HELICONIA ROSTRATA - The Lobster Claw Plant

HELICONIA ROSTRATA - The Lobster Claw Plant

As far as tropical plants go, the Heliconia rostrata has to be without doubt one of the most exotic of all the fancy, flowering species. Native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific Ocean islands west to Indonesia, Heliconia species are found in the tropical wet forests of these regions.

They are in fact herbaceous plants and able to grow to a height of up to 15 feet. Heliconia leaves look more or less like banana leaves. They are generally green but can tinged slightly with colour, particularly when young.

HELICONIA ROSTRATA - The Lobster Claw Plant
However it is the flower that attracts the most attention and these are produced on long, drooping panicles which consist of a run of bright red waxy bracts. The small, true flowers are those parts peeping out from the bracts.

Unlike most other Heliconias, which produce their flowers in the upright position, Heliconia rostrata has downward-facing flowers.  Each flower will last for many weeks, even when cut, making them extremely popular within the floristry trade.

The plants typically flowers during the wet season and are exclusively pollinated by hummingbirds, but this isn't the only relationship the Heliconia has with the local wildlife. The Honduran White Bat uses the leaves of the Heliconia to make diurnal tent shaped roosts. The bat cuts the side veins of the leaf extending from the midrib causing the leaf to fold like a tent. This structure then provides the bat with shelter from rain, sun, and predators.

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