These Flowers Look Just Like Colorful Parrots Flying Together
How they're pollinated is a bit of a mystery.
If you've ever been to the tropical forests of Thailand, India, or Myanmar in the fall, this specimen may look familiar. The Impatiens psittacina (or parrot flower as it's more casually known) was first discovered deep in the forests of Southeast Asia at the turn of the century. In 1899, seeds of it were first presented to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and after it flowered, botanist Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker described it in a published report dated a few years later as the "cockatoo balsam." Parrot flower, cockatoo balsam, regardless of what you call it, it's a fickle plant, but not because of its location or climate needs.
The real mystery is how it spreads-specifically, no one is quite sure what is responsible for its pollination. Some think bats or birds with long tongues are responsible for pollination, but there's no official record. According to the Thailand tourism website, you can find the plant in bloom throughout October and November. The flowers are the highlight of the plant. Aside from the few weeks the parrot flowers are in bloom, the plant itself is more of a messy bush with wide leaves-and a big one at that. It can grow to up to six feet tall.
Regardless of how the flower is spread, the resemblance to its flighty friend is uncanny. What to look for: reddish-purple petals with a single apex. The flower's lower sepal makes up the beak, a small hook that is light green in color. But don't mix it up with the Heliconia psittacorum or parrot plant. The names may be similar, but we're talking about totally different plants. (The parrot plant is part of the banana family and its bright orange flowers resemble a parrot's beak.)
You won't be finding any seeds to grow this one at home (and exporting them is illegal in Thailand). All the more reason to plan a fall vacation. Go ahead, try to name a better daydream scene than touring flowers throughout Thailand. We'll wait.
Feeling inspired? Watch how to turn wildflowers into a gorgeous wreath: