pronounced: hell-ih-kon-ee-AY-see-eye

the heliconia family


The family is named for Helicon, the mountain of the Muses in Greek mythology. The members of the family are large, erect perennial herbs arising from rhizomes. True aerial stems are absent, or concealed in pseudostems. Leaves are basal, or basal and cauline, in 2 ranks, differentiated into basal sheath, petiole, and blade. The sheaths overlap, forming an unbranched pseudostem, open, without a ligule. The blade has parallel lateral veins, diverging from a prominent midrib. There is one inflorescence per aerial shoot, projecting from the top of the pseudostem. The flowers are produced on long erect or drooping panicles, and consist of brightly coloured waxy bracts, with small true flowers peeping out from between the bracts, which protect the flowers. The flowers produce copious nectar that attracts pollinators, chiefly hummingbirds.


Photograph © Donald Simpson 2008