Today is Wednesday. It's no Friday but it's not Monday, either.
To honor the fact that we are in the middle of week, I will tell you five facts of life, about me or someone else, faith, world and existence in general.
And what I want from you, my readers?
I want to know about you!
Leave me your facts, so I can enjoy reading them!
They can also be about you, your life or anything you find fascinating in this world or in the world beyond.
Heliconias are tropical plants related to bananas, cannas and gingers.
There are about 100 different individual species, and most species then have a large number of hybrids and cultivars, with flower styles varying significantly from the original.
There are some species of Heliconia which have upright facing flowers.
Some Heliconia flowers droop down from the main stem and are called hanging Heliconia.
1. Heliconia is named after Mount Helicon, the seat of the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology
Heliconia, derived from the Greek word helikonios, is a genus of about 100 to 200 species of flowering plants native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific Ocean islands west to Indonesia. Many species of Heliconia are found in rainforests or tropical wet forests of these regions. Common names for the genus include lobster-claws, wild plantains or false bird-of-paradise. The last term refers to their close similarity to the bird-of-paradise flowers (Strelitzia). Collectively, these plants are also simply referred to as heliconias.
It’s hard to think of any other flower that looks more exotic or tropical than the heliconia, with its colorful bracts and vibrant appearance it is truly a unique flower.
2. The Heliconia's bracts are so large and colorful that they almost hide the flowers altogether
The actual heliconia flower is fairly insignificant. What most people would call the 'flower' is actually a group of colourful specialised leaves, called bracts. The true flowers are hidden inside these bracts.
Heliconias are sometimes called "lobster claws" or "parrot flowers" because of their beak-like "bracts" which can be orange, purple, red, yellow, pink, green or a combination of these. A bract is a leaf structure at the base of a flower. The heliconia's flowers are tiny and found inside these bracts, which are so large and colorful that they almost hide the flowers altogether. This keeps the flower's sweet nectar tucked away so that only specialized birds can get to it. Some species of heliconia have upright facing flowers, and in some called hanging heliconia, the flowers dangle down from the main stem.
3. Heliconia has oblong leaves growing opposite one another on non-woody stems, often forming large clumps with age
Heliconia leaves look more or less like banana leaves. They are generally green, but some are tinged slightly with colour (particularly when young) and sometimes the leaves and stems are coloured or patterned slightly. Some foliage is wildly coloured, however, particularly in Heliconia indica cultivars.
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.
4. Heliconia’s large bracts keep the flower's sweet nectar from other birds so that only specialized birds can get to it
The heliconia, like the bromeliad, can also be home to other living things. Water collects in the bracts of the straight stems, which provides a habitat for many species of tiny aquatic organisms. Many other animals depend on the heliconia as well. Hummingirds and butterflies like to drink the sweet nectar from the heliconia’s flowers.
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. The plants typically flower during the wet season. These bracts protect the flowers; floral shape often limits pollination to a subset of the hummingbirds in the region.
Heliconia flowers that grow in the American tropics are usually pollinated by hummingbirds. Some species of hummingbirds have curved beaks that they can easily place in heliconia bracts, locating the hidden flowers. Bats and birds pollinate the heliconia flowers that grow in the South Pacific.
Tiny aquatic organisms sometimes live in the water that collects in heliconia stems. Some cultures in the South Pacific use heliconia leaves to wrap food, temporarily thatch roofs and cover stone ovens.
5. Heliconias grow from an underground system of rhizomes
Rhizomes are a type of root (the ginger that you buy in the supermarket is a piece of rhizome from the common edible ginger plant).
The eyes or buds, present in the Heliconia rhizome helps to grow new shoots in about four weeks, while roots grow from the rhizom.
Heliconias should be planted in a draining soil with the top sticking out of the ground. Heliconias flourish well in loamy soils rich in humus. They need sunlight, with temperatures that do not go below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
To grow heliconias plant rhizomes which may or may not have a young shoot. Cut back the old shoot to about 6 inches before planting.
Heliconias need an abundance of water but overwatering may cause the roots to rot. Since they are heavy feeders, a soluble balanced or granular time-release fertilizer can be used.
Heliconias need a lot of sun and heat, so put under the sun or in a brightly lit area or keep them under a sun lamp for extended periods. Remove any dead leaves and stems. Mulching is necessary as it retains moisture around the root zone, and controls the weeds. Place a slow release fertilizer directly into the planting hole.