Scientific Name:

Plant Family: Heliconiaceae

Other Names: lobster claw

Heliconias, related to bananas, are characteristic species of tropical forests. They grow in swamps, along waterways, and in secondary forest that regenerate after disturbance.
The bright red, yellow, and orange appendages of the plant, shaped like lobster claws, are called brachts. Each bract contains several flowers, often green or blue, which can occasionally be seen emerging out of their brightly colored shells. The bracts collect water and provide a habitat for insects, both larvae and adults.
Heliconia flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds; the small birds often seen at El Pilar. Hummingbirds are divided into hermits and non-hermits, and heliconias can be divided up into those pollinated by hermits and non-hermits. Non-hermits have short, straight beaks and pollinate heliconia with short, straight bracts. Hermits have long, curved beaks and pollinate heliconia with curved bracts. The curve of the bract and the location of the pollen in the bract corresponds with a specific shape of hermit beak. This prevents cross-pollination of one species of heliconia by another.