Heliconia (from the Greek helikonios) is a genus of about 194 species of flowering plants which are native to the American tropics and Pacific islands westward to Indonesia; many of these species are found in the rainforests and tropical wet forests of these regions. Heliconia is variously known as the lobster-claw, the wild plantain, or the false bird-of-paradise.
Heliconia can range in height from 0.5 m (1.5 ft) to 4.5 m (15 ft) depending on the species, with simple leaves ranging in size from six inches to ten feet. The ones depicted in Jurassic Park: The Game appear to be on the smaller end of the scale, though it is also possible that they were not fully grown. The flowers are small and poke out of larger waxy bracts, which can be red, orange, or yellow; the ones portrayed in the game are yellow. They flower during the wet season, and grow blue-purple fruits.
A close visual match for the heliconia in the game is a cultivar of the normally-red Heliconia bihai called Yellow Dancer, but it is not known what type of heliconia is actually featured. However, this is one of the most common heliconias used in landscaping.
According to The Evolution of Claire, there were Heliconia collinsiana on Isla Nublar as of March 2004. These heliconias are normally a reddish-purple color, and do not closely resemble the variety seen in the game. They grow between six and eight feet tall with leaves similar to banana plants.
Heliconias are fairly fast-growing plants, with some variability based on species.
Heliconias are monoecious, bearing both male and female parts.
Heliconias grow in tropical regions, mostly in northern Central America; a few species are known from the West Pacific and the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. They need consistently moist environments with easily available water, so they often flourish in bogs and wetlands. Sunny or partly shady conditions are necessary for them to grow.
Most of the heliconia species are found in the tropical Americas and many inhabit wet forested regions. Some are known from Pacific islands, but apparently none are native to Isla Nublar, as it is stated to be artificially introduced. It is known to grow in the primary Triceratops paddock, where two of them are observed. They require lots of water and sunlight, warm temperatures, and rich soil, all of which are found in this area of Isla Nublar.
Jess Harding noticed two heliconias in the Triceratops paddock while visiting Jurassic Park and noted they looked like a healthier version of her mother’s bird-of-paradise. Gerry Harding explained that InGen “imported them from the mainland to brighten up the place,” suggesting that heliconias are not native to Isla Nublar.
It is unknown if any heliconias remained on the island as of 2015, as none were seen; however, the island’s environment is ideal for their growth. In any case, the June 23, 2018 volcanic eruption of Mount Sibo likely destroyed most, if not all, of any remaining populations on the island.
While heliconias can be found on many Pacific islands, their absence from Isla Nublar implies that they would not be native to Isla Sorna either. There is no evidence of their presence there.
Heliconias are found on the Costa Rican mainland. One of the native Costa Rican species was transplanted to Isla Nublar in the late 1980s or early 1990s to be used as a decorative plant, since no native heliconias existed on the island.
There are well over one hundred species of heliconias, most of which are native to Central America; there are a few found on western Pacific islands, as well as the Indonesian province of Maluku. In particular, the species Heliconia collinsiana is found from southern Mexico through Central America and some Caribbean islands.
Like many plants, the heliconia takes in carbon dioxide during the day which it uses in photosynthesis; it is less active at night.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
Heliconias gain virtually all the sustenance they require from photosynthesis. Water and carbon dioxide are taken in by the plant, and light energy from the sun is utilized to create carbohydrates from these. Oxygen is produced as a waste product.
While these plants may grow in groups, the extent to which they are influenced by one another is not fully known.
Heliconias flower repeatedly, and have evolved to be pollinated by hummingbirds. In most species, including Heliconia collinsiana, the flowers possess both male and female organs. Despite this, they generally do not fertilize themselves.
While H. collinsiana blooms in the late spring and early summer, different species of heliconias have different flowering seasons. This is probably to avoid competition for pollinators.
Many plant species use chemical signals to communicate. The specific signals used by heliconias are poorly studied. They use visual signals to communicate with other species; the shape and color of the flowers of various species have evolved over 18 million years to signal particular species of hummingbird, which visit the flowers for nectar and help to pollinate them.
Heliconias are known for their upward-facing flowers, which collect water that small animals drink. They are pollinated mainly by hummingbirds, but also by some bats and insects. Many types of insects and some bats also shelter among their leaves and sometimes within their bracts.
Heliconia collinsiana was grown in Gyrosphere Valley, where it would have existed alongside many species of herbivorous dinosaur. It is not known which, if any, fed upon it.
Relationship to Humans
These flowering plants are often used decoratively. InGen has frequently planted heliconias on Isla Nublar to increase the visual appeal of animal habitats, such as the Triceratops paddock in the original Park and Gyrosphere Valley in Jurassic World.