Friday, June 3, 2011

Indigenous SA Flora

It's rather unusual for me but for now, I'll continue to concentrate on indigenous South African Flora - because I also have a rather large collection of flora-photos & learn more about it "in the process" = when doing research on the "topic". Until I started this "project" I actually didn't know that ALL Strelitzia "originate" in South Africa = are native to this country.

The Strelitzia is also known as the "bird-of-paradise-flower" or in South Africa, we also refer to it as the Crane flower (because it reminds us of our national bird = the Blue Crane). This indigenous (& perennial) plant mainly grows "wild" along riverbanks & coastal bush of the Eastern Cape (province). In nature, the flowers are pollinated by sunbirds.

Mostly the coastal regions & especially in the sub-tropical parts of our country is "home" to the Wild banana or Giant Strelitzia (= Strelitzia nicolai). Because the flower isn't as colourful as its (smaller) cousins, it is often "overlooked" - yet it's the one Strelitzia that continues to grow "unhindered" in the wild.

As I "confessed" above, until recently I was under the impression that this Rush-leaved Strelitzia was the only indigenous strelitzia in South Africa. It has reed-like (= restio) instead of banana-plant-like leaves & appears to be the most frost-resistant of the Strelitzia genus.

And then we have a "cultivated" Strelitzia species that's very special & I think it's name says it all: Strelitzia Mandela, also called "Mandela's Gold". It is a pure yellow variety with long, sturdy stalks & was "created" at Kirstenbosch (= South Africa's National Botanic Garden in Cape Town) after 20 years of careful & selective hand-pollination. However it has an "enemy" . . .

. . . in the "form" of the Grey squirrel, which many years ago was introduced by Cecil John Rhodes to the Cape (= originally from North America, "imported" to the UK & from there to South Africa). This "non-native" naturalised itself through the years along the Cape Peninsula (including Kirstenbosch) & tends to consume nearly all of the crop of the rare Strelitzia Mandela.

To prevent the "total" destruction of this strelitzia at Kirstenbosch, the staff at the Botanic Garden "encloses" each fertilized flower in fine-mesh chicken wire (as many visitors to this garden have observed with "shock") - this isn't a pretty "picture" but the preventative measure manages to keep the squirrels out!

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