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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.

Heliconia chartacea

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.

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Heliconia hirsuta

A delicate slender-stemmed Heliconia of moderate to high light locations.  Patchy in distribution, but can form large clusters under favorable conditions.

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Heliconia juruana

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.

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Heliconia orthotricha

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.

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Heliconia penduloides

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. 

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Heliconia schumanniana

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.

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Heliconia spathocircinata

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.

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Heliconia stricta

Another favorite Heliconia of many visitors, H. stricta can be found in low-light forest interior and reaches about 1 meter in height. 

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Heliconia velutina

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. 

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Heliconia velutina w hairstreak & ants-01-SC-20211203.jpeg

Heliconia "next species"

We'll be working to get photos of ALL the Heliconia species that can be found at our field sites

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