Heliconia Inflorescence (Heliconia wagnerianna)

What you might call a flower here is actually a bunch of flowers. Each of the parts with red on it is called a bract, which is a special leaf that covers the flowers. Inside each bract are several small flowers, some of which you can see peeking out from the upper bracts. The whole group of flowers and bracts is called an inflorescence.

Heliconias are typically pollinated by hummingbirds. There is a whole group of hummingbirds called "hermits" that have curved beaks, special for inserting into heliconia flowers.

The Heliconia are related to bananas and bird-of-paradise flowers. They are all common in the understory of tropical rainforests, with Heliconias in the Neotropics, Bananas and relatives in the Old World Tropics, and bird-of-paradise flowers in the South Pacific.

Copyright 1997-2007 Gerald R. Urquhart. For information on using this website in your classroom (which is free and highly encouraged), please contact Dr. Urquhart by email, urquhar5@msu.edu. Also, please send any comments or corrections to Dr. Urquhart.