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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 brasiliensis var. concolor Petersen Wild ginger (Engl.)
Heliconia cannoides A.Rich.  
Heliconia goiasensis Barreiros  
Heliconia hirsuta var. cannoides (A.Rich.) Baker  
Heliconia humulis (Aubl.) Jacq.  
Heliconia marantifolia G.Shaw  
Heliconia psittacorum L.f.  
Heliconia psittacorum var. rhizomatosa Aristeg.  
Heliconia psittacorum var. robusta Eichler ex Petersen  
Heliconia psittacorum var. spathacea Eichler ex Petersen  
Heliconia schomburgkiana Klotzsch  
Heliconia swartziana Roem. & Schult.  
Heliconia sylvestris (Gleason) L.B.Sm.  
Musa humulis Aubl.  
Heliconia psittacorum L.f. is an accepted species. KEW: Plants of the World Online

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
- Heliconia is a genus of flowering plants in the monotypic family Heliconiaceae.
- Etymology: The genus name Heliconia derives from
"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)

- Naturalized.
- Native to
Bolivia, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Panamá, Paraguay, Suriname, Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela. (1)
- Naturalized in Thailand and other South East Asian countries.
- Ornamental cultivation.

- In the American Tropics, hummingbirds 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)
- Phytochemical screening of leaves yielded tannins, flavonoids, steroids, carbohydrates, fixed oil and fats, with absence of alkaloid, saponin, glycosides, and proteins.

- Studies have suggested antivenom, antibacterial, phytoremediative, cytotoxic, antioxidant, anti-angiogenic properties.


- No reported medicinal use in the Philippines.
- In Bogota, Columbia, used for muskuloskeletal complaints: arthritis, muscular paralysis, and rheumatism. (5)
- In South American, used for treatment of ulcers in the scalp."
- in Brazil, leaves used as topical emollient for external ulcers and skin scald wounds and burns. (7)
- Handmade paper: Study done to evaluate producing handmade paper using H. psittacorum stalks. (see study below) (11)

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 / Heavy Metals: 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 neutralizing 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)
Antioxidant / Anti-Proliferative / Cytotoxic / Leaves: Study evaluated the cytotoxicity, anti-proliferative, and antioxidant effects of methanol extract and chloroform and aqueous fractions of leaves of Heliconia psittacorum and Ficus coronata using standard models. Concentration dependent anti-proliferative activity by growth inhibition of guinea corn seeds.  Chloroform fractions were more cytotoxic against tadpoles than the aqueous fractions. Ferric reducing power assay at 40-100 µg/ml showed concentration-dependent antioxidant activity, which was higher for H. psittacorum, and was comparable to ascorbic acid. Results suggest potential for the treatment of oxidative stress-induced diseases. (9)
Textile Wastewater Treatment: Preliminary observation indicated that Heliconia psittacorum in the HFCW (Horizontal Flow Constructed Wetland) system showed proficiency in textile wastewater treatment. H. psittacorum grew well in the system, suggesting the plant has high tolerance to complex and toxic textile wastewater. Long-term observation was needed for H. psittacorum in the HFCW system to reach steady state and to examine its potential to remediate textile wastewater. (10)
Handmade Paper from Stalks: Study evaluated the possibility of producing handmade papers using Heliconia psittacorum.  Papers were light brown, rough in texture, with a dry hay-like aroma, and the scribbled words legibly read. T3 (500 g pulp + 100 g starch dissolved and cooked in 750 cc of water) got the highest score of 0.474 mm thickness, 0.89 k Pa. m2/g in terms of burst, and 51.23 mN.m2/g terms of tear. (11)
Anti-Angiogenic Activity / Quercetin / Leaves: Study evaluated the isolated quercetin from methanolic leaf extract of H. psittacorum. The extract showed good inhibition of E. coli and exhibited acceptable antioxidant activity. On Chorioallantoic membrane assay (CAM), the leaf extract showed strong anti-angiogenic activity at 100-150 µg/ml. (see constituents above) (12)
Phytoremediation of Heavy Metals Contaminated Soil and Water / Hg, As. Cd: Study evaluated the use of H. psittacorum in remediating soils polluted with mercury (Hg), arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb). There  was high bio-absorption rate of As, Hg, and Cd, whether as individual contaminant or all four together in the water. Results suggest the macrophyte can remediate As, Hg, and Cd in soil and water and has potential as cost-effective green technology in remediating heavy metal contaminated soil/water. (13)

- Wild-crafted.
- Plants in the cybermarket.

Updated March 2024
April 2020

IMAGE SOURCE: Heliconia psittacorum / Filo gen / 22 May 2017 /  GNU Free Documentation License / click on image or link to go to source page / Wikimedia
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Heliconia psittacorum / © GuideOfPlants / Non-commercial use / Click on image or link to go to source page / Guide Of Plants
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Heliconia psittacorum / Pangalau / CC BY-SA 4.0 /  Click on image or link to go to source page / Wikipedia

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Heliconia psittacorum / Synonyms / KEW: Plants of the World Online
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
Anti-proliferative and cytotoxic activities of Heliconia psittacorum L. f. (Heliconiaceae) and Ficus coronata Spin. (Moraceae) leaves / Adebayo Anthony Gbolade, Oluwasegun Adekanmi Adedokun et al / Journal of Pharmacy and Bioresources, 2019; 16(1): pp 47-55 / DOI: 10.4314/jpb.v17i1.6
Evaluation of Heliconia psittacorum in a Horizontal Flow Constructed Wetland (HFCW) System for the Treatment of Textile Wastewater / C Henry, D Rohaningsih, E Susanti, F Sumi, A Waluyo / IOP Conference Series: Earth and Enviromental Science, 2022; 1062: 012026 /
DOI: 10.1088/1755-1315/1062/1/012026
Production of handmade paper from heliconia stalks / Je-ann H. Irog, Justine Marie M. Manuel and Katrina Angeli T. Ramos / Cavite State University: Integrated Library System
Phytoremediation of heavy metals contaminated water and soils from artisanal mining enclave using Heliconia psittacorum / Wiafe Samuel, Buamah Richard, Jackson Adiyiah Nyantakyi / Modeling Earth Systems and Environment, 2022; 8: pp 591-600 / DOI: 10.1007/s40808-020-01076-2

DOI: 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)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants
                                          New plant names needed
The compilation now numbers over 1,300 medicinal plants. While I believe there are hundreds more that can be added to the collection, they are becoming more difficult to find. If you have a plant to suggest for inclusion, native or introduced, please email the info: scientific name (most helpful), local plant name (if known), any known folkloric medicinal use, and, if possible, a photo. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

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