Written by Catherine Cluow
Today, the 18th July is Mandela Day, a day not only to celebrate his life and legacy, but a day of action to better the world, it’s a global movement to honour his life’s work and make a positive difference.
The Botanical Society of South Africa tries to contribute to making the world a better place by promoting, supporting and encouraging environmental awareness and education, as well as plant and biodiversity conservation. Let us share with you about a very special plant, and what is a more appropriate choice to educate you about on Mandela day, than the Mandela’s Gold, an elegant and beautiful floral gem, named in honour of our Tata Madiba.
In August 1996 Nelson Mandela visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, planted the pepper-bark tree near the Visitors’ Centre and unveiled the special yellow Mandela’s Gold Stelitzia named in honour of him- here are a few facts about this plant:
- This flower is pollinated by birds’ feet. The bird perches delicately on the sticky anthers and picks up pollen on its feed while feeding on the nectar, the specific pollinator bird perches in the right spot resulting in the blue anther covering petals to open up exposing the pollen. Although the pollinator is not found in Cape Town and it is not certain exactly who is doing the job, many birds visit and enjoy the nectar but do not perch in the correct position for pollination.
- The Strelitzia plants are easy to grow: needing a warm, sunny location with rich loam soils.
- The rare yellow form of the Strelitzia/ crane flower/ bird of paradise is a natural variant of the normally orange species that crop up infrequently. Yellow plants do not always produce yellow offspring. At Kirstenbosch these plants are hand-pollinated to ensure yellow flowers result and the germinated seeds need to be carefully protected from being eaten by squirrels. Have you ever noticed the flowers have chicken mesh wire around them from time to time? This is to protect the developing and germinated seeds from being eaten.
- Once established the plant needs minimal watering but for best results give them regular deep watering through summer, and feed generously with manure compost and/or fertiliser about once a month during summer.
- They are wind tolerant but frost sensitive.
- Slow growing beauties, they may only flower in the third year if in an ideal setting. In poorer conditions, they can take up to 5-7 years to flower. But the wait is worth it!
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Have a great Mandela Day and tell us what you are doing for the environment, we’d love to hear from you…