Story of a queen that delights world

Saturday Star - - L I F E S T Y L E -

Hi­mansu Bai­j­nath and Pa­tri­cia A Mccracken

Dur­ban Botanic Gar­dens Trust

WHY is South Africa’s iconic stre­litzia named af­ter a Ger­man-born queen of Eng­land? Why does this small fam­ily of mainly south­ern African plants have rel­a­tives in Madagascar and in the Ama­zon? Why do sci­en­tists be­lieve that stre­litzia seeds could be the key to a new gen­er­a­tion of life­sav­ing medicines?

Stre­litzias of the World is the first book to in­ves­ti­gate the life story of th­ese plants. This dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent bird of par­adise flower burst on to the sci­en­tific and gar­den­ing world al­most 250 years ago.

For more than a cen­tury, it was the pre­serve of aris­to­crats and roy­alty. But its grandeur sur­vives to this day, with a spe­cially de­vel­oped cul­ti­var, Man­dela’s Gold, re­cently named in hon­our of Madiba. This was de­rived from the Stre­litzia regi­nae that en­tranced both English royal botan­i­cal ad­viser Sir Joseph Banks and Rus­sia’s Em­press Cather­ine the Great, as well as Eng­land’s Queen Char­lotte of Meck­len­burg-stre­litz, af­ter whom the flower was named.

Stre­litzias are a small but far-flung fam­ily of eight main mem­bers: six in south­ern Africa; the trav­eller’s palm in Madagascar; and the big palulu in the up­per Ama­zon.

The book is bound to ap­peal to any­one with a botan­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal, hor­ti­cul­tural, en­vi­ron­men­tal or even bio­chem­i­cal in­ter­est in plants. Fea­tur­ing more than 200 il­lus­tra­tions, in­clud­ing rare his­toric and con­tem­po­rary plant spec­i­mens from in­ter­na­tional herbaria, it also show­cases dra­matic botan­i­cal draw­ings and paint­ings of stre­litzias by both the clas­si­cal greats and by to­day’s South African botan­i­cal artists. A new set of draw­ings of south­ern African stre­litzias was also com­mis­sioned by the Dur­ban Botanic Gar­dens Trust from renowned KZN botan­i­cal artist An­gela Beau­mont.

“We are proud to have been as­sisted in pro­duc­ing this im­por­tant and beau­ti­ful book by a pub­li­ca­tion award from the Stan­ley Smith Hor­ti­cul­tural Trust (UK),” said Ivor Daniel, chair of the Dur­ban Botanic Gar­dens Trust.

“Most of all, this book ex­em­pli­fies the striv­ing for botan­i­cal ex­cel­lence and the fos­ter­ing of re­la­tion­ships be­tween peo­ple and plants that are a key mis­sion for all botanic gar­dens across the world and which have been guid­ing forces in the Dur­ban Botanic Gar­dens Trust for the past 25 years of its ex­is­tence.”

The book will be launched at the Dur­ban Botan­i­cal Gar­dens on Novem­ber 27. | Orielle Berry

STRE­LITZIAS OF THE WORLD – A HIS­TOR­I­CAL & CON­TEM­PO­RARY EX­PLO­RATION

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