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Fresh Flower
            
 
  Fresh Flower of the Month
            Bird-of-paradise


Botanical name
Strelitzia reginae (stre-LITZ-ee-a ray-JEEN-ie)
Common names
Bird-of-paradise, Crane flower, Crane lily
Description
Birds-of-paradise have long-stalked leaves and thick stems, which can grow 3 to 4 feet long. The evergreen, blue- to gray-green leaves are oblong and leathery. Beautiful, featherlike flowers emerge from hard, beaklike sheaths that grow at right angles to the long stalks, making these flowers look like exotic birds.
Colors
Birds-of-paradise are among the few flowers that have a contrasting color harmony in one bloom. These orange-and-blue or orange-and-purple flowers are enclosed in a green, boat-shaped bract edged with red.
Vase life
Birds-of-paradise will last in vase arrangements and floral designs using floral foam for seven to 14 days, if the vase water is changed regularly and the area where arrangements are displayed is well lit.

Availability
Most markets have birds-of-paradise in good supply year-round.

Vase-life Extenders
refrigeration
Optimum refrigeration temperature for storing birds-of-paradise is 55 F. They are sensitive to cold temperatures, which can cause them to blacken, so never expose them to temperatures below 45 F.
ethylene sensitivity
Birds-of-paradise are not ethylene sensitive.

Fun Facts
family
Birds-of-paradise are members of the Strelitziaceae family. They are indigenous to Africa, where they grow wild on the Eastern Cape. Birds-of-paradise were formerly classified in the Musaceae (banana) family.
meaning
The scientific name, “Strelitzia,” is derived from the family name of George III’s queen, Charlotte Sophia, of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The species name “reginae” means “queen.”

Design tips
foliage
Bird-of-paradise foliage usually is sold separately from the flowers. The large, linear, gray-green foliage lasts well and can give a dramatic look to arrangements. The leaves also can be contorted or abstracted by cutting out sections or stapling them into tubes without affecting their lasting quality.
If desired, hang the leaves upside down in a dry place. As they dry, they will take on a golden color and develop into long-lasting twisted shapes of rhythmic beauty. They can be painted for further design versatility.
lasting quantity
Long vase life makes birds-of-paradise a good choice for commercial designs and other arrangements that are expected to last a long time.

Quality checklist
sheath
When purchasing birds-of-paradise, check the sheaths. They should be puffy and closed or show only one petal section open.
florets
Make sure there are no signs of florets having been removed. If the flowers fail to emerge, the first flower can be eased out by squeezing both thumbs gently along the edges of the sheath. When one exposed flower fades, remove it, and then another one can be pulled out. All of the florets can be pulled out at once for greater show. Each sheath should contain four to six flowers.


Some information provided by:
The Hawaii Tropical Flower Council, www.htfc.com
Chain of Life Network®, www.chainoflifenetwork.org
SAF’s Flower & Plant Care manual

Reach “Fresh Flower of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD, at sbfloral@aol.com or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

Images courtesy of the California Cut Flower Commission and the Flower Council of Holland.



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