The strelitzias are flowering!

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. 🙂

The strelitzias in the front garden are flowering!

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.

Don’t you agree that this looks a little like the head of a crane (I mean the bird, not the lifting machinery)?

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.

The tall thing sticking up on the right hand side, with the large leaves that look like those of a banana tree, that’s the tree strelitzia. It was already very tall, although it had not yet reached its full size.

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.

Sandwiched between the garage and the vibrecrete wall – a disaster waiting to happen.

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!

These were some of the roots, which they managed to dig up, using shovels, pangas, pick-axes and saws. There’s probably more left in there.

Luckily, our thoughtful friend gifted us with a much smaller, and definitely prettier, species of Strelitzia.

Look at that gorgeous orange colour!

“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).

The petals are lit up by the rising sun

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.)

I think these flowers are just beautiful. Don’t you?

6 thoughts on “The strelitzias are flowering!

  1. Isn’t that the most vibrant and lovely yellow!
    So funny you blogged about strelitzias… I’ve got those 10m high out-of-control ones knocking over a fence between me and the neighbouring garden and the tree-fellers were here today starting to clear them out. They got as far as removing all the leaves (fronds?). I guess the trunks and roots will follow – what a job.

    • What a remarkable coincidence! I hope they can get out all the roots of your giant one, because you won’t be able to plant much else there if the roots are still in the ground. Good luck!

  2. Strelitzia, Crane Flower and Bird of Paradise – “beloved child has many names” as a danish proverb says. es, these flowers are just – beautiful, you are completely right – wish I hadd those in my garden!

    • Hi Truels – I wonder whether strelitzias will grow in Denmark. I associate them so much with South Africa, I somehow can’t picture them growing anywhere else – although they probably do! 🙂

  3. Those strelitzias are wonderful. My mother used to grow them in southern California–of course she called them Bird of Paradise–where they looked right at home with all the other exotica. Dunno whether they’d grow in northern Michigan or not, but I have my doubts . . .

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