Heliconia, derived from the Greek word helikonios, is a genus of about 100 to 200 species of flowering plants native to the tropical Americas and the Pacific Ocean islands west to Indonesia. Many species of Heliconia are found in rainforests or tropical wet forests of these regions. Common names for the genus include lobster-claws, wild plantains or false bird-of-paradise. The last term refers to their close similarity to the bird-of-paradise flowers (Strelitzia). Collectively, these plants are also simply referred to as heliconias. The Heliconia are a monophyletic genus in the family Heliconiaceae, but was formerly included in the family Musaceae, which includes the bananas. However the Heliconiaceae are distinct and they are placed in the order Zingiberales, in the commelinid clade of monocots. These herbaceous plants range from 0.5 to nearly 4.5 meters tall depending on the species They are characteristically long, oblong, alternate, or growing opposite one another on non-woody petioles often longer than the leaf, often forming large clumps with age. Their flowers are produced on long, erect or drooping panicles, and consist of brightly colored waxy bracts, with small true flowers peeping out from the bracts. The growth habit of heliconias is similar to Canna, Strelitzia, and bananas, to which they are related.The flowers can be hues of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens, and are subtended by brightly coloured bracts.
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