Pollination of Strelitzia

Started by Ake Nordstrom, January 24, 2024, 01:11:00 AM

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Ake Nordstrom

Hi all!

I have a few plants of Strelitzia reginae. They are all from the same clone, except one who started to flower a few days ago. The original plant used to flower every winter around december to february (as I live in northern Sweden they are kept inside in big pots). I managed to get a few seeds some years ago but only one survived  and it is this plant that now is flowering. After splitting the big plant (three years ago) into four new plants they newer flowered again but they seem to do well and I expect that they will flower next year again.
So, my questions are:
 1. Is there a problem with self pollination of Strelitzia (I know it worked, but perhaps cross pollination works better?)
 2. Being bird pollinated I think they are using a rather unusual way, with pollen sticking to the feet instead of the
     feathers and I think I managed to imitate this rather well, but perhaps someone know a way to improve this?
 3. I had a very low germination rate from the first and only seeds I got, only one of 16 germinated. I think they 
     perhaps needed cold stratifiction, which I realized too late? So, any idea how tho get this work better are welcome.

All the best from Åke


Pollen that is transferred by birds is usually transferred on the head/face of the bird, frequently on the forehead.

When the SA Botanical Society still had a seed distribution, I hade 100 Strelitzia seeds and most germinated. I put them all in a plastic bag of damp peat/compost and hung it in the airing-cupboard, so probably reasonably constant temperature around 20C or a little warmer, and in the dark. The seeds are so large that removing them as they germinated was very easy.

I am unsure about self-compatibility - have a search of the SANBI website.

Also - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt8Wjys3gBc

Ake Nordstrom

Thank you!

So no stratification needed.
About the pollination: Yes, usually the pollen sticks to the feathers of hummingbirds, sunbirds, flowerpeckers and so on. But with the Strelitzias, the birds land on the stamen (the blue "bill" of the flower), when the stamen bends down by the weight from the bird, the stamen sides folds out and exposes the pollen, which sticks to the feet and then transfers to the stigma (the tip of the "bill")


Maybe you did not watch the YouTube video - all is explained. (Except germination)

(I did not remove the orange wool/fluff from the seeds when sown in the bag. From memory, the first seeds germinated within a very short time, maybe 1-2 weeks?)

Ake Nordstrom

Now I have seen the video. Thank you very much, it was very informative. It looks very much like I did the pollination before, so I guess thats not the problem. Could it be that the day temprature is important during pollination? I guess that it would be well above 25 degrees C in south Africa while they are flowering and we keep around 18 C inside.
About the seeds, those orange tufts on black, often very hard seeds show up on other plants as well, Acacia mimosa for example. I guess the colour attracts birds so they can help spreading them. Similar tufts are often found on seeds that are spread by ants, but then the colors are more discreet.


The problem is probably timing when to transfer pollen - the video suggests every day for a week? 2 weeks?
If you pick a town near the centre of distibution of S. r., you can find online data for max. and min. temperatures, rainfall etc. for every day of the year.

Searching some more, a constant 25C is suggested as ideal for germination for S. r. - which would be close to what I used.

Acacia seed often germinates well if boiling (100C) water is poured over them and they are left to cool for ~12 hours.
Lots of Acacia species rely on their seeds being eaten by large herbivores, which cannot digest the seeds, so they are passed in the dung and then germinate. Some obviously rely on fire in one way or another - Callistemon seed is not released from the capsules until the capsule has been burnt, in some species.

Seeds that rely on ants usually have tiny pieces of "food" attached - usually high in fats, and that is what the ants move, not the seed (which happens to be attached to the food).

The orange tuft on S. r. seed...................logically it ought to be a visual signal, but the seed is huge. SANBI suggests that disperal is likely to be via rodents, but it is not known for sure.

Robin Jangle

Here's a really good article on germinating Strelitzia seeds.


In your climate I would recommend the use of a heating mat set to 25°Celsius.


Many years ago, I worked for a seed company that had a field of the orange Bird of Paradise growing. During flowering season, we would hand pollinate the flowers, which was a fairly slimy experience due to the plant's heavy nectar production.  I don't remember exactly how we did it, but it was simple, relatively crude, and quite effective in producing seed. Also pretty messy! I would expect that S. regina pollination would be similar.