One exotic flower that is sure to catch the eye during a visit to any Botanic Garden is the stunning Strelitzia 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.
Strelitzia 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 Strelitzia 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.
The plant’s common names are Crane Flower and Bird-of-paradise because of its resemblance to a bird’s beak and head.
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. Strelitzia 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 Strelitzia 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 Strelitzia reginae Images
© Karen Andrews. Top left to bottom right: Strelitzia 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 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.
- Plants of the World Online (2020): Strelitzia reginae Banks. Kew Science.
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.
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