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Strelitzia nicolai

Strelitzia nicolai
Strelitzia nicolai

Another tip o' the hat to David Tarrant for sending along some of his photographs. Instead of being taken in Mexico, however, these images (of an African plant) are from New Zealand a couple weeks ago. Thanks again, David!

The diminutive well-known relative of this species has previously been featured on BPotD: Strelitzia reginae. While S. reginae grows to a height of about a meter (3 ft), Strelitzia nicolai can easily exceed 6m (20 ft). The vernacular name “giant bird of paradise” seems to be appropriate. Other common names include white bird of paradise and Natal wild banana (the Strelitziaceae are fairly close relatives to the Musaceae, or the banana family).

As already noted, Strelitzia nicolai is native to Africa; more specifically, southeast Africa from Zimbabwe to South Africa where it grows near the coast in forests and dunes. Like many African plants in cultivation, Plantzafrica has an excellent article: Strelitzia nicolai. The article explains the doubly-royal scientific name: “The name Strelitzia was given to honour Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III of England. She was from the house of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The name nicolai is in honour of Czar Nicholas of Russia”.

Cal's Plant of the Week has also featured Strelitzia nicolai. Plants of Hawaii also has images of this species, but they are mostly of young individuals growing in strip of land along a parking lot: Strelitzia nicolai.

9 Comments

these are common in Santa Barbara, Calif area, often in courtyards, sheltered, they are often 20 ft tall or more and exude very sticky drool from the flowers...not pleasant by the pool

Great closeup - really shows how white these flowers are.

I echo the comment about Santa Barbara. I was in Ventura, about 20 minutes away, over the summer, and every parking lot I encountered seemed to have a monster of this species growing in it.

Here is one example. I am shooting up at an inflorescence a good 2 feet above my head and I'm 5'10".

handsome just handsome

eric has a fine photo

thank you david just one of the best
on this web page --what do you all
plan to do after the end of december
i hope some kind of archive will be there

Very striking photos. Would look great as a watercolour painting.

Paul Reed of Sunnyvale sent along this photograph of some exceedingly tall plants in Santa Barbara:

These are very good Photographs. I somehow wonder if it was a bit dangerous to take the pictures as they seem to have sharp points.
Daniel with your help this summer I found out how I know of David Tarrant. Is there away to fine out more about him and what he has published? The short VHS tape I have of him is back in the late 1980's. He was very interesting to listern to and I would like to see more about him.
Thank you,
Margaret-Rae

Strelitzia nicolai - Z9 - RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
Strelitzia nicolai - minimum 10 degrees C/50 degrees F - A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk
Strelitzia stre-lits-ee-a. Dictionary of Plant Names, Coombes

Hello Margaret-Rae - I don't know of any one central location. David used to have a web site, but that wasn't really working for him.

His most recent work, Spring, doesn't seem to be on DVD (yet?). The Canadian Gardener series is on via reruns on some networks, but I don't know what's available in your area. As for books, quite a few are out-of-print.

That's not very helpful of me, I'm sorry.

Daniel, thank you for trying to help me. I am going to turn to our Land grant University, U.Mass. Also my send a bulk email to ask all western Massachusetts Master Gardeners. Hopefully some of us older ones' may have some of his books.
It always nice the way to try and help.
Thank You,
Margaret-Rae

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