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 (e.g., Musa, Ensete; Judd et. al, 2007). However, the APG system of 1998, and its successor, the APG II system of 2003, confirms the Heliconiaceae as distinct and places them in the order Zingiberales, in the commelinid clade of monocots.
These herbaceous plants range from 0.5 to nearly 4.5 meters (1.5-15 feet)...