Strelitzia nicolai

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White or Giant bird of paradise
Wild banana
Blue-and-white Strelitzia
Strelitzia nicolai 3.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Strelitziaceae
Genus: Strelitzia
Species: S. nicolai
Binomial name
Strelitzia nicolai
Regel & Körn.
  • Strelitzia alba subsp. nicolai (Regel & Körn) Maire & Weiller
  • Strelitzia quensonii Lem.

Strelitzia nicolai, commonly known as the giant white bird of paradise or wild banana are banana-like plants with erect woody stems reaching a height of 6 m (20 ft) and the clumps formed can spread as far as 3.5 m (11 ft).

The 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) long leaves are grey-green and arranged like a fan at the top of the stems, similar to Ravenala madagascariensis. The inflorescence is composed of a dark blue bract, white sepals and a bluish-purple "tongue". The entire flower can be as much as 18 cm (7.1 in) high by 45 cm (18 in) long and is typically held just above the point where the leaf fan emerges from the stem. Flowers are followed by triangular seed capsules.[2][3]

Strelitzia Nicolai is among the rare plants which have been verified to contain the Bilirubin pigment, which is usually found in animals.[4]


Strelitzia nicolai is one of three larger Strelitzia species, the other two being tree-like S. caudata and S. alba. S. nicolai is restricted to evergreen coastal forest and thicket of eastern South Africa from the Great Fish River northwards to Richards Bay. It is also considered native to Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and is reportedly naturalized in eastern Mexico (State of Veracruz).[5]


Strelitzia nicolai prefers rich, moist soils with good drainage in full sun to part shade. The plant tolerates light frost. Propagation is via division of clumps, offsets and from seed but note that plants require many years of growth before they begin blooming.[6] In favourable conditions they self-seed freely, and their invasive root systems are best kept away from buildings.[7]


  1. ^ The Plant List Strelitzia nicolai
  2. ^ Regel, Eduard August von & Körnicke, Friedrich August. 1858. Gartenflora 7: 265, pl. 235, Strelitzia nicolai
  3. ^ Gibbs Russell, G. E., W. G. M. Welman, E. Retief, K. L. Immelman, G. Germishuizen, B. J. Pienaar, M. Van Wyk & A. Nicholas. 1987. List of species of southern African plants. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa 2(1–2): 1–152(pt. 1), 1–270(pt. 2), Strelitzia nicolai
  4. ^ Pirone, Cary; Quirke, J. Martin E.; Priestap, Horacio A.; Lee, David W. (2009). "Animal Pigment Bilirubin Discovered in Plants". Journal of the American Chemical Society 131 (8): 2830. doi:10.1021/ja809065g. PMC 2880647. PMID 19206232. 
  5. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Strelitzia nicolai
  6. ^ Floridata: Strelitzia nicolai
  7. ^ Joffe, P. Easy Guide to indigenous Shrubs. Briza Publications. 2003 ISBN 1-875093-40-0
  • Botanicas' Annuals & Perennials, Random House, Sydney, 2005