- 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)
- Plants in the cybermarket.