Tag Archives: heliconias native

Heliconias in Heaven

  The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (HTBG), a 40-acre, former estate garden near Hilo, occupies a rainforest canyon. The first plant that blew me away was this bromeliad near the visitor center.

  This was the next. And my companions and I had yet to descend into the garden!

  As we did so, palms and tree ferns towered overhead, creating sunlit layers of green. Next to the trail grew ferns as dainty as feathers, and glossy ginger flowers that resembled red roses.

  Leaves of ti plants were variegated red-and-green…

  and were breathtaking when backlit by the sun.

  Beneath them grew conical orange temple flowers (Clerodendrum paniculatum).

  The HTBG boasts over 200 varieties of rare and wild collected specimens of heliconias, garden manager Sean Callahan said as he pointed out one spectacular species after another—including an unusual hairy one.

  “What appears to be flowers are actually bracts that can contain as many as 50 tiny flowers,” Sean told us, adding that heliconias native to the Americas are colorful in order to attract hummingbirds; those native to the islands are pollinated by bats instead and are a dull green.

  Bracts of this heliconia grow as long as I am tall.

  Speaking of bats, this is arguably the most unusual flower we saw: a bat plant (Tacca chantrieri).

  Also airy were cat’s whisker flowers.

  Not surprisingly, Zingiber spectabile is commonly called honeycomb ginger.

  Given 100+ inches of warm rainfall a year, these leaves get as big as tablecloths.

  In a glade of palms as tall as redwoods, we fell silent as we gazed upward. Sean looked not at the trees but at us. It struck me that the reward of gardener-artists is not—as people assume—hours of serene contemplation, but rather seeing the results of their hard work through others’ eyes.

  After discovering that I’m skeeter candy, I deflected them with a parea (shawl). Btw, the HTBG gift shop sells inexpensive repellent towelettes, a good idea wherever there are heliconias on earth.