What is Hooker’s Lips?

Psychotria elata is a tropical tree found in the rain forests of Central and South American countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador.

Psychotria elata is called Hooker’s Lips or the Hot Lips Plants. The plant has apparently evolved into its current shape to attract pollinators including hummingbirds and butterflies.

It is a unique plant with uninteresting flowers but fabulous lip-like bracts. The plant can be difficult to grow and has very special cultivation conditions.

The plant has the shape of the red bracts (modified leaves) before the flowers mature. From these bracts tiny white, stare-shaped flowers emerge. Sadly, deforestation is wiping this species off the Earth.

Brief Answer

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. It is also used as traditional medicine among the Amazon people to treat aches and arthritis, infertility and impotency.

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