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The bird of paradise flower is a unique, colorful flower resembling the hues of the bird of paradise itself. It’s vivid tropical hues of oranges and blues stand out, making this a distinctive and sophisticated looking flower. Here’s what you need to know about this regal bloom and its significance today.
About the Bird of Paradise Flower
The bird of paradise is an ornamental plant native to South Africa and often grown in regions with warm, humid climates. There are different types of these plants, but the most known are the plants from the Strelitzia genus of the Strelitziaceae family. It resembles the head and beak of the world’s most beautiful and colorful birds, which lend their name to the exotic bloom.
The Strelitzia reginae is the most recognizable variety with its bright orange and blue flower—coming out from the beak-like sheath or spathe at the tips of a long stalk—and large banana-like leaves arranged in a fan-like evergreen foliage. In Africa, it’s called the crane flower, due to its resemblance to their native crane bird, but in other regions, it’s more as the orange bird of paradise.
There are many varieties of the bird of paradise flower, which has different colors and appearances. For example:
- It’s juncea variety has leaves that don’t develop, giving it a spiky or blade-like appearance
- The S. nicolai or the white bird of paradise has white and blue flowers. These plants grow from rhizomes and can reach around 3 to 6 feet tall in height. They usually bloom in the late spring and summer, though in some regions they can display their exotic flowers throughout the year.
An interesting fact is that the bird of paradise is closely related to the banana plant. No wonder they both have paddle-like leaves.
How Did the Flower Get Its Name?
The scientific name of the bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae, flower has royal roots. It’s named after the Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a small north German duchy and the birthplace of the queen, while the term reginae simply means of the queen, commemorating Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III and the late 18th-century queen of Great Britain and Ireland.
In 1773, the flower was introduced to Britain and grown in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. The queen herself helped to expand the royal gardens. For this reason, Sir Joseph Banks, the director of the Kew Gardens at the time, named the flower in honor of the queen.
Meaning and Symbolism of the Bird of Paradise Flower
This tropical plant is a sight to behold and is also highly symbolic. Here are some of the symbolic meanings associated with them.
- Faithfulness – The bird of paradise is associated with the surprise of romance, which is fitting for its unusual and exotic appearance. If the flower is given from a woman to a man, it represents her faithfulness to him.
- Magnificence and Splendor – With its large leaves and magnificent blooms, it’s no wonder that the flower has associations with luxury and grandeur. It’s connection to the queen gives it a royal association, heightening its symbolism with grandeur.
- Joyfulness and Excitement – Sometimes called the crane’s bill, the bird of paradise flower is commonly seen in bold pops of orange, which is the color of happiness and enthusiasm. It’s also associated with having a good perspective on life.
- In some contexts, it also represents paradise, freedom and immortality, probably because of the flower’s resemblance to a bird in flight.
Uses of the Bird of Paradise Flower throughout History
The exotic beauty of the bird of paradise flower has made it a popular ornamental plant and a source of inspiration in arts.
- As an Ornamental Plant
Since the bird of paradise flower was introduced to Britain, it became known around the world and has been cultivated worldwide as ornamental landscape plants. By the 19th century, they were in demand in California gardens and parks. In United Kingdom, the plant is usually grown in greenhouses, sunrooms or conservatories.
- In Arts
In 1939, American artist Georgia O’Keefe painted the White Bird of Paradise when she visited Hawaii, and it became one of her most famous masterpieces.
- In Emblems
In the U.S. the cultivation of these plants was regarded unique to California, due to its climate and nursery trade. Because of this association, the flower has become the floral emblem of the city of Los Angeles. It’s even featured on the reverse of the 50-cent coin and used in branding when the city hosted the Olympics in 1984.
- In Medicine
In South Africa, certain varieties of this plant are used as a treatment for illnesses caused by bacterial pathogens, particularly urinary tract infections.
The Bird of Paradise in Use Today
If you’re looking to give your home a tropical vibe, these flowers are perfect for you. In warmer climates, these plants are seen on borders and gardens, but they’re often grown indoors in colder regions. When grown in pots and containers, the bird of paradise flower adds a touch of color and a relaxed feel.
The birds of paradise make fantastic cut flowers, especially in ikebana. For tropical and summer weddings, this bloom adds drama to bridal bouquets, table arrangements and centerpieces. For a modern bride, a posy filled with birds of paradise looks striking and one of a kind. It has a long post-harvest life and lasts for one to two weeks.
When to Give Bird of Paradise Flowers
No Mother’s Day celebration is complete without flowers, but the birds of paradise are perfect for Father’s Day too. These flowers don’t look too delicate and romantic just like the typical blooms, but their bold and striking appearance are ideal for modern dads.
Since it represents faithfulness, it’s a perfect romantic gift too. It’s also the 9th wedding anniversary flower, making a bouquet of birds of paradise a unique way to show your partner that you’re committed to him or her.
The bird of paradise remains one of the world’s most exotic and beautiful flowers. If you’re dreaming about the tropics, these flowers will surely bring island vacation vibes to your garden.