Story Behind the Science
This exotic plant, which is known for its vibrant colors and distinguishable features, is called the bird of paradise because of its resemblance to a tropical bird in flight. It actually shares its name with a group of birds from New Guinea known as the “birds of paradise.” The plant is often used as an ornamental flower due to its exotic appearance. When cut, each flower can live up to one or two weeks if displayed and preserved properly. The bird of paradise is often used as a decorative plant and is considered a rather easy plant to grow, though these plants have very specific needs concerning soil, air circulation and water consumption.
Bird of paradise plants are not considered threatened, though they can have pests and experience bacterial or fungal issues. Their greatest threats are pests called scales, which are small insects that act as parasites to the plants they feast on. Other insects, like caterpillars and grasshoppers, eat the leaves and flowers of the bird of paradise plants. In the summer months of August and September, leaf borers sometimes damage the plants as well. Grey squirrels often damage the fruit of the plant but, like the many insects, do not cause a great threat to the bird of paradise.
The bird of paradise may also experience fungal and bacterial diseases like fungal leaf spot disease or blossom blight. These issues may have a negative effect on the growth of these plants and can potentially kill them. Healthy plants can typically avoid these diseases. For a bird of paradise to prevent fungal or bacterial disease, they should not be overcrowded with other plants; they should also receive sufficient amounts of time in sunlight, good drainage and proper air circulation.
Did You Know?
- For a bird of paradise plant to grow from a seed, it takes between three and five years to fully bloom.Learn More »
- The bird of paradise plant (whose scientific genus name is Strelitzia) was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, the duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and wife of King George III.Learn More »
- This plant is closely related to the banana.Learn More »
- Bird of paradise plants are pollinated by birds. The pollen from the plant is very sticky and attaches to the feet and lower feathers of the nectar-eating birds.Learn More »
- In its home of South Africa, the bird of paradise is referred to as the crane flower.Learn More »
|Compare & Contrast||Bird of Paradise (Flower)||Bird of Paradise (Birds)|
|How many species?||5||42|
|Where do they occur?||They are native to South Africa, though they have been introduced to central and tropical parts of South America as well. They are most often found in coastal areas near river banks and scrub clearings.||Birds of paradise are found mostly in New Guinea, though they can also be seen on some surrounding islands and in northeastern Australia.|
|What do they eat?||These plants thrive most successfully in fertile soils with good drainage and in sunny-to-partially-shaded areas. They are sensitive to dramatic temperature changes due to their native tropical climate.||Depending on their size and species, they may eat insects, fruits, flower buds, leaves, lizards, frogs and snails.|
|Do they have predators?||A variety of insects, such as caterpillars, grasshoppers, aphids, scales, snails, grey squirrels and occasionally leaf borers in the summer months||Birds of paradise can move around easily, whether in the air or on the ground, knowing that they have no natural carnivorous predators.|