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Heliconia facts for kids

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Heliconia
Heliconia latispatha
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Heliconiaceae
Genus: Heliconia
L.
Starr 070906-8370 Heliconia stricta
Heliconia stricta (Dwarf Jamaican leaf). Location: Maui, Kula Ace Hardware and Nursery.

Heliconia is a genus of flowering plants. They are native tropical South America, as well as the Pacific Ocean Islands west to Indonesia. There are between 100 and 200 species in the genus. Other common names include lobster-claw, wild plantain and false bird-of-paradise.

The plants have very decorative flowers. For this reason they are often sold decorative plants.

Description

These herbaceous plants range from 0.5 to nearly 4.5 meters (1.5–15 feet) tall depending on the species. The simple leaves of these plants are 15–300 cm (6 in–10 ft). They are characteristically long, oblong, alternate, or growing opposite one another on non-woody petioles often longer than the leaf, often forming large clumps with age. Their flowers are produced on long, erect or drooping panicles, and consist of brightly colored waxy bracts, with small true flowers peeping out from the bracts. The growth habit of heliconias is similar to Canna, Strelitzia, and bananas, to which they are related.The flowers can be hues of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens, and are subtended by brightly colored bracts. Floral shape often limits pollination to a subset of the hummingbirds in the region.

Leaf

Leaves in different positions on the plant have a different absorption potential of sunlight for photosynthesis when exposed to different degrees of sunlight.

Flower

Flowers produce ample nectar that attracts pollinators, most prevalent of which are hummingbirds.

Seeds

Fruits are blue-purple when ripe and primarily bird dispersed. Studies of post-dispersal seed survival showed that seed size was not a determinant. The highest amount of seed predation came from mammals.

Ecology

Heliconias are an important food source for forest hummingbirds, especially the hermits (Phathornithinae), some of which – such as the rufous-breasted hermit (Glaucis hirsuta) – also use the plant for nesting. The Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba) also lives in tents it makes from heliconia leaves.

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