Strelitzia reginae Banks

Garden: Sofia
Season: Winter

Bird-of-paradise flower, or crane flower as it is sometimes known, was first introduced into Britain in 1773 by Sir Joseph Banks who named the plant Strelitzia in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Strelitzia reginae is native to the southern and eastern parts of the Cape Province and northern Natal in South Africa. Reaching a height of 1.2 m, Strelitzia reginae plants consist of clumps of greyish-green leaves 25–70 cm (9.8–27.6 in) long, with long stalks and broad oval blades. The plant gets its common name from the exotic appearance of the inflorescence (flowering head). Emerging from a horizontal green and pink boat-shaped bract (a leaf-like structure) in slow succession, the flowers look like the crest on a bird's head. When a pollinator, usually a bird, lands on the arrowhead in search of the copious nectar, the anthers are levered clear of the flower and pollen is deposited on the feet or breast of the pollinator, which then carries the pollen to another flower. The fruit is a leathery capsule containing numerous small seeds, each with an orange aril. Individual flowers last for about a week, but a single boat-shaped bract will produce several flowers in succession. When not in flower, the plant still has a striking appearance due to the large glaucous leaves which resemble those of banana plants.