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Family Heliconiaceae
False bird of paradise
Heliconia psittacorum L.f.

Scientific names Common names
Bihai cannoides (A.Rich.) Kuntz. False bird of paradise (Engl.)
Bihai humilis (Aubl.) Griggs Golden torch (Engl.)
Bihai psittacorum (L.f..) Kuntze Japanese canna (Engl.)
Bihai sylvestris Gleason Parakeet flower (Engl.)
Heliconia andrewsii Klotzsch Parrot's beak (Engl.)
Heliconia bahiensis Barreiros Parrot's flower (Engl.)
Heliconia ballia Rich Parrot's plantain (Engl.)
Heliconia cannoides A.Rich. Wild ginger (Engl.)
Heliconia goiasensis Barreiros  
Heliconia humulis (Aubl.) Jacq.  
Heliconia marantifolia G.Shaw  
Heliconia psittacorum L.f.  
Heliconia schomburgkiana Klotzsch  
Heliconia swartziana Roem. & Schult.  
Heliconia sylvestris (Gleason) L.B.Sm.  
Musa humulis Aubl.  
Heliconia psittacorum L.f. is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
BRAZIL: Bananeirinha do mato, Pacova cainga, Helicônia-papagaio, Caetê-tocha
COLOMBIA: Gallito.
FRENCH: Balisier bec de parroquet, Héliconie des perroquets.
GERMANY: Papageien-heliconie.
NETHERLANDS: Papagaaiebloem.
PORTUGUESE: Bananeirinha-de-mato.
SPANISH: Flor del papagayo, Pico de loro.

Gen info
- Etymology: The genus name Heliconia derives "Heliconius" referring to Helicon, the mountain sacred to Apollo and to Moses in Greek mythology. Species name "psittacorum" is derived from Latin psittacus meaning "parrot" and referring to the flower shape resembling a parrot's beak.

Heliconia psittacorum is an evergreen, perennial rhizomatous erect herbaceous species quickly forming 0,8-1,5 m tall dense tufts. The leaves, on an about 25 cm long petiole, are basal, alternate, simple, entire, elliptic-lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate with pointed apex and prominent central nervation in the lower page, 35-55 cm long and 4-12 cm broad, of bright intense green color above, paler below, and sheathing tubular foliar bases forming a pseudo-stem of about 2,5 cm of diameter. Inflorescence, on a 15-55 cm long peduncle, is an erect 6-12 cm long terminal spike with slightly waved rachis, usually orange, and 3-7 alternate, lanceolate, concave, waxy, bracts, slightly spaced, red to bright orange red, at times pink or lilac, the basal one 8-15 cm long, the others progressively decreasing. The bracts subtend 3-9 flowers, on a 1,6-1,8 cm long pedicel, tubular, usually orange with dark green spot towards the apex, 3-5 cm long. The flowers, with bilateral symmetry, are hermaphroditic, with 3 sepals, two of which merged and one free, and three petals fused together, little spaced between them, 5 fertile stamina and one staminode opposite to the free sepal; the flowers are pollinated by the hummingbirds. The fruits are sub-globose drupes initially yellow to orange, then glossy dark blue when ripe, of about 0,8 cm of diameter, containing 1-3 seeds. (8)

- Native to the Caribbean and South America in the Amazon rain forest, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, among others.
- Naturalized in Thailand and other South East Asian countries.
- Ornamental cultivation.

- In the American Tropics, humingibrds are the exclusive pollinators.

- Phytochemical evaluation of extracts of H. psittacorum and H. rostrata yielded primary metabolites such as glucids and proteins, and secondary metabolites as phenolic compounds, terpenoids, and coumarins. (see study below) (5)

- Studies have suggested antivenom, antibacterial, phytoremediative properties.


- No reported medicinal use in the Philippines.
- In Bogota, Columbia, used for muskuoskeletal complaints: arthritis, muscular paralysis, and rheumatism. (5)
- In South American, used for "ulcers of the scalp."
- in Brazil, leaves used as topical emollient for external ulcers and skin scald wounds and burns. (7)

Copper Nanoparticles / Antibacterial / Leaf:
Study reports on a green, single-step process using leaves of H. psittacorum as reducing and stabilizing agent that yielded stable, biogenic copper nanoparticles with prominent antibacterial potential for all tested bacterial strains. (3)
Phytoremediation / Chromium: Study evaluated the effectiveness of Heliconia psittacorum as a potential phytoremediator of chromium (VI) in hydroponic crops. Results showed H. psittacorum was able to adopt to hydroponic crops with the presence of chromium (VI), absorbing heavy metals in their roots and accumulating them in greater proportion in the aerial parts. It is exclusive of chromium VI considering it suitable for phytoremediation. (4)
Anti-Venom Effects: Some Heliconiaceae species have demonstrated efficacy in neutralizaing partially or totally the lethal, indirect hemolytic, hemorrhagic, proteolytic, clotting and edema-forming activities of Bothrops asper venom. This study evaluated two species of heliconias: Heliconia psittacorum and H. rostrata against indirect hemolytic, proteolytic, and clotting activities induced by Bothrops asper (mapana equis). The extracts retarded the venom clotting effect. In the electrophoretic profile bands indicated degradation by the extracts. Phytochemical analysis yielded constituents reported in other vegetal species as responsible for the anti-ophidian activity. (see constituents above) (5)

- Wild-crafted.
- Plants in the cybermarket.

April 2020

IMAGE SOURCE:Photo / Heliconia psittacorum / Filo gen / 22 May 2017 /  GNU Free Documentation License / click on image to go to source page / Wikimedia
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: Heliconia psittacorum / click on image to go to source page / /© 123RF

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Heliconia psittacorum / Synonyms / The Plant List
Antibacterial mechanism of biogenic copper nanoparticles synthesized using Heliconia psittacorum leaf extract / Kaushik Roy, Chandan K Sarkar, Chandan K Ghosh / Nanotechnology Reviews, 2016; 5(6) /
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ntrev-2016-0040 
Evaluation of the Efficacy of Heliconia psittacorum (heliconiaceae) Cultivated Hydroponically for Phytoremediation of Water with Chromium (VI) Presence / J Orejeula, J C Gonzalez, V Lindao, L Santillan, S Godoy / Proceedings of the 2nd International Congress of Physics, 2017 / https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5050361
PRELIMINARY PHYTOCHEMISTRY ASSESSMENT OF Heliconia psittacorum AND Heliconia rostrata AND THE POTENTIAL INHIBITORY ACTIVITY OF SOME EFFECTS OF THE Bothrops asper (mapaná X) VENOM / Sebastian Estrada-Gomez, Juan Carlos Quintana Castillo, Silvia L Jimenez, Leidy Johana Vargas et al / Vitae, May 2009; 16(2): pp 237-244
Astonishing diversity-the medicinal plant markets of Bogotá, Colombia. / Bussmann RW, Paniagua Zambrana NY, Romero C, Hart RE / Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine20 Jun 2018; 14(1) /
DOI: 10.1186/s13002-018-0241-8 PMID: 29925407 PMCID: PMC6011411
Synopsis of the plants known as medicinal and poisonous in Northeast of Brazil / Maria de Fátima Agra, Patrícia França de Freitas, José Maria Barbosa-Filho / Brazilian Journal of Pharmacognosy, Jan-Mar 2007; 17(1): pp 114-140
Heliconia psittacorum / Pietro Puccio / Monaco Nature Encyclopedia

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

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