Heliconia species (Heliconiaceae)
These understory monocots are often very conspicuous. Most species like moderate to high light levels, but a few can also be found in dark forest understory. Pollination is mostly by hummingbirds. Heliconias are often erroneously referred to as "bird-of-paradise" plants. The very hard seeds can remain viable in the soil for many years.
A tall growing Heliconia of high light locations, reaching 4-5 meters in height. The leaves have a chalky undersurface and look "shredded". The bracts are a lovely delicate pink color. Mature fruits are a deep blue.
A delicate slender-stemmed Heliconia of moderate to high light locations. Patchy in distribution, but can form large clusters under favorable conditions.
A species of flooded forest areas and creek edges that inundate regularly. Heliconia juruana often has the bracts attended by ants, presumably picking up extra-floral nectar. Mature fruits are a bright blue. Plants grow from 2-3 meters in height.
A perennial favorite due to the delicate shading of the bracts. This is a Heliconia with a robust stem and inflorescence. Found in medium to high light locations, it grows to about 2 meters in height, and can often be found in fallow farmland as well as in secondary forest and large tree-fall gaps in primary forest.
Very similar to Heliconia chartaceae, but with slenderer more delicate bracts. This species is seemingly much less common than H. chartaceae, or perhaps it is often mis-identified.
A slender Heliconia of the forest understory, most common in older secondary forest, but can also be encountered in darker primary forest. The yellow flowers have a characteristic kink in them not found in most other Heliconia flowers. The plants grow to about 1.5 meters in height.
An attractive low growing (to 1 meter) Heliconia of high light locations. The developing upright bracts have an interesting curl at the tips, while the mature bracts are arranged in a spiral pattern.
Another favorite Heliconia of many visitors, H. stricta can be found in low-light forest interior and reaches about 1 meter in height.
A common Heliconia of both secondary and primary forest, growing to about 3 meters in height. Bracts often have colonies of ants inhabiting them, possibly giving the developing seeds some protection from weevils and other seed predators. A hairstreak butterfly and ants "patrol" a young inflorescence in the last photo.
Heliconia "next species"
We'll be working to get photos of ALL the Heliconia species that can be found at our field sites