Story of a queen that delights world
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