Heliconia latispatha and other species in the genus Heliconia are herbs characterized by large leaves and showy bracts that contain inverted, single staminode flowers and drupaceous fruits (Berry and Kress 1991). The genus Heliconia was associated with the banana family (Musaceae) and bird-of-paradise family (Strelitziaceae), but is now in Heliconiaceae (Berry and Kress 1991). H. latispatha is characterized by having erect inflorescences with red, yellow, or orange bracts and a yellowish/greenish rachis (Stiles 1983). An additional identifying characteristic of H. latispatha is the large vertically oriented banana like leaves from a short central stem, also referred to as a musoid growth form (Berry and Kress 1991.) All Costa Rican Heliconia are pollinated by hummingbirds and H. latispatha drupaceous fruits are dispersed by birds and mammals (Stiles 1983). H. latispatha is native to tropical America from Mexico to northern South America (Whistler 2000). H. latispatha is the most sun loving member of the Heliconia and is found in exposed areas, like forested stream edge, tree fall gaps, shady second growth and along road/trail sides (Stiles 1983).
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