track record with watering my plants… or rather lack of watering.) And once a year, it presents us with a couple of gorgeous orange and blue flowers. Its common names include Strelitzia, Crane Flower and Bird of Paradise – although these are also used to refer to the other species in the Strelitzia genus.
There is, for instance, a tree strelitzia, that is absolutely humungous! The species is called Strelitzia nicolai, although it is commonly referred to as a wild banana (even though it doesn’t have any) or as the blue-and-white strelitzia. These can grow up to 10 m tall.
When we moved here, we discovered one jammed between the garage and the boundary wall – pushing hard against both. It had partly dislodged some of the slabs in the vibrecrete wall, and it was threatening to topple it sometime soon. In the spirit of good neighbourliness, it was clearly prudent to have it extracted.
Let me tell you that this was no mean feat. Jenny and her team laboured for several hours in the heat to cut it down, and then to dig out all its roots. Look at this mass of roots!
Luckily, our thoughtful friend gifted us with a much smaller, and definitely prettier, species of Strelitzia.
“The plant grows to 2 m (6½ ft) tall, with large, strong leaves 25-70 cm (10-28 in) long and 10-30 cm (4-12 in) broad, produced on petioles up to 1 m (about 40 in) long. The leaves are evergreen and arranged in two ranks, making a fan-shaped crown. The flowers stand above the foliage at the tips of long stalks. The hard, beak-like sheath from which the flower emerges is termed the spathe.
This is placed perpendicular to the stem, which gives it the appearance of a bird’s head and beak; it makes a durable perch for holding the sunbirds which pollinate the flowers.
The flowers, which emerge one at a time from the spathe, consist of three brilliant orange sepals and three purplish-blue petals. Two of the blue petals are joined together to form an arrow-like nectary. When the sunbirds sit to drink the nectar, the petals open to cover their feet in pollen.” (Wikipedia)
Isn’t that bit about the sunbirds interesting?! I wish I had a photo of one sitting on the spathe and drinking nectar, but so far we have not seen any sunbirds in our garden. (If you’d like to see what they look like, have a squizz here).
Every year, when the flowers appear, we are reminded of our friend. As he is currently stuck in Lapland (of all places), as a result of the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, which have led to the closure of so many international airports throughout Europe, he won’t be able to see the flowers in person, so I thought I’d put them on the blog for him to admire from a distance. (Fortunately, internet traffic isn’t affected by erupting volcanoes. Well, not unless you’re sitting next to one.)