Flora of Barro Colorado Island

Heliconia vaginalis

Benth., Bot. Voy. Sulphur 171.1846

Caulescent, rhizomatous herb, l-3 m tall, glabrous except the midrib of younger leaves minutely furfuraceous. Petioles often marked with maroon and sheathing stem to base of leaves; blades elliptic-oblong,                long-acuminate at apex, obtuse to rounded below, mostly 30-100 cm long, 12-20 cm broad (the lowermost often tiny), dark green above, lighter below, the minute cross-veins visible. Inflorescence glabrous, erect; peduncle at least 3 cm long; bracts distichous, 6-9, red, 12-18 mm high at base, the lower ones often leafy and to 40 cm long, the uppermost 3-4 cm long; rachis somewhat flexuous; flowers 4-5.5 cm long, yellow except the tip green; pedicels and lower part of ovary yellow, the upper edge of ovary dark green, protruding above bract, prominently so in fruit. Fruits conspicuously truncate, ca 1 cm high, about as broad as long; immature fruit yellow with apex and peduncle green, mature fruits bluish-purple; seeds minute, brown. Croat 11137.

Occasional; particularly common on the shoreline, also common in clearings, rare in the forest. Perhaps the most common Heliconia on the island. Flowering and fruiting to some extent throughout the year, especially in the rainy season. Most plants have many fruits in various stages of development between the late rainy and early dry seasons.

Distinguished by the narrow, solid red, leafy bracts and yellow flowers.

Mexico to Ecuador. In Panama, known from tropical moist forest in the Canal Zone, Bocas del Toro, Colón, San Blas, Panama, and Darien, from premontane wet forest in Colón, (Rio Providencia) and Panama (Cerro Campana), and from tropical wet forest in Coclé (La Mesa).

Photos from STRI Digital Archive

  • Heliconia vaginalis immature-fruit
  • Heliconia vaginalis immature-Infructescences
  • Heliconia vaginalis immature-Infructescences
  • Heliconia vaginalis flower clust
  • Heliconia vaginalis flower clust
  • Heliconia vaginalis flower clust