Heliconia and hummingbirds dance to the ancient beat of coevolution. Intimate partners, reciprocating the contours of one another. Flower and bill. Bill and flower. A tango full of intention. There is stillness and vibrancy. An exchange of nectar and pollen. When the music of a hummingbird’s flutter softens, it’s off to a new partner. Not all partners share the precise choreography. While others are forbidden to take part. Like a jealous spouse, hummingbirds can be territorial and even violent. Exclusive relationships are established among these provocative plants and lustful birds. Species-specific and at its extreme, resulting in sexual dimorphism. Only when the purposefully performance is repeated and fertile pollen is transferred between suitable partners is the dance complete. Concluding with a promise of fruit and seeds, a promise to dance again for another generation.
When Heliconia share habitat, a hummingbird may start a dance with one species and stray to a nearby temptress of another. This cross breeding rarely bears fruit but occasionally a natural hybrid is produced. Hybrids are scarce but recently man has been cultivating Heliconia that normally do not grow together in the same gardens and nurseries. Removing distance and physical barriers, Mexican natives are now growing next to Brazilian endemics. Ticos neighbor Paisas. While hybrids are still rare, exciting new dances are taking place and hummingbirds are creating new combinations of hybrids. Below are several examples of Heliconia hybrids and their parentage.
Are you growing Heliconia hybrids? Which are your favorites? Comment below.