Heliconia is named after Mount Helicon, the seat of the Muses, nine goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology. These are known as lobster-claw, wild plantain, flowering banana, parrot flower, macaw flower and false bird-of-paradise. Heliconiaceae in the order Zingiberales, are among the showiest plants of the Neotropical rainforest and represent a spectacular co-evolutionary adaptive radiation with hummingbirds. Heliconia originated in the Late Eocene (39 million years ago), making it the oldest known clade of hummingbird-pollinated plants. Heliconia, the only genus of the family Heliconiaceae, has approximately 120 species in tropical America and the western Pacific. These large perennial herbs have brightly colored bracts and bear numerous flowers. Heliconia are typically pollinated by hummingbirds. Most of the 194 known species are native to the tropical Americas, but a few are indigenous to certain islands of the western Pacific and Maluku. Several species are widely cultivated as ornamentals, and a few are naturalized in Florida, Gambia, Thailand and Costa Rica. The plants have stout, reed-like stems and are related to Tropical Gingers, Bird of Paradise, Bananas and Canna Lilies, whose leaves are all similar. These are all grouped in the order Zingiberales, which includes many familiar plants, and are used as ornamental plants (Bird of Paradise flower, Heliconias, Prayer-Plant, Tropical Gingers), food crops (bananas, plantains, arrowroot), spices and traditional medicines (ginger, cardamom, turmeric, galangal and myoga). I saw a nice selection of these plants when I visited Costa Rica this year and thought it would make an interesting post.
Machu Picchu is such a pregnant ecosystem, that it is difficult to include or categorize the many beautiful plants that you encounter. I have decided to arbitrarily divide descriptions of the plants into several posts; orchids, flowers, plants and herbs. The combination of the humid tropical greenery with the towering peaks of the eastern mountain ranges gives Mach Picchu a unique and remarkable quality. As one travels by train from Ollantaytambo to the Ecological Reserve of Machu Picchu, the Andean landscape transforms into a deep canyon festooned by a dense tropical jungle that seems impossible to penetrate through its soaring slopes. The valuable 32,592-hectare Reserve has an enormous ecological variety. That is why there is such scientific interest in their original genetic diversity. The primary forest ecosystem has an incredibly diverse flora with a lush forest vegetation (such as cedar, romerillo, laurel, among others), shrubs, ferns and ancient tall palm trees. In the higher parts, endemic mountain species can be found such as the beautiful queñual tree or Polylepis. It is pretty much impossible to describe it all but I hope these posts will form a helpful beginning.
The Conservatory of Flowers is a greenhouse and botanical garden that houses a collection of rare and exotic plants in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. With construction completed in 1878, it remains the oldest building in the park, and the oldest municipal wooden conservatory remaining in the United States. It is also one of the first municipal conservatories constructed in the country. The Conservatory was bought as a kit by James Lick, an eccentric businessman, piano maker, and successful real estate investor. It was intended for the City of San Jose where Lick had built a mansion surrounded by exotic plants imported from South America and around the world. Lick died in 1876 before constructing the conservatory on his estate, and it was put up for sale by his trustees. The kit was then purchased by a group of prominent San Franciscans, including Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker, who offered it as a gift to the City of San Francisco for use in Golden Gate Park. The Parks Commission accepted the gift and hired Lord & Burnham, a greenhouse manufacturing company from New York, to supervise the erection of the structure. Once open, it contained a large variety of rare and tropical plants, including a giant water lily, Victoria Regia, which at the time was the only known specimen in the United States.