Bird Of Paradise Tree


Facts about the Bird of Paradise Tree

Asking someone who is familiar with the plant what a bird of paradise tree looks like would likely produce a variety of answers.  An attractive tropical plant, it can be found growing in USDA zones 9 through 11 in landscapes, or as houseplants in cooler zones. 

While called a tree, the bird of paradise is often referred to as a shrub or perennial plant.  Since it can reach heights of 35 feet tall, it is understandable that it would be considered in the tree family.  It is a member of the well known houseplant by the same name, only as a much larger version.  The beautiful, exotic blooms that emerge from the tree are the only semblance it has to its smaller cousin; dark bluish black bracts with bristly white petals and blue stamens arising majestically from the plant can be as long as 16 inches and stand up to 8 inches tall.  It is its flowers that give both the houseplant and the tree its distinctive name; looking quite like the ruffled heads of cranes from afar. 

One aspect of this lovely landscape plant that makes it so unique is its appearance.  Not only awe inspiring because of its size, the bird of paradise has similarities to other plants besides the flowering houseplant.  Several rough ridged trunks much like that of a palm tree though somewhat more slender grow erect from a single stem; the texture of which gives it the look of a typical palm.  The ridges have formed as scars from old leaf growth that has been shed during the growth of the tree, much in the same manner as a palm. 

Emerging from these trunks are long leaves that are similar to those found on a banana plant.  Although not remotely related to the banana tree, the bird of paradise tree is commonly referred to in its native areas of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Eastern Cape as the “wild banana”, among other names.  Shiny green leaves extending out from the trunk as much as 6 feet long to present a fan-like clumping habit at the tops of the tree.  Their symmetrical formation makes them especially attractive for use as landscaping accents in parks, yards and garden areas.  Plant leaves are used in South Africa to make rope after being dried; the rope is valuable for use in building huts and fishing equipment. 

Growing the bird of paradise tree outdoors can be difficult for those living in northern states.  The tree is a tropical plant, meaning that it is not at all tolerant of heavy frosts.  However, this fact should not inhibit people in these areas from enjoying the lush, exotic appearance of this plant in their own gardens.  The bird of paradise does very well when planted in containers, and can thrive for many years in a large pot where it can be transported indoors when harsh weather conditions threaten.  Gardeners in USDA zones 9 through 11 are fortunate to have the very climate that the tree enjoys, and combined with the fact that it endures salty, ocean breezes make it a perfect choice for coastal areas.  Partial to full sun and adequate amounts of water will result in a healthy, flourishing plant.

Striking features of three different plants cumulate in one unique and interesting bird of paradise tree; exotic flowers like those of the lovely houseplants of the same name, glossy leaves similar to those of a banana tree and textured trunks such as found on palm trees.  When grown in appropriate conditions, this plant will present a tropical appearance in any landscape or home.


 

 


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