Psychotria Elata aka Hooker’s Lips: Latin America’s Kissable Flower

Flowers aren’t always pretty and they can be quite shocking too — in a good or bad way. There are the boring and the colorful flowers, plus the ones that don’t look acceptable at all,  just like when you see the uninviting smiles of a Venus Flytrap.

But there’s a flower that’ll be nice enough to meet you or maybe kiss you with its luscious red lips. These lips belong to a plant with the scientific name Psychotria Elata, or commonly known as the Hooker’s lips. Yes, you’ve read it right.

These aren’t from Angelina Jolie nor Mick Jagger, but from a plant that belongs to the 2000 species of the Psychotria genus plants which are the flowering plants of the Rubiaceae family. This genus is even known to produce psychedelic chemicals like dimethyltryptamine. It’s funny to know that this plant contains something psychedelic that it matches its seductive look.

Just like an attractive woman with lips so red you can’t resist looking, the Hooker’s lips pucker up to attract pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds.

The truth is, the red lips you see on the Hooker’s lips isn’t the flower itself but just the kissable bracts that remain only for a short span of time until it reveals the plant’s white flowers that’ll emerge from its center. Its fruits are oval berries that turn blue or black when mature. It also acts as a host plant for the golden silkmoth (Xlophanes Adalia).

It isn’t that easy to grow Psychotria Elata due to some certain climatic conditions that you should replicate for the plant. First, make sure you can effectively provide a warm, humid and moist climate. Then, you’ll need to place it in a sheltered environment, unexposed to the harsh sun rays as this can have an adverse effect on the growth of the plant.

Even though the name “Hooker’s lips” can be a bit inappropriate especially if you want to give it as an admirable gift, the people of Central America actually consider the plant as the perfect gift every Valentine’s day and other occasions. They buy it for their friends and family to express their love.

Besides its use as a Valentine gift in Central America, the Hooker’s lips actually have its health benefits as well. People from Central America use the barks and leaves of the plant for treating skin rashes, cough, and earaches. Moreover, the Ngäbe-Buglé and Kuna Native Indians in Panama use this plant for treating dyspnea.

The Hooker’s lips can be found in the rain forests of South American and Central American countries like Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama and Columbia as the climatic conditions are favorable for this plant.

You may now be interested in getting your hands on the lips of Psychotria Elata. But unfortunately, there’s bad news for you: the Hooker’s lips are now endangered due to deforestation and its popularity among plant collectors. It’s even hard to find Psychotria Elata seeds online nowadays.

Despite this sad fact, let’s hope that it doesn’t go extinct. Furthermore, importance and great care should be given to this unique plant before it kisses us goodbye.

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