Heliconias are some of the most attractive and interesting plants in the tropics. They are easy to grow and their flowers last for a long time, therefore you find them everywhere from deep in the rain forest to peoples porches and gardens.
Heliconias are related to gingers, bananas and birds of paradise, they are herbs and easily propagate by rhizomes, which is a little piece of the root.
There are about 200 species mostly in the American tropics, with just a few in south-east Asia. In Costa Rica 39 species are native, but you find hundreds of exotic hybrids in plantations and gardens.
These attractive flowers come in in all sorts of shapes and colors, and are not really flowers, but bracts or modified leaf-like structures called inflorescence. Each inflorescence can have as many as 50 flowers.
Hummingbirds are the main pollinators of the Heliconias, they are attracted by the bright reds, yellow and orange colors, but to ensure that their flowers get pollinated, Heliconias developed a very interesting strategy. They release nectar only from a few flowers at any given time, in very small quantities, to force the Hummingbirds to visit many plants in bloom for cross pollination.
When you find a Heliconia in bloom, in the forest or at the garden of the hotel, wait a few minutes and most probably a beautiful Hummingbird will come for a fix of sugar, an important relationship in nature, benefiting both.