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LOBSTER  CLAWS

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flowers of belize

The Lobster Claw flowers that are found in Belize, or Heliconia, are a part of a much larger flowering plant family called Heliconiaceae. In the Heliconiaceae family there are about 150 or more species that are spread throughout Central and South America. There are also members of the Heliconia plant family on remote islands in the Pacific Ocean and further westward to Indonesia.

Heliconias can be found in abundance throughout the country of Belize, thriving in the tropical rainforests of that country. Related to Bananas and Bird of Paradise, Heliconia, in Belize, are often called Lobster Claws.

However, in other areas where these beautiful flowers are found and known as Lobster Claws, they are also known as Parrot Flowers, Parrot Beaks, Parakeet Flowers and Parrot's Plantains. Many of the names used for the Heliconia have to do with bird beaks, their local names being based on the shape of their beak-like "bracts." A bract is a leaf structure at the base of a flower. The bract, which are very delicate and often seen with scars, range in color from orange, purple, red, yellow, pink, green and even a combination of the colors just mentioned.

The flowers of Heliconias are very tiny and are found inside the plants bracts which just about completely conceal the delicate little flower. By the Heliconias flowers being hidden away, the sweet nectar that the flower produces, though not fragrant, is only accessible to butterflies and specially equipped birds such as Hummingbirds.

There are some types of Heliconiaceae where the flowers grow upwards instead of hanging down. The bracts of the Heliconiaceae that grows upward will harbor a unique community of insects, snails and other micro-organisms. Much like the Bromeliad, the water that collects in the many bracts of the straight stems of the upright Heliconia provides a great habitat for the many species of these tiny aquatic organisms.

Lobster Claws are often used as decorative plants for both indoors and out, though always indoors in cold regions. Making a good addition to any tropical garden, Lobster Claws are especially great for landscaped areas. Enjoyed for their colorful properties, Lobster Claws can be added in with other colorful flower arrangements or can be used to simply add color to a “too green” garden. Anthony Benjamin


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