Easter or Rainbow Heliconia
Heliconia wagneriana

Family: Heliconiacea
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Zingiberales
Division: Magnoliophyta
Kingdom: Plantae


Coloration: The flowers of this species are actually highly modified leaves and bracts in the shapes of a lobster claws. The bracts are somewhat variable, bright red areas cover most of the cheek and it is surrounded by pale green along the lip keel and tip with yellow areas at the base. Foliage is banana like with waxy white coatin
the inside of a bract
g on stems and lower midrib. Heliconia wagneriana has a height of 5' to 15' and a long blooming season from January to September.
Detail of bract

Morphology: The leaves of these plants are 15-300 cm long, oblong, growing opposite one another on non-woody petioles often longer than the leaf, often forming large clumps with age. The flower group (called an "inflorescence") is almost always at the end of long, leafy shoots. The stem is either erect or drooping with respect to the leafy shoot from which it emerges. The inflorescence is made up of the peduncle and modified leaflike structures known as bracts. The rachis connects adjacent bracts. Within each bract there is a coil of inconspicuous flowers. The fruits also develop within the bracts.

Ecology and behavio
Heliconia and hummingbird
r: Heliconias in the tropics rely exclusively on hummingbirds for pollination. This accounts for their bright red, yellow and orange colors, which attract hummingbirds. In addition to their colors, the Heliconias have developed long flower tubes with rich nectar contents. While obtaining the energy-rich food that they need to survive, hummingbirds brush pollen off onto the sticky surface of the stigma, the female organ of the Heliconia flower. The pollen may be obtained from the anther, the male organ of a different heliconia flower, or perhaps of the same flower. Heliconias are also self-compatible, thus self pollination is acceptable. In this way hummingbirds help Heliconias to propagate their species. The hummingbirds also evolved long curved bills to be able to reach to the bottom of the flower tube to obtain the nectar. Even their tongue is long -- twice as long as the bill -- so that they can reach even further down the tube. In most cases the size of the flower tube on the plant matches the exact size of the bill on the pollinating hummingbird. Certain Heliconias with deep flower tubes rely on a specific hummingbird with an extra long bill to pollinate them. Unlike most other flowers, Heliconias have evolved a relationship that gives hummingbirds "exclusive" feeding rights because neither color nor smell has developed to attract insects. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.

Diet: Heliconia wagneriana is an autotroph. It uses the process of photosynthesis to create energy from sunlight. The conversion of unusuable sunlight energy into usable chemical energy is associated with the actions of the green pigment chlorophyll. The photosynthetic process uses water and releases the oxygen that humans need to stay alive.

Interactions with other species: The concave bracts of H. wagneriana provide an excellent environment in which a variety of insects can live. It has open concave bracts suited for holding water, therefore attracting a larger number and diversity of insects and providing protection and sustenance for both matures and immatures. Maggots, bacteria, and protozoans make their homes in pools of water in Heliconia bracts, as do frogs, such as the Ophaga pumilio . The plants also provide habitat for disk-wing bats and several speices of tent-making bats. These bats construct shelters for themselves by chewing along both sides of the midrib of a leaf, so that the sides fold down, creating temporary 'tents.' Heliconia are also grown for the florists trade and as gardening plants.

Personal Experience: The Heliconia is a popular flower for decheliconia_2.jpgorations. It was very common to find them along paths of hotels and surrounding the outdoor areas of restaurants. This is important for tropical ecosystems because it is not an invasive species. It allows landscapers to use a naturally occurring plant in their gardens. By using a domestic plant, the biodiversity of the area is conserved naturally. Native plants provide a lot of benefits. They are cheaper to plant because they don't need to be imported. They plants commonly have lower maintenance than imported species because they are in their naturally occurring environments. Additionally, planting native species encourages the natural pollinators of the plant to interact. Overall the heliconia helps Costa Rica maintain its biodiversity and beauty at the same time.