Canopy Family Panama

Firebush
Hamelia patens

Hamelia patens Panama
Photo by Jenn Sinasac

 

This large shrub or small tree of the coffee family (Rubiaceae) stands out in the crowd—its bright red-orange tubular flowers give it many appropriate common names including Scarletbush, Hummingbird Bush, Redhead, and in Panama, Uvero, Canelito and Zorrillo Real. The flowers vary in length, and attract a wide variety of pollinators including hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. The flowers give way to small, dark red fruits which turn black as they mature. Tanagers and other birds feed on the juicy fruits. Leaves arranged in whorls are 6 inches in length, oval, pointed and green-gray in color with pinkish veins; stems and leaf stalks are red. Firebush has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and can be used to relieve and treat a variety of ailments including skin rashes, sores and insect stings as well as fever and headache. This sun-loving plant occurs in tropical clearings or in partial shade, among tropical moist forest and premontane forest where there are well-drained soils. It is a common plant around our lodges; watch for hummingbird and butterfly activity at the Firebush in our gardens.

Hamelia patens Panama
Photo by Jenn Sinasac

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