The Flowering of Strelitzia nicolai

The wait has been long and insufferable at times, but after a full four years, the Stretlizia nicolai in the backyard is finally flowering. The flowers are admittedly much less colorful than those of Strelitzia reginae, but I was still super stoked when the first bracts emerged.

Strelitzia nicolai, also known as the Giant White Bird of Paradise, is the largest of all Strelitzias. Its nickname is certainly not misleading, as the plant is indeed giant, much larger than I’d ever expected. (In fact, I had planted Strelitzia nicolai and Strelitzia reginae the same year, and would have had trouble telling them apart for the first year.) It is now well over six feet tall, and has become the centerpiece of the terrace.

The species usually prefers some shade, but this plant appears to enjoy the full sun exposure of the east-facing yard. It is growing about a half-dozen new leaves a year, and is dividing into a few clumps at the base. It also appears to enjoy the increased watering and fertilizing during the summer months.

Unlike the reginae, the nicolai presents multiple flowers on its inflorescence. This plant now has four flowers, all arranged at 90 degrees from one another. Also unlike the reginae, the inflorescence is much shorter, emerging just at the tip of the trunk.

The flowers also produce nectar profusely. The nectar supposedly attracts certain birds, but I also see it attracting plenty of ants.

The bracts have a chalky surface, somewhat similar to Senecio mandraliscae. The chalky white pattern on the bracts is almost as beautiful as the flowers themselves.

At four years old, this plant hasn’t shown a noticeable trunk yet, but even if it never grows to thirty feet, it has already proven to be a spectacularly magical specimen.

OriginSoutheastern Africa; Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique