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Oiseau de paradis blanc (Strelitzia alba) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin
Oiseau de paradis blanc (Strelitzia alba) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin

White bird of paradise

At first glance, this species is often mistaken for a banana plant. It is the shrubby Strelitzia alba (white-flowered wild banana). In Mention, it can easily reach a height of 8 metres. Its inflorescence, similar to that of the Strelitzia reginae (orange and blue), is white.

Identity Card

Common name
White bird of paradise
Binominal name
Strelitzia alba (L.F.) Skeels


Heliconia alba L. f., Strelitzia augusta Thunb.

Detailed Informations

Area of origin
South-Africa (Western Cape Province)


The genus Strelitzia is named in honour of Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom, after the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, which was her birthplace. Alba means “white” in Latin.

Description and flowering period

Strelitzia alba is a plant forming a dense thicket reaching up to 10 meters in height. The leaves are persistent and can measure up to 2 meter long and 60cm wide. Inflorescences resemble bird heads (hence the species’ common name). Each inflorescence is composed of a tough, 30 cm long, horizontal boat-shaped bract (modified leaf), which harbours 5 to 10 flowers, opening in sequence. The fruits are woody capsule which split in three pods to reveal seeds protected by a yellow / orange tufty aril.


The species demands a rich, fresh yet draining soil in full sun or part-shade, in a sheltered location as leaves are easily lacerated by strong winds or hail. Leaves are affected by the lightest frosts (-1°C) and the plant dies at -2°C.




The genus Strelitzia is endemic to austral Africa, it is composed of 2 herbaceous species: Strelitzia reginae and S. juncea as well as 3 treelike species: S. caudata, S. nicolai and S. alba, which distinguishes itself by its fully white flowers, whereas all other species have some blue coloration.

Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN

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