DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora-- HELICONIAS  

 

Heliconiaceae is a family of only one genus, Heliconia.  At one time it was rolled in with the bananas, but it now has its own family, under the Zingiberales Order.  There are one or two hundred species of Heliconias, and about a zillion hybrids and cultivars.  It is mainly a neotropical complex, and 'complex' is the pivotal term.  A heliconia may be easy to spot, but there is a great variation within each species, and that was before the horticultural types worked their wizardry.  There are no guarantees with the following identifications.

Although the term Heliconia is the most commonly used in both English and Spanish, there are terms such as Lobster Claw and Platanilla which are also widely employed.  Most species are pollinated by hummingbirds, and the blue or black seeds dispersed by birds.  The International Heliconia Society has an informative website at www.heliconia.org .  There is also a book on the Heliconias of Colombia by John Kress, Julio Betancur and Beatriz Echeverry.

 

Heliconia longissima is one of those amazing structures that flora sometimes invents.  Or was it nature.  It is quoted as having a Colombian origin, but seems mainly to be found in tropical gardens, in this case the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.  Impressive in any case. Click to see big picture (506x480 pixels; 126 KB)
Heliconia griggsiana is another big species, really more like a tree up to ten meters high.  It is native here in Colombia, and also Ecuador, but there are cultivars all over. Click to see big picture (420x480 pixels; 83 KB)
Probably Heliconia pogonantha, in southeastern Nicaragua.  It may be found from here to Colombia. Click to see big picture (333x480 pixels; 106 KB)
A few species are covered with hair, they are sort of furry.  This one is Heliconia vellerigera, which occurs from Costa Rica to Peru, and is planted more widely. The backsides of leaves tend to be red-brown in color.  Photo from central Ecuador. Click to see big picture (313x480 pixels; 85 KB)
With age, the fur coat of H. vellerigera turn brown, highlighting the bright yellow flowers.
With blues berries and hanging out in Costa Rica, this fuzzy wonder is likely Heliconia danielsiana. Click to see big picture (375x480 pixels; 90 KB)
Endemic to Colombia, in this case the Cafetera area, meet Heliconia Mutisiana. Click to see big picture (229x480 pixels; 51 KB)
Most heliconias are overwhelming in size for the average garden.  This is the more moderate Heliconia hirsuta, which was widely spread in the neotropics, and now is planted in warm areas of the globe.  In the Amazon, the roots are used to make a beer. Click to see big picture (484x480 pixels; 115 KB)
And then there is Heliconia psittacorum, sometime called the Parakeet Heliconia.  It is told from the former species by long leaf stalks, but has been pressed to the same garden status. Click to see big picture (640x433 pixels; 92 KB)
Heliconia mariae ranges from Guatemala to Colombia and Venezuela, here on the northwest coast of Panama. This style is sometimes called Firecracker or Beefsteak Heliconias.  Note the red flowers peeking out from the bracts.  Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 83 KB)
A more mature specimen of Heliconia mariae from the Smithsonian Institute on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, shows the red flowers in more detail.
A very similar species encountered in eastern Nicaragua, but with yellow flowers.  H. magnifica looks like this, but is out of range. Click to see big picture (293x480 pixels; 71 KB)
Heliconia latispatha is said to be the species most commonly met in the wild, but is also one of the most variable, ranging from red through orange to yellow.   The wild, sharp bracts are typical (if not definitive).  Widespread in the neotropics.  Click to see big picture (391x480 pixels; 106 KB)
This photo of Heliconia latispatha emphasizes both the multi-directional bracts, and the large leaf typical of the lowest bract, known as the 'keel'. Click to see big picture (542x480 pixels; 141 KB)
This bright yellow species in Costa Rica looks like a cross between H. beckneri and clinophila. Unidentified. Click to see big picture (278x480 pixels; 60 KB)
Heliconia collinsiana is native from southern Mexico to Panama and planted well beyond, being popular in gardens.  Here in Nicaragua. Click to see big picture (361x480 pixels; 90 KB)
