Heliconia lingulata

Family : Heliconiaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


Heliconia lingulata, Heliconiaceae, Yellow fan

With 12-23 candelabrum bracts, Heliconia lingulata grows in Bolivia and Peru © Mazza

The species is native to Bolivia and Peru, where it lives in the humid forests at low and medium altitudes.

The name of the genus comes from the Latin “Heliconius, a, um” = of the Helicon, mountain sacred to Apollo and the Muses in the Greek mythology; the name of the species is the Latin adjective “lingulatus, a, um” = equipped with a small tongue, with reference to the linguiform bracts.

Common names: yellow fan (English); helicônia-amarela (Portuguese-Brazil); patujú amarillo (Spanish).

The Heliconia lingulata Ruiz & Pav. (1802) is an evergreen, perennial rhizomatous erect herbaceous species forming 1,5-5 m tall dense tufts. The leaves, on a long petiole, are basal, alternate, simple, entire, oblong with pointed apex and prominent central nervation in the page below, 1-2 m long, bright green, and sheathing tubular foliar bases forming a pseudo-stem.

The inflorescence, rising over the leaves on a robust peduncle, is an erect terminal spike with slightly waved rachis of yellow colour and 12-23 alternate bracts, distichous, linguiform, pointed, coriaceous, 15-21 cm long at the base, gradually decreasing towards the apex, entirely yellow or yellow with red purple apex. The bracts subtend 12-16 yellow tubular flowers, about 4 cm long on an about 2 cm pedicel, opening in succession. The bilateral symmetric flowers are hermaphroditic, with 3 sepals, two of which merged and one free, and 3 petals fused together, little differentiated among them, 5 fertile stamina and one staminode opposite to the free sepal; the flowers are pollinated by the hummingbirds. The fruits are globose drupes blue when ripe containing 1-3 about 0,8 cm long seeds.

It reproduces by seed, previously scarified and kept in water for 3 days to soften the tegument, in organic loam with addition of siliceous sand or agri-perlite for a 30%, maintained humid at the temperature of 26-28 °C, with germination times variable from some weeks to some months and first flowering after 3-4 years, but usually and easily by division of the rhizomes.

Species of great ornamental and landscape value thanks to its luxuriant foliage, the large inflorescences and the long flowering period, cultivable in the humid tropical and subtropical climate zones, in full sun or slight shade, on soils rich of organic substance, acidic or neutral, draining, maintained almost constantly humid, but without stagnations.

Where the climate does not allow the permanence in open air during the winter months, it can be cultivated in capacious pots to be sheltered in greenhouses or spacious and luminous winter gardens, utilizing an organic loam particularly draining and aerated, with high levels of ambient humidity and high temperatures, ideal 24-26 °C with lowest values not under the 15 °C, occasional and sudden drops in temperature under these values can damage the aerial part, but the plant is capable to recover and eventually bloom the next season. The watering must be regular and abundant in summer, avoiding stagnations, cause of easy rottenness, more spaced in winter, letting the substratum to partially dry up before giving water again, with fertilizations done preferably with slow releasing balanced products with addition of microelements.

The cut inflorescences, lasting 8-10 days, are utilized in the floral compositions.

Synonyms: Bihai lingulata (Ruiz & Pav.) Griggs (1904); Heliconia weberbaueri Loes. (1916).


To appreciate the biodiversity within the family HELICONIACEAE and find other species, please click here.


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