Our “flower a week” project is back, after a brief break and this week, we have in my opinion easily one of the most unique and distinctive flowers found in Costa Rica.
These particular blossoms can be found in a number of various areas in the country, partly down to the fact that there are a large amount of different species of this particular flower. “lobster claw” as it is more commonly known.
One of the reasons this “lobster claw” is special is due to its abundance of nectar, this being a huge attraction for the hummingbirds as they are the main pollinators of these flowers.
Heliconias are grown for the florist’s trade and as landscape plants. These plants do not grow well in cold, dry conditions. They are very drought intolerant, but can endure some soil flooding. Heliconias need an abundance of water, sunlight, and soils that are rich in humus in order to grow well. These flowers are grown in tropical regions all over the world as ornamental plants. The flower of H. psitacorrum (Parrot Heliconia) is especially distinctive, its greenish-yellow flowers with black spots and red bracts reminding of the bright plumage of parrots.
Heliconias provide shelter for a diverse range of insects within their young rolled leaves and water-filled floral bracts. Insects that inhabit the rolled leaves often feed upon the inner surfaces of the leaf, such as beetles of the family Chrysomildae in bracts containing small amounts of water, fly larvae and beetles are the dominant inhabitants. In bracts with greater quantities of water the typical inhabitants are mosquito larva. Insects living in the bracts often feed on the bract tissue, nectar of the flower, flower parts, other insects, microorganisms, or detritus in the water contained in the bract. Almost all species of Hispinae beetles that use rolled leaves are obligate parasites of plants of the order of Zingibirales, which includes Heliconia. These beetles live in and feed from the rolled leaf, the stems, the inflorescences, or the unfurled mature leaves of the Heliconiaplant. In addition, these beetles deposit their eggs on the leaf surface, petioles of immature leaves, or in the bracts of the Heliconia. Furthermore, some wasp species such as Polistes erythrocephalus build their nest on the protected underside of large leaves.
Be on the lookout for these beauties wherever you may be in Costa Rica, stop for a minute, admire it’s rich colours and intricate beauty and who knows you may just find a humming bird passing by.
Till next week