Our plant of the month, and one which is suited to our climate, is Strelitzia nicolai.

The strelitzia family is found in the wild in South Africa and comprises five varieties: St. regina (known as the Bird of Paradise plant), St. juncea, St. alba, St. caudata and St. nicolai.

The name ‘Strelitzia’ was given in honour of the British Queen Charlotte, who came from the Mecklenburg-Strelitz family, with ‘nicolai’ coming from Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaiyevich, the grandson of Czar Nicholas I, of Russia.

Strelitzia nicolai can reach a height of 10m, and spread to a width of 4m, a multi-stemmed plant which is evergreen. Despite the fact that it is no way related to any form of banana, its stems and leaves do look like those of the banana. For this reason it sometimes known as the Wild Banana. It has a smooth trunk and can be light or dark green. Older leaves will be shredded and have an ‘untidy’ look about them. The leaves can reach 2m in length on thick stems and are shredded by the wind until they almost look like feathers.

The flower of Strelitzia nicolai resembles a bird’s head and can be up to 50cm in length. The flowers have white sepals, blue petals within a ‘casing’ of five pinkish-blue outer leaves. Flowers can bloom throughout the year, with most of them coming into bloom in spring and summer. Each flower stem will only bear one flower. Later bright black seeds are surrounded by orange coloured threads. These seeds generally appear in autumn but can also sometimes be seen in spring. Leaves and stems of this plant can be dried and made into rope and in Africa they are also used in the building of huts. Bees and birds are attracted to the nectar of the flowers. Monkeys like to eat the soft parts of the flowers and the orange threads found around the seeds.

This plant can be propagated from seed or from splitting. Before planting the seeds the orange threads should be removed, and they should be planted under a layer of 5 – 10mm of compost. Baby plants should be kept in the shade for a few months. Once they are placed outside they grow very quickly. They don’t need much water.

Stelitzia nicolai can withstand drought. However, it cannot withstand much frost although it will survive for short periods at temperatures down to -4. For this reason it grows best in temperate zones, and should be planted in a place protected from north winds. It will take salty sea winds, in fact it is used as a windbreak in coastal gardens in temperate zones.

In landscaping this a plant which makes a showy statement with its evergreen leaves and general tropical nature. It is especially useful in softening the effect of high, harsh buildings or the hard landscaping around swimming pools. It looks good against green lawns or as a specimen in the middle of such green spaces. In smaller gardens, or regions where frost can be expected, it works in containers which can be protected in winter.

The Palm Centre, Koycegeiz

For a wide range of special plants visit the areas best nursery, The Palm Centre at Köyceğiz.

It is open daily between 1st June – 31st October but you can visit at any other time by appointment.

Access to plant sales is free but a fee is payable to look around the extensive nursery.

Just ring or email (English is spoken):

E-mail: : palmiyemerkezi@ttnet.net.tr palmiyemerkezi@ttnet.net.tr

Tel : +90 252 262 28 92

Fax : +90 252 262 51 61

Website : http://www.palmiyemerkezi.com