Called many (flattering) names, including crane flower, bird of paradise flower, geel piesang (yellow banana) in Afrikaans, Strelitzia reginae is almost always noted, if not admired.
This unusual plant, a South African monocotyledonous perennial, must be one of the Eastern Cape’s most famous exports, now a cherished vegetation buddy of people the world over. Originally the plants were found among Fish River scrub and dry river valleys from Humansdorp to King William’s Town.
The long-living stemless plant consists of a clump of large elliptic leaves usually veering at a jaunty angle, like teenagers on a street corner. Evergreen, the leaves are stiff, elliptic in shape on long, sturdy petioles, sometimes reaching over 1,5 m in height.
The sequencing of flowers in one spathe may be observed in this photo: the old one on the right is dry and brown, the young one on the left has raised bright orange sepals from the front end of the boat-shaped covering that is the horizontal, pointing spathe, the flower base (Manning, 2009; Gledhill, 1981; www.plantzafrica.com).