pronounced: stre-litz-ee-AY-see-eye

the bird-of-paradise family

Strelitzia was named by Sir Joseph Banks, when curator of Kew Gardens, in honour of Queen Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of George III of England, and a patron of botany. The family contains only 3 genera: Ravenala, containing only the one species, R. madagascariensis, the traveller’s palm, from, as you would expect, Madagascar; Phenakospermum, also containing only the one species, P. guyannense, a tree similar to the traveller’s palm, that grows in the swamps of South America; and Strelitzia, from southern Africa, credited with 5 species by the Kew Plant List. The Strelitzia species vary from herbs bearing exotic flowers (e.g. the bird-of-paradise flower) to trees more than 5 m high. Unique features of the family are the woody trunk (except in the herbaceous Strelitzia), the bird-like appearance of the inflorescence and flowers, and the woody, capsular fruit.


Photograph © Donald Simpson 2008