Bird-of-paradise Strelitzia reginae
FAMILY: STRELITZIACEAE (Crane Flower Family)
The bird-of-paradise Strelitzia reginae is so popular in Southern California that it's the official flower of the City of Los Angeles, even though it is native to South Africa. You'll find it all over the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park, starting just past the entrance, near the aviary, of course! With its gorgeous, blue-tongued, orange flowers, it does indeed look like a long-necked tropical bird.
The big, waxy leaves mark it as a banana tree relative, but it's assigned to its own family, the Strelitziaceae, in honor of Queen Charlotte, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and wife to England's George III. Perhaps it comforted her to have such a colorful namesake in the days when her husband was known as "mad King George" and not only lost his mind but also his American colonies.
The bird-of-paradise's main pollinators are birds. A young plant may take five years to bloom, but then it's a perennial, with some flowers almost always on display. Its white-faced relation, Strelitzia nicolai , the treelike giant bird-of-paradise, is about five times taller and also found at the Park and Zoo.