Herbs, perennial, from rhizomes. True aerial stems absent or weak and concealed in pseudostem. Leaves basal or basal and cauline, in 2 ranks, differentiated into basal sheath, petiole, and blade; sheaths overlapping, forming unbranched pseudostem, open, ligule absent; summit of petiole not differentiated; blade with lateral veins parallel, diverging from prominent midrib. Inflorescences 1 per aerial shoot, projecting from tip of pseudostem, pedunculate racemes of several- to many-flowered monochasial cymes (cincinni); bracts of main axis enclosing cincinni. Flowers bisexual, bilaterally symmetric; sepals and petals scarcely differentiated, sepals 3, petals 3, 2 sepals and 3 petals fused, remaining sepal distinct; fertile stamens 5, not petal-like; anthers 2-locular; 1 rudimentary staminode opposite free sepal; ovary inferior, 3-carpellate, 3-locular, all locules fertile; placentation basal; ovules 1 per locule; style standing away from stamens and staminode, filiform, stigma capitate or 3-lobed. Fruits 1–3-seeded drupes, sepals not persistent in fruit. Seeds: aril absent, endosperm copious, perisperm copious, embryo straight. x = 12.
Introduced; North America, Mexico, West Indies, Central America, South America, and Oceania.
The Bird-of-paradise, Strelitzia reginae Aiton, of the closely related family Strelitziaceae, is an acaulescent rhizomatous herb often cultivated in the western and southern United States. It is not known to reproduce outside of cultivation, but it can persist for very long periods on abandoned ground in southern California. Its leaves are in two ranks; the sheaths do not overlap and do not form a pseudostem. The petioles are long, and the blades are glabrous but often strongly glaucous, and have parallel lateral veins diverging from a prominent midrib. The inflorescence is a single cincinnus, enclosed within a large bract, with the mature flowers projecting laterally. The perianth is large and showy, with three orange sepals and three dark blue petals; one petal is short, the other two are long and enfold the style and the five fertile stamens, forming a prominent arrow-shaped structure. The fruit is a many-seeded capsule.
Genus Genera 1, species 225 (1 species in the flora).