Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Strelitzia reginae - Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise) is very popular as an ornamental plant. This clump was bought during my working trip to Cameron Highlands. I was there to capture some images of our outreach programme to the rural areas for the production of the Ministry's coffee table book.

I was thorougly enchanted by the flowers. They stand above the foliage at the tips of long stalks. The hard, beak-like sheath from which the flower emerges is termed the spathe. This is perpendicular to the stem, which gives it the appearance of a bird's head and beak. It makes a sturdy perch for the sunbirds.  It was rather expensive but I just can't leave the nursery without it.

The flowers, which emerge one at a time from the spathe, consist of three brilliant orange sepals and three purplish-blue petals. Two of the blue petals are joined together to form an arrow-like structure. When the sunbirds sit to drink the nectar, the petals open to spill pollen over their feet, thus aiding in pollination.

The plant grows to about 6 feet tall, with large, strong leaves produced on petioles up to 3 feet long. The leaves are evergreen and thick. In the background are the white flowers of Wrightia Religiosa (Water Jasmine).

The flowers last about a fortnight before it looked like this.

While transporting the clump to my new house, I saw this pupa on the undrside of one of the long leaf blade. I then tied two leaf blades loosely together to protect it. Unfortunately when I reached my destination, it was no where to be found. I hope it can complete its life cycle.


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