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.
Introduced; North America (Fla.), Mexico, West Indies, Central America, South America, and Pacific Islands (Oceania)., introduced in Fla.
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.
Species 225 (1 in the flora).