This section is from the book "The Botanical Magazine; Or, Flower-Garden Displayed", by William Curtis. Also available from Amazon: The Botanical Magazine; or, Flower-Garden Displayed, Volume I.
Strelitzia Reginae. Canna-leaved Strelitzia.
Spathae. Cal. 0. Cor. 3-petala. Nectarium triphyllum, genitalia involvens. Peric. 3-loculare, polyspermum.
STRELITZIA Reginae Ait. Hort. Kew. v. i. p. 285. Tab. 2.
HELICONIA Bibai J. Mill. ic. tab. 5, 6.
In order that we may give our readers an opportunity of seeing a coloured representation of one of the most scarce and magnificent plants introduced into this country, we have this number deviated from our usual plan, with respect to the plates, and though in so doing we shall have the pleasure of gratifying the warm wishes of many of our readers, we are not without our apprehensions least others may not feel perfectly well satisfied; should it prove so, we wish such to rest assured that this is a deviation in which we shall very rarely indulge and never but when something uncommonly beautiful or interesting presents itself: to avoid the imputation of interested motives, we wish our readers to be apprized that the expences attendant on the present number, in consequence of such deviation, have been considerably augmented, not lowered.
It is well known to many Botanists, and others, who have experienced Sir Joseph Banks's well known liberality, that previous to the publication of the Hortus Kewensis he made a new genus of this plant, which had before been considered as a species of Heliconia, and named it Strelitzia in honour of our most gracious Queen Charlotte; coloured engravings of which, executed under his direction, he presented to his particular friends; impressions of the same plate have been given in the aforesaid work, in which we are informed that this plant was introduced to the royal garden at Kew, by Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. in the year 1773, where it lately flowered - of some other plants introduced after that period from the Cape, of which it is a native, one flowered in the Pine stove of Bamber Gascoyne, Esq. several years ago, from whence Mr. Millar drew his figure, and the plant from which our drawing was made flowered this spring, in the bark stove of the garden belonging to the Apothecaries Company, at Chelsea, where it will also soon flower again.
This plant has usually been confined to the stove, where it has been placed in a pot, and plunged into the tan, as the plants in such situations usually are; it has been found that when the roots have been confined to the narrow limits of a pot, the plant has rarely or never flowered, but that when the roots have by accident extended into the rotten tan, it has readily thrown up flowering stems, the best practice therefore, not only with this, but many other plants, is to let the roots have plenty of earth to strike into. As it is a Cape plant it may perhaps be found to succeed best in the conservatory.
It has not, that we know of, as yet ripened its seeds in this country; till it does, or good seeds of it shall be imported, it must remain a very scarce and dear plant, as it is found to increase very slowly by its roots: plants are said to be sold at the Cape for Three Guineas each.
General Description of the Strelitzia Reginae.
From a perennial stringy root shoot forth a considerable number of leaves, standing upright on long footstalks, front a sheath of some one of which, near its base, springs the flowering stem, arising somewhat higher than the leaves, and terminating in an almost horizontal long-pointed spatha, containing about six or eight flowers, which becoming vertical as they spring forth, form a kind of crest, which the glowing orange of the Corolla, and fine azure of the Nectary, renders truly superb. The outline in the third plate of this number, is intended to give our readers an idea of its general habit and mode of growth.
Particular Description of the same.
ROOT perennial, stringy, somewhat like that of the tawny Day-lily (Hemerocallis fulva); strings the thickness of the little finger, blunt at the extremity, extending horizontally, if not confined, to the distance of many feet.
LEAVES numerous, standing upright on their footstalks, about a foot in length, and four inches in breadth, ovato-oblong, coriaceous, somewhat fleshy, rigid, smooth, concave, entire on the edges, except on one side towards the base, where they are more or less curled, on the upper side of a deep green colour, on the under side covered with a fine glaucous meal, midrib hollow above and yellowish, veins unbranched, prominent on the inside, and impressed on the outside of the leaf, young leaves rolled up.
LEAF-STALKS about thrice the length of the leaves, upright, somewhat flattened, at bottom furnished with a sheath, and received into each other, all radical.
SCAPUS or flowering stem unbranched, somewhat taller than the leaves, proceeding from the sheath of one of them, upright, round, not perfectly straight, nearly of an equal thickness throughout, of a glaucous hue, covered with four or five sheaths which closely embrace it. Two or more flowering stems spring from the same root, according to the age of the plant.
SPATHA terminal, about six inches in length, of a glaucous hue, with a fine bright purple at its base, running out to a long point, opening above from the base to within about an inch of the apex, where the edges roll over to one side, forming an angle of about forty-five degrees, and containing about six flowers.
FLOWERS of a bright orange colour, becoming upright, when perfectly detached from the spatha, which each flower is a considerable time in accomplishing. In the plant at Chelsea, the two back petals, or, more properly segments of the first flower, sprang forth with the nectary, and while the former became immediately vertical, the latter formed nearly the same angle as the spatha; four days afterwards the remaining segment of the first flower, with the two segments and nectary of the second came forth, and in the same manner at similar intervals all the flowers, which were six in number, continued to make their appearance.
COROLLA deeply divided into three segments, which are ovato-lanceolate, slightly keeled, and somewhat concave, at the base white, fleshy, and covered with a glutinous substance flowing in great quantities from the nectary.
NECTARY of a fine azure blue and most singular form, composed of two petals, the upper petal very short and broad, with a whitish mucro or point, the sides of which lap over the base of the other petal; inferior petal about two inches and a half in length, the lower half somewhat triangular, grooved on the two lowermost sides, and keeled at bottom, the keel running straight to its extremity, the upper half gradually dilating towards the base, runs out into two lobes more or less obtuse, which give it an arrow-shaped form, bifid at the apex, hollow, and containing the antherae, the edges of the duplicature crisped and forming a kind of frill from the top to the bottom.
STAMINA five Filaments arising from the base of the nectary, short and distinct; Antherae long and linear, attached to and cohering by their tips to the apex of the nectary.
STYLE filiform, white, length of the nectary.
STIGMA three quarters of an inch long, attached to, and hitched on as it were to the tip of the nectary, roundish, white, awl-shaped, very viscid, becoming as the flower decays of a deep purple brown colour, and usually splitting into three pieces, continuing attached to the nectary till the nectary decays.
Mr. Fairbairn, to whose abilities and industry the Companies Garden at Chelsea is indebted for its present flourishing state, being desirous of obtaining ripe seeds, I had no opportunity of examining the germen.
Such were the appearances which presented themselves to us in the plant which flowered at the Chelsea Garden; that they are liable to considerable variation is apparent from the figure of Mr. Millar, which appears to have been drawn from a very luxuriant specimen, as two spathae grow from one flowering stem, the stigma is also remarkably convoluted, many other appearances are likewise represented, which our plant did not exhibit: in the figure given in the Hortus Kewensis, the stigma appears to have separated from the nectary on the first opening of the flower, and to be split into three parts, neither of which circumstances took place in our plant till they were both in a decaying state.