Hooker’s Lips Facts
- The Hooker’s Lips plant only maintains this unique shape for a brief time. The very distinctive shape actually does serve an important purpose.
- In addition to being a conversation starter, the species plays its own vital role in its environment. It remains one of the few acceptable host plants for the rare golden silk moth.
- The inhabitants of its endemic range have discovered multiple uses for the species. Given its rather unique form, it makes a popular gift Valentine’s Day. Various parts of the tree have also been discovered to have medicinal properties.
- Sadly, they have become highly endangered. It was moderately rare, to begin with. Now, its numbers and range have both been severely diminished by climate change and habitat loss.
Hooker’s Lips Physical Characteristics
Though the Hooker’s Lips plant technically must be called a tree, it forms a rather diminutive one. This species rarely exceed 10 ft (3 m) in height.
The “trunk” grows comparatively thin and often bent slightly from the weight of the foliage. The leaves grow comparatively long and thick in design.
The most noteworthy feature of the tree consists, obviously, of the bright red “lips.” These are actually bracts that form temporarily, prior to the appearance of the flowers. The unique shape favors the hummingbirds that are its primary pollinator.
While the bracts present as red, the flowers show a bright white in color.
Due to the range in which they developed, the trees bloom from December to March.
The flowers also become quite aromatic in nature. The berries that appear after the flowers stay small and dark blue or black.
Species: Psychotria elata
Hooker’s Lips Habitat, Range, and Uses
While the Hooker’s Lips tree evolved as a tropical species, they have proven adaptable to temperate climates.
The species evolved endemically to a specific portion of both South and Central America. This range includes the countries of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, and Colombia. The deep portions of the rainforest comprise their native environment.
In addition to its visual appeal, the plant has provided several medicinal uses. Local inhabitants have learned to make use of both the bark and leaves. These can be used to treat coughs, earaches, and skin rashes.
Also, the indigenous Kuna Indians have traditionally used the plant for treating dyspnea.
Unfortunately, the species’ numbers are decreasing quickly as the ongoing rainforest deforestation has greatly diminished its available habitat.