Strelitzia nicolai (Natal wild banana)
> eukaryotes >
Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants)
> Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants)
> Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering
plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Zingiberales
> Family: Strelitziaceae > Genus:
A large tree-like strelitzia, growing to 12 m
Of the three tree-like strelitzias found in
southern Africa, Strelitzia nicolai is distinguished by
usually having blue, not white petals (thus distinguishing is from
Strelitzia alba although very
occasionally petals can be white in S. nicolai) and by having
a compound flowerhead (one flowerhead arising from another; the
other two species have a simple flowerhead). Note that it is
the arrow-like structure of a Strelitzia flower that consists
of two petals (with style and stamens running between) while the
three large, erect, showy petal-like structures are actually sepals
- these sepals are white in all three species of tree-like
strelitzias. There is a third petal that is inconspicuous.
The fruit is a 3-lobed, dehiscent woody
capsule. The seed is black with an orange, woolly aril.
Origin of name
This species was named by von Regel and
Körnicke (1858) after
Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolajevich the elder, who was the third son
of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna. He was the royal sponsor of the Russian
Horticultural Society of St. Petersburg (David Hollombe pers.
Distribution and habitat
Occurs in coastal dune and forest vegetation,
as well as inland forests, along the east coast of southern Africa
from just south of East London in the Eastern Cape, through
KwaZulu-Natal to southern Mozambique.
- Pollinated by, and a source of nectar for:
- Soft portions of flowers are eaten by:
- Fruits/seeds are eaten by:
- Used as a nesting site by:
Uses by humans
Seed capsules contain large black seeds with orange, oily
arils. Seeds are ground into a flour, which is mixed with water and made into a
fritter. The arils are pushed into the fritter and it is then baked over coals
and then eaten. It is evidently a filling meal but not particularly tasty (van
Wyk and Gericke 2000).
According to Palmer & Pitman (1972): "Zulus
use the spathes as penis boxes". Somehow I doubt this is still
The leaves are used for lining damp corn
- Palgrave, K.C. and Palgrave, M.C. 2002. Trees of Southern Africa.
3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Palmer, E. and Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of Southern Africa covering all
known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa,
Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Volume 1. A.A. Balkema, Cape
- von Regel EA, Körnicke F. 1858. Strelitzia nicolai Rgl. et Körn. Gartenflora 7: 265-267,
pl. 235. (see
- van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's
Plants. A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa. Briza Publications,