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Heliconia zebrina


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Family Heliconiaceae

Herbs, perennial , from rhizomes. True aerial stems absent or weak and concealed in pseudostem. Leaves basal or basal and cauline, in 2 ranks , differentiated into basal sheath, petiole , and blade ; sheaths overlapping, forming unbranched pseudostem, open, ligule absent; summit of petiole not differentiated; blade with lateral veins parallel, diverging from prominent midrib . Inflorescences 1 per aerial shoot, projecting from tip of pseudostem, pedunculate racemes of several- to many-flowered monochasial cymes (cincinni) ; bracts of main axis enclosing cincinni. Flowers bisexual , bilaterally symmetric ; sepals and petals scarcely differentiated, sepals 3, petals 3, 2 sepals and 3 petals fused, remaining sepal distinct; fertile stamens 5, not petal-like; anthers 2-locular; 1 rudimentary staminode opposite free sepal; ovary inferior, 3-carpellate, 3-locular, all locules fertile; placentation basal; ovules 1 per locule; style standing away from stamens and staminode, filiform , stigma capitate or 3-lobed. Fruits 1--3-seeded drupes, sepals not persistent in fruit. Seeds: aril absent, endosperm copious , perisperm copious, embryo straight. x = 12.

Genus Genera 1, species 225 (1 species in the flora ) : introduced ; North America, Mexico, West Indies, Central America, South America, and Oceania.

The Bird-of-paradise, Strelitzia reginae Aiton, of the closely related family Strelitziaceae, is an acaulescent rhizomatous herb often cultivated in the western and southern United States. It is not known to reproduce outside of cultivation, but it can persist for very long periods on abandoned ground in southern California. Its leaves are in two ranks; the sheaths do not overlap and do not form a pseudostem. The petioles are long, and the blades are glabrous but often strongly glaucous, and have parallel lateral veins diverging from a prominent midrib. The inflorescence is a single cincinnus, enclosed within a large bract, with the mature flowers projecting laterally. The perianth is large and showy, with three orange sepals and three dark blue petals; one petal is short, the other two are long and enfold the style and the five fertile stamens, forming a prominent arrow-shaped structure. The fruit is a many-seeded capsule.[1]

Genus Heliconia

Plants : pseudostems erect , in groups of [1--]5--50. Leaves: petiole long [short or nearly absent], base of blade unequal on either side of midrib . Inflorescences terminal , erect [pendent], raceme of cincinni; cincinni spiral [2-ranked]; cincinnal bract ± enclosing each cincinnus, brightly colored , leaflike. Flowers each subtended by membranous floral bract. Fruits blue [rarely red or orange] at maturity. Seeds surrounded by stony, roughened endocarp (pyrenes). x = 12.

Species 225: introduced , North America (Fla.) ; Mexico, West Indies, Central America, South America, and Pacific Islands (Oceania).; introduced in Florida.

Several species of Heliconia are important ornamental and landscape plants in warmer areas of North America (e.g. , Florida, Texas, and California). In addition to H. latispatha, three other species, H. psittacorum Linnaeus f., H. metallica Planchon & Linden ex Hooker, and H. schiedeana Klotzsch, may persist after cultivation and might be expected to disperse occasionally into disturbed areas. The first two species are much smaller than H. latispatha and all have flowers that are fully exposed at anthesis . Heliconia metallica has deep rose red flowers, whereas H. psittacorum has yellow or orange flowers. Heliconia schiedeana has red, strongly reflexed bracts and yellow flowers. All of the New World species of Heliconia are hummingbird pollinated.[2]


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Heliconia variegata Loes.


Publishing author : Plowman, W.J.Kress & H.Kenn. Publication : Baileya 21: 151 1982

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Heliconia

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 42 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

H. acuminata (Heliconia) · H. angusta (Christmas Heliconia) · H. angusta 'Red Holiday' (Red Holiday False Bird of Paradise) · H. bihai (Lobster Claw) · H. bihai 'Island Yellow' (Firebird) · H. caribaea (Lobster Claw) · H. chartacea 'Sexy Pink' (Pink Flamingo Heliconia) · H. collinsiana (Heliconia) · H. densiflora'Fireflash' (Fireflash Heliconia) · H. edwardus-rex (King Edward Heliconia) · H. imbricata (Wild Plantain) · H. indica (Blood Banana) · H. lankesteri (Heliconia) · H. latispatha (Expanded Lobster Claw) · H. latispatha 'Distans' (Expanded Lobster Claw) · H. longa (Heliconia) · H. longiflora (Heliconia) · H. magnifica (Heliconia) · H. marginata (Heliconia) · H. mariae (Heliconia) · H. metallica (Shining Bird of Paradise) · H. pogonantha (Heliconia) · H. psittacorum (Heliconia) · H. psittacorum L.f. 'Choconiana' (Heliconia) · H. psittacorum 'Andromeda' (Heliconia) · H. psittacorum 'Golden Torch' (Heliconia) · H. psittacorum 'Strawberries and Cream' (Heliconia) · H. ramonensis (Ramonean Heliconia) · H. rostrata (Crab Claws) · H. schiedeana (Lobster Claw) · H. schiedeana 'Fire & Ice' (Lobster Claw) · H. spathocircinata (Heliconia) · H. stricta (Dwarf Jamaica Heliconia) · H. stricta 'Abg' (Dwarf Jamaican Heliconia) · H. stricta 'Dwarf Jamaican' (Dwarf Jamaican Heliconia) · H. stricta 'Firebird' (Heliconia) · H. stricta 'Sharonii' (Dwarf Jamaican Heliconia) · H. subulata (Guatemalan Bird of Paradise) · H. vellerigera (Heliconia) · H. wagneriana (Heliconia) · H. 'Criswick' (Heliconia) · H. 'Richmond Red' (Lobster Claw)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal March 04, 2008:



  1. W. John Kress, Alan T. Whittemore "Heliconiaceae". in Flora of North America Vol. 22. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  2. "Heliconia". in Flora of North America Vol. 22 Page 300. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
Last Revised: 2/1/2015