A lovely epiphytic plant of the lowlands and foothills of central Panama, Columnea billbergiana is a member of the violet family, Gesneriaceae. It is recognized by its branched, brown stems, paired leaves 2-3 cm long, smooth and dark green above, pale below with short, fine bristles, and elongated tubular red flowers covered in short, visible hairs. The fruits are white berries filled with pulp and yellow seeds.
Columnea billbergiana flowers sparingly throughout the year, but especially during the rainy season from May to December. Its long, tubular red flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds, and its contrasting red flowers and white berries indicate that this plant exhibits “ornithochory,” seed dispersal by birds.
Known only from Panama, Columnea billbergiana is found in the lowlands and foothills of central Panama. This epiphyte is most abundant around the Canopy Lodge and Cerro Azul, but also in the Caribbean wet forest and lowland rainforest of central Panama. This is one of the beautiful plants to keep an eye out for around the Canopy Family lodges and during our upcoming Panama’s Incredible Flora tour.