Strelizia reginae and Pollinators

Strelizia reginae, Bird-of-paradise flower, at reopening of Kew’s Temperate House in 2018 © Karen Netto (Andrews)

One exotic flower that is sure to catch the eye during a visit to any Botanic Garden is the stunning Strelizia reginae. It gets its two-part botanical name from a queen consort and its common names from its resemblance to a bird’s head and beak.

Kew Connections

Strelizia reginae has strong connections with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Firstly, it was collected by the Scottish botanist and gardener, Francis Masson (1741-1805). He was Kew’s first plant hunter after the appointment of Joseph Banks as director. He sailed with Captain James Cook to South Africa in 1772.

Sir Joseph Banks described Strelizia reginae in 1788. Strelizia is named after George III’s consort, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The epithet reginae means of the queen. Queen Charlotte’s Cottage survives in a remoter part of Kew Gardens today.

Vernacular Names

The plant’s common names are Crane Flower and Bird-of-paradise because of its resemblance to a bird’s beak and head.

Pollinators

During my last visit to Bristol Botanic Garden, some plants were displayed according to their pollinators. Most people tend to think only of bumblebees and honeybees when they think of pollinators. There is a much wider variety of pollinators including solitary bees, bee-flies, hoverflies, flies, beetles, etc. Some have multiple pollinator species; others target specific pollinator relationships.

Exotic pollinators mentioned at Bristol were possums, bats, rodents and parakeets. Strelizia reginae is pollinated by sugarbirds and sunbirds in its native habitat according to the Bristol Botanic Gardens’ sign. An In Defense of Plants‘ blog focuses on the Cape Weaver, Ploceus capensi, in its native habitat. It also suggests that a Southern Californian warbler has worked out how to get to the nectar from plants growing in the USA.

More Native Pollinator Research?

It always strikes me as odd that we know so much about tropical species, while a full list of pollinators remains so little researched when it comes to native UK species. This is a subject that I investigated when writing my blog about the Wood Anemone, Anemone nemorosa. Exotic plants often have greater instant appeal, but there is much to interest all of us on our own doorsteps as the Coronavirus lockdown has demonstrated this year. My local walks also revealed that non-native garden species were also being visited by our native pollinators in the UK.

Potential for the Allergic Gardener

Gardeners who are allergy sufferers may be interested to learn that Strelizia reginae has a low potential to cause allergic reactions. The plants will not survive outdoors in a British winter. They can be brought or kept indoors as ornamental houseplants.

Gallery of Strelizia reginae Images

© Karen Netto (Andrews) Top left to bottom right: Strelizia reginae at Wisley close-up and with waterfall; at the Barbican Conservatory; a spent flower and pollinator signage at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden.

© Karen Netto (Andrews)

Previous Pollinator Blog

Botany Karen (2020): Ancient Woodland Indicator Species: Wood Anemone.

References and Further Reading

In Defense of Plants (2017): Bird Pollination Of The Bird Of Paradise. Matt’s Blog 23 October 2017. Last accessed 12 July 2020.

Plants of the World Online (2020): Strelizia reginae Banks. Kew Science. Last accessed 12 July 2020.

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