What plant is this?



Walking on almost any trail in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, you are likely to pass heliconias. Their large, paddle-shaped leaves resemble banana leaves, giving them one of their common names, platanilla, which means little plantain in  Spanish.

Heliconia tends to grow in clusters, often in light gaps in the forest and along the banks of streams. The bright red “flowers” are in fact not flowers but specialized leaves, called bracts. “Lobster claw,” one of the English common names for heliconia, derives from the color and shape of these bracts. At the base of the bracts, yellow flowers produce sweet nectar, and humming birds attracted by the intense color of the bracts can reach the nectar with their long, slender bills. As they follow established routes or “traplines,” hummingbirds fly from flower to flower and  carry pollen on their foreheads.

The small, fleshy fruits sit nestled in the red bracts, until small birds pluck them and eat them, spreading seeds through the forest.

Showy heliconia plants can be found in botanical gardens around the world. However, the ecological relationships of pollination, herbivory and seed dispersal that connect heliconias with the rest of the forest cannot be found in captivity. In the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, beauty and biodiversity sprout from the same seed.





Who made these holes? Beetles and other insects munch through the new leaf when it is still rolled up, leaving trails of holes.

One Response to “What plant is this?”

  1. Tim Upham Says:

    The eyelash viper will coil around an immature heliconia, where its yellow coloring will blend in with that of the immature flower. It will prey on hummingbirds that come to feed on the nectar. The viper will strike out, and immobilize the hummingbird with its venom. It is just that the heliconia will not get pollinated by that particular hummingbird though.

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