Heliconia [genus] (6,063)
H. bihai (3,884)
Synonyms: Heliconia humilis Jacq.
H. caribaea (956)
Synonyms: Bihai caribaea Ktz., Heliconia bihai L.f.
H. collinsiana (1,446)
H. hirsuta (235)
H. indica (737)
H. latispatha (1,525)
H. mariae (1,616)
H. pendula (1,003)
Synonyms: Heliconia collinsiana Griggs
H. psittacorum (928)
H. rostrata (684)
H. schiedeana (817)
H. tricolor (298)
H. uxpanapensis (320)
H. wagneriana (1,119)
Synonyms: Heliconia bihai L.f., Heliconia elongata Griggs



Heliconia [genus] L. HELICONIACEAE

Common names: Lobster-Claw, False Bird-of-Paradise (Hortus) Wild Plantain (Griffiths) Bijan (von Reis)

Trop. Am., 150 spp.; a few in Pacific. Dwarf to large herbs. Lvs. 2-ranked, banana-like [Musa, Musaceae]. Fls. clustered in axils of stiff, showy, boat-shaped bracts in an erect or pendulous, terminal infl., bisexual, sepals & petals variously partly united. Fertile stamens 5, staminode 1, ovary 3-celled, 3-ovuled. Fruit a 1-3 seeded, berry-like capsule. Grown for decorative foliage and for the brilliant bracts of the infl. In Heliconiaceae (Hortus Third 1976:551) Cent. & S Am., S Pacific to Indonesia; 100 spp. Large evergreen per. herbs, clump-forming. Habit like bananas, cannas [Cannaceae] or ginger [Zingiberaceae]; pseudostems formed by overlapping sheathing leaf bases. Lvs. large, petiole over half the length of blade, midrib thick. Infl. large, rachis often with color of bracts, bracts 3-30 per infl., distichous or spiraling, usually large, keeled, waxy or leathery, brilliantly colored, each enclosing few to many fls., perianth slender, cylindric, upcurved, small, connate. Fruit usually blue or violet, sometimes yellow, orange or red. In Heliconiaceae (Griffiths 1994:557) Trop. Am., 100-200 spp.; Moluccas to Fiji, Samoa, 6 spp. In America pollinated by hummingbirds, in Old World some pollinated by bats. In Musaceae (Mabberley 1998:333) Larger plants are somewhat like the banana in habit, the smallest more like the genus Canna. In some parts of the tierra caliente they are an important & conspicuous part of the undergrowth in the forest, or of the coarse second growth thickets, forming extensive colonies. Concave bracts hold water; it has been said that mosquitoes breed in them. In Musaceae (Flora of Guatemala 1952:178) Steyermark 1945 reported that the mashed up root of one sp., cooked in water and put in aceite de castilla [? olive oil], put on a bite of the bushmaster (guaima) snake and also drunk 3 times daily, cures the bite of this snake. My workman Celestino Antuare was bitten by a guaima and cured himself with this and with another remedy called ‘reina toro’. Wasps were seen more frequently resting on the upper shoot of this plant than on any other plant (von Reis and Lipp 1982:30) Herbs of Malaysia, the Pacific, America. Included in Musaceae (Burkill 1966:Vol. 1 page 1152) Included in Scitamineae (Sturtevant 1972 [1919]:300) Included in Musaceae (Kuck and Tongg 1958:130) Included in Musaceae (Morton 1971:25) Included in Musaceae (Morton 1981:100) Pachycaul geography is perplexing, a relic of monocot ancestry. In the Old