With bright pink bracts, Heliconia chartacea has traveled far from its home in Brazil and begat many cultivars.  This specimen brightens a garden at Sarapiqui Lodge in Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 112 KB)
A look at the full length of this striking pink Heliconia. Click to see big picture (283x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Heliconia aemygdiana is another species sporting pink.   It is found in the western Amazon basin and adjacent uplands, in this case at Cotacocha Lodge, near Tena, Ecuador.
Heliconia rostrata is the classical Lobster Claw flower, ranging from Mexico to Bolivia.  (H. pendula looks much the same, but is out of its range here in Colombia.) Click to see big picture (559x480 pixels; 92 KB)
On the other hand, Heliconia platystachys tends to be known as the  False Lobster Claw.  This one is growing near Yaveza in the Darien on Panama, but the species ranges from  Costa Rica to Venezuela..
A closer look at the flower head of Heliconia platystachys.  This is a young specimen which with extend with time.  The white stems are typical of the species.
Known as the Parrot Beak Heliconia, H. schiedeana is a product of southern Mexico and adjacent Guatemala. Click to see big picture (319x480 pixels; 83 KB)
Here are two forms of Heliconia scarlatina, which has swallowed some other, formerly independent species, and now ranges from Panama to Peru. Click to see big picture (615x480 pixels; 164 KB)
Heliconia gloriosa is really a Peruvian, but it has used its red leaf undersides as a ticket to far places.  It is here caught vacationing in Hawaii. Click to see big picture (640x455 pixels; 136 KB)
Heliconia schumanniana is at home in the western amazon basin and adjacent uplands.  In this case it resides at the Jatun Sacha Reserve in Ecuador.
The eastern slope of the Andes is where one may find Heliconia pastazae, from southern Colombia to Peru.  Photo from the Wildsumaco Reserve of Ecuador.
Heliconia pastazae is large for its genus, as this photo reveals. 
Heliconia lozanoi is endemic to parts of Colombia, in this case the Honda area. Click to see big picture (295x480 pixels; 63 KB)
A more common species in Colombia is Heliconia stricta, which may also be found from Venezuela to Peru. Click to see big picture (501x480 pixels; 89 KB)
Heliconia julianii also ranges from Venezuela to Peru, but via Brazil and the Amazon basin rather than the highlands.  Here it is near Leticia, Columbia. Click to see big picture (342x480 pixels; 68 KB)
Switching farther north, Heliconia bourgaeana originated from Mexico to Nicaragua, and is here exhibited in the former. Click to see big picture (384x480 pixels; 78 KB)
There are several species that can look like this, but here in Colombia it is likely Heliconia orthotricha, found from there to Peru. Click to see big picture (505x480 pixels; 120 KB)
Another view of Heliconia orthotriche, from the Jatun Sacha Gardens, in Ecuador.
While in Costa Rica, this sort of plant is likely to be Heliconia wagneriana, a feature from Belize to Panama. Click to see big picture (639x480 pixels; 147 KB)
Heliconia venusta is found in the mountains of Colombia, in fact it is also known as H. montana.  Here it is at the Botanical Gardens of Bogota.

Heliconia mincana is confined to the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia, in fact it is named after a town there.  It is aslo known as H. Meridensis.

From the El Dorado Reserve of the Santa Marta Mountains, a full view of Heliconica mincana.
Switching from Heliconias to the closely related Strelitziaceae Family (of only five species), this would be Strelitzia reginae.  Under names such as Bird of Paradise, it has traveled from its South African home to tropical gardens everywhere. Click to see big picture (591x480 pixels; 89 KB)
And where gardens are big enough, they might also grow a Giant White Bird of Paradise, which can reach a height of six meters.  Strelitzia nicolai also carries a South African passport. Click to see big picture (573x480 pixels; 115 KB)
And if you have a really huge tropical garden, why not plant a Travellers PalmRavenala madagascariensis is from Madagascar, as the name would imply, but it is of the Strelitziaceae family and not a true palm. Photo from Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Panama.