The Bird of Paradise has been one of my favorite flowers for a long time. When it shows up in a flower arrangement, I feel like it’s a special gift, an extravagance. This flower symbolizes abundance for me.
Birds of Paradise, also called Crane Flowers (Stretlitzia reginae) are indigenous to South Africa and the Eastern Cape, where we are now living, in particular. They grow in profusion here. These are some of the Crane Flowers growing on the grounds of the College of Transfiguration.
When we visited the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Capetown, which is in the Western Cape, we saw magnificent stands of these flowers.
Our guide explained that on the Eastern Cape, pollination of these flowers is done by a particular bird that lives in the Eastern Cape, but not in the Western Cape, or any of the other places in the world in which the flower has been transplanted, including Florida and California. At Kirstenbosch and other places, pollination must be done by hand. With no natural pollinator, the flowers that now bloom now throughout the world have grown from seeds that come from South Africa.
The bird that pollinates the Crane Flower is the Cape Weaver. Here’s where it gets really amazing to me. The bird wants the nectar that’s inside the flower. To get to the nectar, the bird stands on the blue part that sticks out. The bird’s weight is just right to cause the petals to open and expose pollen to the feet of the bird.
The pollen gets all over the bird’s feet, the bird flies off to visit another flower and pollination takes place. The best place for the bird to feed is also the best place for pollination. The bird needs the flower and the flower needs the bird! They depend on one another for life. Beautiful!
People in California have recently discovered that a new relationship has developed between birds and Birds of Paradise that now grow in California. A type of warbler, the Common Yellowthroat, seems to have discovered the Crane Flower’s nectar and is pollinating the flower there. What will happen as this new combination of bird and flower develops?
I am awed by the elegance and precision of this relationship, and I am reminded of the awesome task of stewardship for creation and of this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth,
you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom
and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one
may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet
to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The photos with the birds come from Gardenroute.com (https://www.gardenroute.com/photo-gallery_gallery_op_list_category_1162) and science direct.com
If you’re interested in the scientific study about pollination of the Crane Flower outside of South Africa, see this article.
If you’re curious about the Weaver, here is one hanging from its woven nest above Freedom Square at the College of Transfiguration.