First thing’s first; Heliamphora ionasi is the correct spelling of this beautiful sun pitcher plant and H. ionasii (extra “i“), while cooler, is a common misspelling. Whew. Now, with that out of the way, let’s dive into the fascinating facts behind this Heliamphora.
Heliamphora ionasi is named after Jonah Boyan, a gentleman who co-discovered it on an expedition led by Bassett Maguire. They wanted to honor Jonah, but also use a Roman Latin name. Because Roman Latin lacks the letter J, Jonah’s name morphed into “ionasi.”
H. ionasi is known to grow between 5,900-7,050 feet (1,800-2,510 meters) in a single valley between Ilu and Tramen tepuis in the eastern part of Gran Sabana. It avoids the summits of Ilu and Tramen tepuis, and instead prefers the company of H. elongata and their hybrid children in the Ilu-Tramen Valley.
Unique biology of Heliamphora ionasi
Heliamphora ionasi has some of the largest and most beautiful Heliamphora pitchers around, and has become a bit of a poster child for the genus. Pitchers have a distinct waist formed by an infundibular base constricting mid-pitcher as though someone cinched a belt around it. Suck in that gut, H. ionasi, you’re on camera.
The upper half of pitchers are infundibular and flared towards the mouth. Sun pitcher plants are similar to North American pitcher plants in that mouth openings are lined with downward-pointing hairs that guide prey to their doom deeper down the trap.
Pitcher exterior is a gorgeous pinkish orange with light red venation. Pitcher interior is a deeper pinkish-red and blotched with greens, yellows, and oranges. This coloration runs the length of the large 8-18 inch (20-45 cm) pitchers.
Other notable characteristics
Heliamphora ionasi grows in glades within cloud forests along the edges of the Ilu-Tramen Valley and in open and boggy clearings. With high rainfall, growth of larger plants and trees remains stunted, allowing H. ionasi to mingle with shorter foliage and soak in sunlight with 0-30% shade. It’s here they do best, growing in decaying leaves and humus.
In shadier conditions (35-55% shade), the plants tend to produce larger pitchers with less coloration. In even darker conditions reaching 60%+ shade, the plants appear etiolated (the plant version of anemic or unhealthy).