Another tip o’ the hat to David Tarrant for sending along some of his photographs. Instead of being taken in Mexico, however, these images (of an African plant) are from New Zealand a couple weeks ago. Thanks again, David!
The diminutive well-known relative of this species has previously been featured on BPotD: Strelitzia reginae. While S. reginae grows to a height of about a meter (3 ft), Strelitzia nicolai can easily exceed 6m (20 ft). The vernacular name “giant bird of paradise” seems to be appropriate. Other common names include white bird of paradise and Natal wild banana (the Strelitziaceae are fairly close relatives to the Musaceae, or the banana family).
As already noted, Strelitzia nicolai is native to Africa; more specifically, southeast Africa from Zimbabwe to South Africa where it grows near the coast in forests and dunes. Like many African plants in cultivation, Plantzafrica has an excellent article: Strelitzia nicolai. The article explains the doubly-royal scientific name: “The name Strelitzia was given to honour Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III of England. She was from the house of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The name nicolai is in honour of Czar Nicholas of Russia”.
Cal’s Plant of the Week has also featured Strelitzia nicolai. Plants of Hawaii also has images of this species, but they are mostly of young individuals growing in strip of land along a parking lot: Strelitzia nicolai.