World, pandans [Pandanaceae] compete with palms [Palmae]. In the Am. tropics, Heliconia & Phoenakospermum [Strelitziaceae] replace pandans (Corner 1966) In Santa Lucia, Lesser Antilles, the male & female purple-throated carib hummingbirds have one of the most extreme diffs. in bill size & shape of any bird. They are identical in color, but males weigh 10 g, 25% larger than females. Bills of females are 30% longer than males, curve downward at 30º; male bills curve at 15º. From Jan. to July, both sexes feed on Heliconias. Heliconias are often to 30 ft.high with broad lvs. to 16 ft. long. Each infl. has 1 to 24 bracts, each with 1 to 50 fls., depending on the species. A species may have several morphs, differing in bract color. Purple-throated caribs are the sole pollinators of H. caribaea with red bracts, and a green morph of H. bihai. All the 15 males in this study fed on H. caribaea, and 7 of the 18 females. Males monopolized the largest, densest stands of H. caribaea, which bear 2-3 times as many fls. as H. bihai. When the fls. were covered with bags to exclude hummingbirds, each fl. of both spp. prod. 100 mL of nectar in 24 hrs. This is more than 50 times that of N Am. hummingbird fls., jewel weed [Impatiens, Balsaminaceae] or bee balm [Monarda, Labiatae]. One infl. of H. caribaea has up to 24 bracts, each with 12 fls. that bloom in sequence over several weeks or months. A patch of 40 or more infls. is the hummingbird equivalent of Fort Knox. Males defend their patches against other purple-throats, and against oreoles and bull-finches, which consume the whole flower, not just nectar. Female purple-throats ventured into male territories to feed & to mate. Also feed at small patches of H. caribaea and at both large & small patches of H. bihai. Like all other hummingbirds, the females incubate eggs & rear offspring without male assistance. While nesting they cannot defend a territory, and when not nesting they are too small to compete with males. Many birds, ants, beetles, etc., eat Heliconia fls., so the plants bury them deep in the plant’s stiff bracts, and sometimes even defend them with a moat filled with water or nectar. Tamales and his team measured the fls. Those of H. caribaea are significantly shorter & straighter than fls. of H. bihai, by about 6 mm; male & female bills differed in length by about 6 mm. Curvature of H. caribaea fls. was about 20º of arc, and that of H. bihai about 30º. In timing the visits, males took 3 seconds to feed at a flower of H. caribaea, females 4 seconds. Males rarely feed at H. bihai; females took 3 seconds there. Elsewhere in Santa Lucia, in two reserves where H. caribaea is rare or absent, H. bihai has developed a second morph, with red bracts and shorter straighter fls. Male purple-throats feed at & defend the red morph, females feed mainly at the green morph (Tamales 2002:52) Various wild plants are called platanillo in SE Mexico, prob. incl. Heliconia spp. and Canna sp. [Cannaceae]. Large broad lvs. called verijado are used to wrap the tamales typical of the region of Tuxtlas, Ver. (Santamaría 1978:Verijado)


