Plant of the month
- 10 May 2016
Heliconias are well-known plants in French Guiana, belonging to the family of Heliconiaceae. They are included in the order of the Zingiberales, just like banana and ginger. Their inflorescences, coloured spectacles, cannot be missed when passing by.
Heliconia bihai, in French Guiana better known as balisier, is one of the bigger heliconias. Its leaves can reach heights of six metres. Its inflorescence is mostly bright red, finished of with a scent of yellow.
The plant does not have a strong odour, since its pollinator, a hummingbird, does not smell very well. In order to still attract these hummingbirds, it has vivid colours and a large amount of sweet nectar.
The young leaves of H. bihai form tubes that unroll afterwards. These tubes form a perfect hideout for small insectivorous bats: Thyroptera tricolor. The bats live in small groups of around ten individuals. They have small pads on their hands and feet, with which they can stick themselves to the inside of the smooth leaf without damaging it. The leaf tube exists for approximately 30 hours, after which they open.