Heliconia Help Line: Ask Us Anything!

Excellent field guide by Fred Berry and W. John Kress.

Do you have a hankering to learn to identify something other than birds? How about the wild and beautiful tropical plants called heliconias?

We’ve become hooked on these exuberant blooms recently after walking in the Wilson Botanical Garden Heliconia area where all the plants are sprouting improbably-shaped and wildly-colored inflorescences holding small flowers for hummingbird species with just the right bill. The bills fit perfectly into the varied flowers which, if you weren’t looking closely, you might miss or mistake for detritus, hidden as they are in the bright framework.

Green-crowned Brilliant on the widely-cultivated Heliconia bahai. Photo by Jo Davidson



In fact, here is the ideal transition photograph by Jo Davidson to move your mind from birds to blooms. This is an ‘early Jo Davidson’, taken in 2009 — one of her first attempts at capturing a hummingbird — this time, a Green-crowned Brilliant.


Heliconia lingulata, Peru to Bolivia. Photo by Ellen Beckett

Here is another beauty, an erect yellow showing off in the sun. Geographic distribution of Heliconia is restricted primarily to the American tropics. A disjunct group is found in the Old World tropics from Samao to Sulawesi, all of which have primarily green bracts and flowers with coppery red leaves.

The OTS Las Cruces Biological Station aka Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden is open for visitors  — a stroll through the newly-renovated Heliconia Garden is worth the trip all by itself but other highlights await, for example, the Maranta Garden, the Pollinator Garden and the Canopy Tower.

At Heliconia Central, on a recent visit, every plant was in bloom and birds were busy investigating available nectar and fruit. So it’s a must-see stop for birders and natural history photographers will hardly be disappointed.

Wipe off your lenses, be they eyeglasses, spotting scopes, binoculars or cameras — it is all out there, waiting for you! Send an email request to visit to: recepcionlc@tropicalstudies.org with the date, number in your party and then just follow the four new rules:

— Wear a mask

— Pay at the Entrance Gate, fee is $10 tourists or $3 residents

— Have your temperature taken

— Wash your hands

Pendant ‘Sexy Pink’. Photo by Julie Girard

We can practically guarantee your spirits will be lifted by some intensely beautiful  tropical plants, feathered delights in every direction and the occasional agouti gambolling across the grounds.



Bird Walks Coming Soon as Wilson Botanical Garden Re-Opens

Violet Sabrewing, the largest hummingbird in Costa Rica. Photo by Jean-Philippe Thelliez

OTS Las Cruces/Wilson Botanical Garden re-opened to the public yesterday, Friday, June 26. New Rules due to Covid-19 preventive restrictions include mandatory reservations for any kind of visit including Bird Walks. Entrance Fees must be paid at the new Gatehouse; costs are $3 for locals and residents and $10 for non-residents. (The colones equivalent will be calculated at the daily exchange rate.) Masks and hand sanitization are required so bring your mask! Staff will have hand sanitizer at the gate and at Reception.

If you would like to go on your own, please send an email to recepcionlc@tropicalstudies.org, noting the date and time you wish to go and the number of people in your party.

Upright red with yellow trim. Photo by Alison Olivieri

In the coming weeks, we will schedule a SVBC Bird Walk with an imbedded link for you to RSVP. That way, we can make the reservation and keep numbers within an acceptable limit.

Because the pandemic has hit tourism spots very hard, SVBC members must now pay Entrance Fees – additionally, we encourage you to add a donation of whatever you can afford!

Hellzapoppin Heliconias!

Right now, the Heliconia Garden is glorious; nearly every plant is in flower and they are all amazing. As you birders know, hummingbirds are going to be busy in there – nectaring and zipping around — so you will have a double treat if you go soon.

Pendant ‘Sexy Pink’. Photo by Julie Girard