May – June 2012

Posted in What's in Bloom

Heliconia bihai ‘Island Yellow’, Firebird

Heliconiaceae Family

heliconia-bihai-island-yellow-firebird

Firebird is a tropical herbaceous perennial from South America.  Heliconias are clump-forming rhizomatous herbs with upright, unbranched stalks.  After flowering, the stalk dies back and new shoots grow from the rhizome (polycarpic).         There are about 250 species of Heliconias throughout the tropics.   The variability is due to its broad habitat range, not due to hybridization because the species resists hybridization.  It is closely related to bananas in the Musaceae family.   The showy, exotic flowers are erect, pendent or spirally arranged inflorescences.  Heliconia flowers make striking, long-lasting flower arrangements.  

 

Musa sp. ‘Dwarf Cavendish’, Banana

Musaceae

musa-sp-dwarf-cavendish-banana   musa-sp-dwarf-cavendish-banana-3   musa-sp-dwarf-cavendish-banana-1

     

            The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant.  Because banana plants are tall (20-25 ft) and sturdy, they are often mistaken for trees.  The main stem is correctly called a pseudostem and grows from a corm, like a crocus, which is a short, swollen underground storage stem. 

            Each pseudostem typically produces a single inflorescence, banana heart.  The inflorescence has many bracts (modified leaves that look like petals) between rows of flowers.  A single bunch of bananas grows on each pseudostem, which dies after fruiting.  The plant produces offshoots from the base of the stem and they will mature into new fruiting plants.  The banana fruits grow pointing up, not hanging down. 

            Ripe bananas fluoresce bright blue when exposed to ultraviolent light or black light.  Chlorophyll degrades when the bananas ripen; turning from green to yellow.  Banana plant leaves also glow blue, to a lesser extent, with uv light.  Animals see light in the uv spectrum and are better able to detect ripe bananas in the night. 

            Sweet bananas and cooking bananas are a major staple food crop for people in tropical countries and consumed widely around the world.  Bananas have high potassium content and help alleviate leg cramps and diarrhea.   Ripe, soft, sweet, dessert bananas have less starch and higher sugar content.  Cooking bananas or plantains are firmer and starchier.    

 

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