The bird of paradise (Strelitzia regina) is one of the marvels of the plant world. It is a tropical plant with exotic flowers. The leaves resemble those of a banana plant with large, wide, lance-shaped foliage and occasionally cut edges. The flowers resemble crane heads, earning them the name bird of paradise. The flower is colourful and comprised of many separate parts. Heliconia rostrata is often confused with the bird of paradise plant.
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Bird of Paradise
The South American bird of paradise easily adapted to the United States' warmer climates. It is also a featured flower for the floral industry. The plant is clumping and may measure 3 to 5 feet in most instances although larger cultivars exist. The leaves are wide and borne on thick stalks. The foliage resembles the paddlelike leaves of a banana plant, and the two plants are related. Bird of paradise's claim to fame is its spectacular one-of-a-kind blooms. They are composed of a beaklike bract, from which blue petals and orange sepals emerge, resembling a bird's plumage.
Banana or Musa
The banana is a tall, herbaceous plant with large foliage that produces the yellow, curved fruits commonly found in supermarkets. The 9-foot long leaves are 2 feet wide and resemble the Bird of Paradise's foliage. The banana also has a unique flower, which is a cluster of fertile, white blooms hooded by a purple-blue, pointed bract.
Heliconia is also a tropical plant with an amazing inflorescence. It is often called false bird of paradise but is not in the same family. The plant may become 3 to 4 feet tall and has erect stems with short groups of leaves. The flower is why the plant is confused with bird of paradise. It has a beaklike appearance and is a series of alternate red bracts held on the stem. It is an odd-looking bloom that is prized for its curious shape and vibrant colours.
The traveller's tree (Ravenala madagascariensis) is similar in silhouette to a white or giant bird of paradise. The traveller's tree is a tropical plant with hardiness only to United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 10. It is a tender plant with a big profile. Traveller's tree may grow 30 feet tall and has foliage that is similar to a banana's. The foliage is tightly tucked at the plant's centre, causing it to fan out. The spread may be as much as 15 feet. The flower is a small, white, conelike bloom and is not showy like the bird of paradise. The size is comparable to the white bird and the foliage is similar but the two plants are unrelated.
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- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Traveler's Trees and White Birds for Tropical Tastes; Daniel F. Culbert; June 17, 2001
- Purdue Horticulture; Banana; Julia F. Morton; 1987
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Bird of Paradise; Sydney Park Brown, et al.; February 1991