H e l i c o n i a

The heliconia, a close relative of the banana, is a distinctive plant that is native to the tropics. It has large, elongated, paddle-shaped leaves. Brightly colored, tubular-shaped outer flowers house smaller, less colorful flowers. These interior flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds, whose long and narrow bills are perfectly suited for this task. Hummingbirds are territorial about their patch of heliconia and will defend their space vigorously, chasing away trespassers. Researchers believe this “hummingbird action” may hamper seed dispersal.

Heliconias produce fruits that are eaten by other birds. A researcher in the Costa Rican rainforest observed 28 species of birds eating the fruit of one heliconia species. The pulp of the fruit is digested, but the whole seed is regurgitated, thus allowing for seed dispersal. Most heliconia require abundant sunlight, so they are often seen along roadsides, open fields, and forest edges where they occupy any gaps that are open to the sun.

Learn more about Heliconia plants.