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Plant Database Search Results > Strelitzia reginae
Strelitzia reginae - Bird of Paradise
Image of Strelitzia reginae
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Perennial
Family: Strelitziaceae (Bird-of-Paradises)
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Orange
Bloomtime: Year-round
Height: 4-6 feet
Width: 4-6 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Seaside: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise) A semi-succulent evergreen perennial to 4 to 6 feet tall forms clumps to as wide rising from thick orange roots with long bluish-green waxy leaves that are held erect on 2 to 4 foot long petioles. From late fall through late spring appear orange and blue flowers that rise from reed-like, grayish leaf stalks that can reach up to 6 ft. tall. These stalks bear flowers of a most interesting floral structure with hard, beak-like green sheath-like bracts (technically a spathes) held singly at a right angle at the tip of the stalks. From this spathe, which can be 6 to 8 inches long and tinged on the upper surface with a pale pink color, emerge the flowers, one at a time, to display 3 brilliantly orange-colored sepals and 3 blue petals, two of which are fused into a long arrow like structure and the third cupped downward as a nectary. Individual flowers last about a week and the spathe holds 5 to 7 flowers, so are showy over a prolonged flowering period. The flowers are often followed by the interesting seed capsules that split to reveal black pea sized seeds with orange tufts of hairs.

Plant in full sun or part shade in a well-draining soil and water occasionally to infrequently - though tropical looking and from a climate that generally gets year-round rainfall, this plant once established is quite tolerant of extended periods without irrigation. It is also hardy for short duration freezes down to 24 F, but flowers and buds may be damaged by these temperatures. Strelitzia reginae plants form a sturdy clump with attractive large glaucus leaves, resembling a small banana, making it a great plant in the garden when even not in flower and it is a dramatic sight when the flowers are present. These flowers are also great for cut flower use, lasting up to 2 weeks in the vase.

Strelitzia reginae is native the Eastern Cape and Natal provinces of South Africa where it grows along the eastern coast from Humansdorp to northern KwaZulu-Natal in full sun within the coastal bush and along river banks. Francis Masson, a gardener at the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew and the plant collector sent on the James Cook HMS Resolution expedition, sent back specimens of the plant from the eastern Cape region of South Africa to Kew in 1773. Initially misidentified as Heliconia bihai, the genus name Strelitzia was given to this plant in 1773 by Sir Joseph Banks, then the unofficial director of the Royal Gardens at Kew, to honor Queen Sophia Charlotte, the wife of George the 3rd of England, who was the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and had lived at Kew for many years. The specific epithet also honors her as it comes from the Latin word 'regina' meaning "queen". Banks however did not describe the plant in full detail, and this was corrected when the Scottish botanist William Aiton included it in his Hortus Kewensis in 1789. Because of this, many botanical texts list this plant as Strelitzia reginae Banks ex Aiton. The common name Bird of Paradise is a reference to the flowers resembling tropical birds with its orange, blue and white flowers looking like a bird's stiff tail feathers. Though this common name is typically used here in the US and in England, in South Africa it is commonly known as Crane Flower.

Strelitzia reginae was first imported into California by in 1853 by Colonel J.L.L. Warren, also known just as "Colonel Warren" or "Alphabet Warren". Warren was an early British immigrant who came to Sacramento in 1849 and operated a seed and agricultural implement business there. He founded the California Farmer magazine in 1854 and later managed and funded the first California State Fair. The plant was then widely distributed by Joseph Sexton's at his Sexton Nursery in the Santa Barbara by the 1870. It was widely grown as an ornamental plant and cut flower in Southern California where it became the official floral emblem of the City of Los Angeles in 1952. It received the coveted Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. We also grow the yellow flowering form of this species that is called Strelitzia reginae 'Mandela's Gold' and the narrow leaf species called Strelitzia juncea , that is often listed as a variety of Strelitzia reginae. 

This information about Strelitzia reginae displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.