HELICONIACEAE Heliconia bihai

Heliconia bihai L.f. HELICONIACEAE

Synonyms: Heliconia humilis Jacq.

Wild Plantain, False Plantain, Balisier, Firebird, Macaw Flower (Hortus) Lobster-Claw (Hortus) Crab-Claw, False Bird of Paradise (Hargreaves)

Lesser Antilles, N S Am. Similar to H. caribaea, but shorter and with leaf tips gradually acute. Infl. short-peduncled, bracts to 6, scarlet with yellow tips, margins & inner surface widely separated. Fls. with white-tipped segms. Prob. not cult., plants under this name usually H. caribaea, H. humilis or H. wagnerana (Hortus Third 1976:551) H. humilis: N S Am. Stems to 4 ft. Lvs. to 5 ft. long, 10” wide. Infl. erect, short-peduncled, bracts 3-6, 2-ranked, not overlapping, red with green tip & edge, fls. white with green tip (Hortus Third 1976:551) Cent. & S Am. Bracts 3-15, distichous or alt. on a flexuous rachis (Griffiths 1994:558) Wild plants prob. not cultivated though many cvs. are referred to it. A possible paper source (Mabberley 1998:333) S. Mexico, Belize, Guatemala along the Atlantic coast to Panama, S Am., W Indies; said to be nat. in parts of the Old World tropics. Wet forest, thickets, to 900 m. Plants glabrous, coarse, stout, to 4 m tall. Infl. erect, sessile, v. thick, succulent, heavy, oblong in outline, bracts 9-12, boat-shaped, spreading, close together, margins apple-green, sides bright red or orange, shading into yellow. Fls. 3 cm long, segms. bright green. Fruit turquoise-blue. Perhaps the handsomest of Cent. Am. Heliconias, bracts more vivid than that of other spp. Often forms large dense stands [prob. includes other spp.] (Flora of Guatemala 1952:182) H. humilis: Species uncertain. Bloom early summer (Morton 1971:25) Subtrop. Am. Intro. in Eu. from the W Indies 1786, dist’d from there in the tropics. A common garden plant in Singapore. Some writers claim the Malayan & Pacific spp. are derived from this (Burkill 1966:Vol. 1 page 1152) S Mexico, Atlantic Cent. Am., to Peru, Brazil; to 900 m elevation. Per. herb to 4 m, stout flattened succulent pseudostem and creeping rhizomes, forming clumps. Lvs. alt., 4-6 per stem, long-stalked, ovate to elliptic, to 2 m long, 30 cm wide, smooth, dark green above, pale beneath. Infl. often 60 cm high, bracts to 13 cm long, alt. on a central flowering stalk, bright red or orange, margins yellow or green, midrib purple-tinted; boat-shaped, upcurving, pointed. Fls. green or greenish yellow, 3 cm long, borne in and protruding from the showy bracts. Capsules pale yellow becoming blue. Widely cult. in trop. countries for ornament. Cuba, rhizome decoction formerly acclaimed as a diuretic; often combined with more potent agents. Choco Indians of Panama wrap the lvs. around their middles to relieve stomach ache. Negroes in Darien, Panama poultice boiled shoots on foul ulcers resulting from snakebite. Seed capsule contains irritating raphides. Lvs. shaped into cups for drinking water, and much used for wrapping food. Plant sometimes grown as shade for cacao (Morton 1981:Vol. 1 page 100) H. humilis: Name is from the bracts, the color of boiled lobster, that each look like a claw. Each claw may be 5″, the stalk to 4 ft. long (Kuck and Tongg 1958:130) H. humilis: No scent, but because they are waxy they last a couple of weeks as cut fls. Used in floor vases, like the gingers [Zingiberaceae]. (Thea Porter) In the W Indies young shoots eaten by the natives (Sturtevant 1972 [1919]:300) Valid species; H. humilis not in GRIN (GRIN 2006)


HELICONIACEAE Heliconia collinsiana

Heliconia collinsiana Griggs HELICONIACEAE

S Mexico to Nicaragua. Resemble Musa. Stem to 6 m. Lvs. to 2.5 m. Infl. to 72 cm, pendent, rachis red, flexuous, bracts 7-18, spirally arranged, yellow-pink to red inside, outside red to orange-red; fls. yellow to orange (Griffiths 1994:558) Included in H. pendula (Hortus Third 1976:551) S Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Salvador. Wet forest or thickets to 600 m, rarely higher. Plants to 3 m. Lvs. long-petiolate, blades narrow-oblong, to 1 m long, 40 cm wide, short-acuminate, v. glaucous and pale beneath. Infl. pendent, rachis flexuous or often zigzag, to 45 cm long, bracts widely spaced, lanceolate; fls. pale yellow. Fruit pale yellow or reddish. Name in Salvador, hoja de sal, is presumably because the lvs. are used to wrap salt & other articles for market. Handsome infls. sold in markets, used to decorate altars, esp. at Christmas time, when they are brought up to the highlands (Flora of Guatemala 1952:182) One of the most striking Hawaiian fls. Blooms late summer, fall. The 8-foot stalk like a fish-pole has a dramatic fall of fls. drooping and swaying. Keels pinkish-red, widely spaced, narrow, long & pointed. Fls. bright yellow, large enough to show. Hardly visible on the tree, but makes a striking decoration (Kuck and Tongg 1958:131) Valid species (GRIN 2006)


