The process of adaptation has occurred in Strelitzia species, also known as bird of paradise flowers, mostly to favour bird pollination. Native to South Africa, these tropical plants produce abundant nectar through their bright orange and bluish flowers. A hard spathe is also the result of adaptation mechanisms. It works as a perch for birds that approach to have a drink of nectar.
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Types of Adaptation
According to Grant and Grant in the book "Hummingbirds and Their Flowers," mechanisms of adaptation occurred in species such as the bird of paradise are related to attraction, protection and pollination.
Attraction and Protection
To attract birds, the bird of paradise has plentiful nectar and vivid red, orange, yellow, green and blue. As perching birds are bigger than bees, these flowers also had to protect their reproductive organs through the transformation of a leaf into a tougher, cartilaginous structure: the spathe or bract.
When sitting on the robust flower's spathe, birds that feed on nectar are also contributing to the pollination. The bird's weight opens the flower, covering the bird's feet with pollen. Later, it will be carried to another flower, thus finishing the pollination process. Perching birds probe from above for nectar, which has resulted in another evolutionary adaptation: Strelitzia flowers are upwardly oriented.
Although Strelitzia reginae is the better known of all bird of paradise flowers, it is not the only one. While the S. reginae was named after British Queen Sophia Charlotte-from the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz-the plant S. juncea comes from the Latin "juncus," which means "rush." However, it was only in 1974 that S. juncea was confirmed as a different species, instead of a variety of S. reginae. S. juncea has adapted to extreme conditions, from very dry soils and light frosts to copious rain.
S. nicolai has a woody steam, grows up to 30 feet high and produces white and purplish-blue flowers. This species resembles the exuberant bird of paradise, which they have been named after. The name "nicolai" is to honour Czar Nicholas of Russia.
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