Carla Black & Heliconia

Carla Black? Heliconia?

Carla Black and her husband Angel Rodriquez live on the other side of Volcan Baru outside of the town of Volcan.  Angel happens to be one of the experts on the seismology of the area and the life, history and who-knows future of our pet volcano in Chiriqui, Volcan Baru. [Here is a post I did about Living on A Volcano.]  Carla is president of the International Heliconia Society and one of the world’s experts on this strange plant.

So what is heliconia?
“Heliconia, derived from the Greek word helikonios, is a genus of flowering plants in the Heliconiaceae. Most of the species are native to the tropical Americas, but a few are indigenous to certain islands of the western Pacific and Maluku. Many species of Heliconia are found in rainforests or tropical wet forests of these regions. Several species are widely cultivated as ornamentals, and a few are naturalized in Florida, Gambia and Thailand. Common names for the genus include lobster-claws, wild plantains or false bird-of-paradise. The last term refers to their close similarity to the bird-of-paradise flowers (Strelitzia). Collectively, these plants are also simply referred to as heliconias.” [WWIKIPEDIA}

Carla & Angel’s home is surrounded by beautiful gardens with more species of heliconia than you can imagine, as well as other beautiful tropical plants including tropical water lilies. Every year over the 4th of July they open their garden to the public and have an enormously popular sale of heliconia plants. Usually, when Nikki and I are both in Boquete, we trek over to Volcan to visit, if not to buy more plants. This year, with Nikki visiting our kids and grandkids in the States, I stayed home and trimmed our own garden, but Jackie Lange, of Panama Relocation Tours, went over to Carla and Angel’s home and she took lots of pictures.
Carla BlackJuly 4th is not a Panamanian holiday!  But it is indeed a special day.  Every July 4th and 5th Carla Black and her husband Angel Rodriguez open up their beautiful private garden for anyone to come visit. They live near Volcan, on the far western side of Panama.  The garden is filled with beautiful heliconia flowers, magnificant views, water features, and hiking trails.  They have a plant sale during the two special days.   Carla is currently the President of the Heliconia Society International.

Heliconia?  You’ve seen them, even if you didn’t know what they were called. Heliconias are the ultimate exotic flowers, starring in arrangements in tropical hotels around the globe and as far away as outer space – on television, anyway; heliconias greeted intergalactic ambassadors on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Closer to home, they can’t be beat for providing fantastic foliage and bright color in tropical and subtropical gardens

Astonishingly, all of the gorgeous forms of heliconia are made by nature. Humans have not been able to successfully hand-pollinate heliconia, so there are no artificial hybrids. Hummingbirds are the only pollinators observed by scientists, though many other creatures visit the flowers. Natural hybrids are rather common, thanks to incessant visits by those hummers.  And were sure do have a lot of hummingbirds in Panama!

Now that you know about the role of hummingbirds, which are found only in the New World, you’ll not be surprised to learn that the approximately 250 species of heliconias are native to the Americas (with the exception of six species in the South Pacific which are pollinated by bats).

In Panama, you see heliconias growing alongside the road and ok hiking paths everywhere.






pond at Carla Blacks

yellow heliconia

Carla Black Plant Sale



pond at carla black's

bird of paradise

On the drive over to Carla’s garden, my friends and I spotted this unusual horse statue

Horse Statue

As we were leaving the garden, another visitor was entering with an 8 month old howler monkey she  had rescued.

howler monkey baby


On July 4th, there were Independence Day celebrations all over Boquete.  Many restaurants had live music and BBQ specials.  Some had fireworks too.  By the way… fireworks are sold year round in Panama because there is always a good reason for a party.

So… even when you move to Panama… you can celebrate traditional USA holidays.