Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is native to South Africa, where it is called Crane Flower. It has been widely cultivated around the world, and is the official flower of the City of Los Angeles, California.
The Bird of Paradise plant grows wild in its native range, and is a very popular planting in warm climates all over the world. Its scientific name is in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was the queen consort of King George III of England. Strelitizia refers to her surname, while reginae means "Of the Queen".
Bird of Paradise is a bushy, evergreen plant, with long, broad leaves that resemble banana leaves. Strelitzia reginae, like most of the members of the Strelitzia family, typically reaches six to ten feet (two to three and a half meters) tall. Its large, striking flowers grow at the tips of long, straight stems and stand out from the foliage. The leaves grow in a large fan, and Bird of Paradise plants can develop into hearty bushes over time.
Bird of Paradise thrives in rich, acidic soil, and will grow well in sun or shade--sunnier conditions produce more flowers, while shadier spots result in richer foliage. Its use is purely ornamental, and the dramatic shape and color of the blossoms make it an incredibly popular cut flower, with millions sold each year.
In their native habitat, Bird of Paradise flowers are pollinated by Sunbirds, which perch on the horizontal "beak" of the blossom. The bird's weight presses down on the "beak", which causes the upright petals to spread apart and drop their pollen on the bird's feet. When the bird lands on the next flower, some of the pollen on its feet drops or rubs off, pollinating the new plant.