HELICONIACEAE Heliconia latispatha

Heliconia latispatha Benth. HELICONIACEAE

Common names: Golden Heliconia (Kuck)

S Mexico, Cent. Am. Stems to 10 ft., lvs. to 5 ft. long, 1 ft. wide. Infl. upright, usually borne conspicuously above the lvs., to 20″ high, bracts 10-20, spirally arranged, remote, yellowish-green through bright orange to dark red in diff. pop’ns. Fls. yellow fading to green at tips and edges of segms., 20-24 in each bract. One of the commonest & most conspicuous roadside spp. (Hortus Third 1976:551) S Mexico to Colombia, Venezuela. Musoid (Griffiths 1994:559) Wet forests, thickets, abundant in second growth to 1,400 m, esp. at low elevations. Plants glabrous, stout, to 2.5 m. Lvs. long-petioled, oblong, often 1 m long, 30 cm wide. Infl. bracts narrowly lanceolate, spreading, the lowest often dilated at the apex into large green blades tinged with orange or yellow, or orange or yellow throughout. Plentiful on the Pacific slope of Guatemala, not only in ravines of the foothills but far out in the plains, even in the open; sometimes v. dry in the verano but doubtless wet in the rainy season (Flora of Guatemala 1952:182) Flowering stalk pushes above the lvs., unlike other spp. in Hawaii. Deep orange-yellow (Kuck and Tongg 1958:131) Grows in Los Tuxtlas Rain Forest reserve in Ver. Has comm. potential as an ornamental plant (Ibarra-Manríquez, Ricker, Angeles, et al. 1997) Valid species (GRIN 2006)


HELICONIACEAE Heliconia rostrata

Heliconia rostrata Ruiz & Pav. HELICONIACEAE

Argentina to Peru. Stems to 6 ft. Lvs. to 4 ft. long 12″ wide. Infl. pendulous, to 2 ft. long, rachis red, bracts 15-20, 2-ranked, not overlapping, red at base shading to yellow at tip with green edge, 4″ long, nearly the same size along entire length of infl. Fls. greenish-yellow (Hortus Third 1976:551) Bracts deeply keeled like a thick bird’s bill (Griffiths 1994:559) Belize, Atlantic coast to Panama, to Peru & Brazil (Flora of Guatemala 1952:184) Another sp. with a spectacular hanging clusters (Morton 1971:25) Valid species (GRIN 2006)


HELICONIACEAE Heliconia wagneriana

Heliconia wagneriana Petersen HELICONIACEAE

Synonyms: Heliconia bihai L.f., Heliconia elongata Griggs

Wild Plantain (Morton) Pink-and-Green Heliconia (Kuck)

Costa Rica, Panama. Stems to 4 ft. Lvs. to 6 ft. long, 1 ft. wide, undulate. Infl. erect, sessile, bracts 12-20, 2-ranked, heavy, overlapping, deep pink to pale crimson, shading to cream at base with green edges; fls. white with dark green tip (Hortus Third 1976:551) Belize & Guatemala to N Colombia. Stem to 4 m. Infl. to 45 cm, bracts to 14 cm, 6-13, thick, distichous (Griffiths 1994:560) Mexico to Brazil. Commonly grown in tropics worldwide. Stout plant, banana-like lvs. to 5 ft. Infl. short-stalked, erect, showy for several months. Forms large clumps on moist land. The blue-coated seeds are rarely planted. Formerly called H. bihai (Morton 1971:25) H. elongata: Blooms early spring in Hawaii (Kuck and Tongg 1958:131) Valid species; H. bihai not listed as a synonym, and H. elongata not in GRIN (GRIN 2006)



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