Heliconia Rostrata

Every time I look at a Heliconia rostrata flower, commonly referred to as “hanging lobster claw”, I am instantly reminded of how wonderfully creative Mother Nature really is. Originating from western South America (it is the national flower of Bolivia), this long-lasting flower goes through many phases of life during which it transforms itself from a promising reddish tint on top of the plant’s stem into this majestic attention-drawing marvel. Unlike many other heliconias, which flower throughout the year or several times each year, the rostrata species only bloom once a year, usually in May in this part of the world. However, also unlike other heliconias, this is a long-lasting flower that literally hangs around for two months or more!

Although nowadays widely distributed throughout the tropics, it seems quite rare in southern Taiwan where other heliconia species are much more prevalent. I planted a piece of rhizome with a single plant in our backyard just over two years ago; the plant grew fairly quickly with new stems rising occasionally from the rhizome. However, it didn’t flower the first year and I stopped paying attention to it for a while. Finally, this year it decided to reward us with its wonderful colours and shapes – of the four stems three have produced flowers. The stems are less than 1.5 metres tall (apparently they can have up to three metres) and the flowers are also smallish, with just three bracts on each side, but they had to start somewhere, I suppose. Hopefully next year we’ll get taller plants and larger flowers.

The only thing I regret is that I planted this exquisite perennial in the backyard where few visitors will get the chance to admire it. Additionally, it grows near a wall and a metal backdoor which provide a thoroughly unnatural background when photographed. On the positive side, they are stunning and I’ve noticed an increased tendency of this person to spend more time in the backyard ever since the first signs of bloom started to appear. But if you prefer a better photograph, just search on the Internet, you’ll soon find dozens of truly excellent ones!


Heliconia Rostrata

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