The species is native to South Africa but naturalised in Mexico, Belize, Bangladesh, Madeira Islands and Juan Fernández Islands off the coast of Chile. The plant grows to 2 m tall, with large, strong leaves 25–70 cm long and 10–30 cm broad, produced on petioles up to 1 m long. The leaves are evergreen and arranged in two ranks, making a fan-shaped crown. The flowers stand above the foliage at the tips of long stalks.
The hard, beak-like sheath from which the flower emerges is termed the spathe. This is placed perpendicular to the stem, which gives it the appearance of a bird's head and beak; it makes a durable perch for holding the sunbirds which pollinate the flowers. The flowers, which emerge one at a time from the spathe, consist of three brilliant orange sepals and three purplish-blue petals. Two of the blue petals are joined together to form an arrow-like nectary. When the sunbirds sit to drink the nectar, the petals open to cover their feet in pollen.
The seeds develop in quantity in each of the flowers and one may easily grow the plant from seed, at any time of year. Before sowing, remove the bright orange tuft of hairs attached to the seed (aril of each seed), the hard seeds can then be scarified (nicked or scratched) to decrease germination time. To scarify, soak the seeds in lukewarm water for several hours, and then nick them with a knife or small file. Scarified seeds will germinate in two to three months. Another way to decrease germination time is to put un-scarified seeds in a plastic bag and place them in a refrigerator at 4°C for two weeks. Then scarify and sow them.
This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.