The beautiful Heliconias of Costa Rica

Heliconia is a genus of over 100 species of tropical plants that are native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific Ocean islands west to Indonesia. They have been introduced to many tropical and subtropical places throughout the world and are cultivated for their highly decorative and long lasting brightly coloured waxy bracts. The bracts protect the small nectar producing tubular flowers that are a different length and shape in each species. In Costa Rica Heliconias are specifically pollinated by 9 different species of Humming bird. Through evolution, Humming bird beaks have evolved so that they can drink nectar from a variety of flowers and in Costa Rica to a specific species or group of Heliconias. In Honduras and on the Soloman Islands, Bats are the primary pollinators of Heliconias and are attracted to the sweet nectar produced by the flowers.

Heliconia flowers and bracts are produced on long stems (0.5 to 4.5 metres in length) from the centre of the plant and can be erect (eg., Heliconia latispatha) or hanging (eg., Heliconia rostrata). Once flowering and seed production is complete the flowering plant will die but before doing so will have produced suckers from the base of the old plant that will then go on and flower in subsequent months. Heliconias grow best in tropical areas with high rain fall and are commonly seen growing in the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica and have a similar growth habit to Strelitzias and bananas to which they are related.

Below are examples of the many species and cultivars of Heliconia commonly found in Costa Rica.

Heliconia chartacea
Heliconia chartacea ‘sexy pink’, Heliconia latispatha and Heliconia rostrata
Heliconia psittacorum and Heliconia vellerigera
Heliconia psittacorum L.f cv. Guyana, Heliconia psittacorum L.f cv. Andromeda and Heliconia vellerigera
Heliconia  Wagneriana
Heliconia wagneriana, Heliconia vellerigera cv. she kong, Heliconia psittacorum L.f. x H. spathocircinata
Heliconia Psittacorum Lady Di,
Heliconia Psittacorum L.f. cv. Lady Di, Heliconia Psittacorum x Heliconia Marginata & Heliconia Caribea cv. Prince of Darkness
Heliconia stricta
Heliconia stricta cv. Las Cruces

Exceptionally long Heliconia excelsa growing wild in Corcovado National Park, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica:

Heliconia excelsa growing wild in Costa Rica
Heliconia excelsa growing wild in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Two of the nine endemic species of Humming bird that pollinate Heliconia flowers in Costa Rica:

Humming Birds
Green crowned brilliant and Violet crowned Humming Birds from Costa Rica
Green crowned brilliant & Violet crowned Humming Birds
The Green crowned brilliant and the Violet crowned Humming Bird

Heliconias are widely grown in Costa Rica as a cut flower. Cultivated varieties are exported from a number of farms that include: Sur Tropical Plants & Foliage

Heliconias from Costa Rica also look lovely in London offices!

Corporate Flowers London
Contact Phillo for more information on our London Corporate Flower service.

Further reading
Heliconia Society International –
Heliconia – An Identification Guide, Fred Berry and W John Kress