002Master Gardener, Betty Grotophorst, has a green thumb when it comes to growing the “Bird of Paradise”.  The iconic, stereotypical flower of the tropics, isn’t really a tropical plant at all, however, it has a very exotic bloom that looks great! The Bird of Paradise has a distinctive orange and midnight blue flower that resembles an exotic bird.  Although the flower is often associated with tropical places like Hawaii, the plant is actually native to South Africa.  It grows wild in the eastern Cape among other shrubs along riverbanks and clearings in the coastal bush where it is an important nectar source for birds. It has been exported throughout the world to subtropical climates.  In the US, it is widely used as an ornamental in Southern California and Florida—and it is even the official flower of the City of Los Angeles. It is also commonly used as a cut flower in the tourist trade.  For more information about the Bird of Paradise, visit the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program page at http://wimastergardener.org/?Q=node/283 or contact Betty Grotophorst!