Draft Heliconia Survey – Call for Comments

In February 2012, a team of two Americans and three local assistants visited Project Amazonas’ Santa Cruz field site to work on the fruit diversity project and to perform various exploratory and maintenance tasks.  The site is on the Mazan River, forty minutes upriver by powered canoe from the port of Mazan and about two hours from Iquitos, Perú.  During the trip, Minnesotan volunteer Jake Schultz did a brief survey of Heliconia along two paths that trace old property lines on the site, running from the river to the main station.  More specimens remain to be found and identified on the many trails.

The purpose of this preliminary blog is to document some of the species and varieties of Heliconia of known provenance in the Upper Amazon and to invite more knowledgeable devotees to improve the scholarship by identifying the varieties.  The photos are in two parts: the first group are in situ in both old growth forest and secondary growth forest.  The second group of photos are of plants acquired from a local collector (who provided the names) and were planted on the site around the buildings or on a new nature trail on former agricultural land to keep them separate from the natural forest.

Comments and advice are welcome – please help identify the varieties!  This post will be expanded and updated after comments.

Part I: Prominent Native Heliconia on Two Trails

Many thanks to Jake for the photos.  Jake is trained in sustainable farming techniques, and in addition to documenting some of the Heliconia, he shared his culinary and medical skills during the trip.

H. 986

Heliconia 644

Heliconia 643

Heliconia 638

Heliconia 631

Heliconia 628

Heliconia 626

Heliconia 606

Heliconia 601

Heliconia 595

Heliconia 594

Heliconia 592

Heliconia 565 - planted at upper field station


Part II:  Plants Introduced February 2012


Heliconia bihai “Lobster Claw II

Heliconia psittacorum "Opal Cream"


Heliconia psittacorum "Sassy"


Heliconia psittacorum "Strawberry and Cream"


Heliconia psittacorum "Guyana Red"


Heliconia bihai x H. stricta


Heliconia psittacorum "Fire Opal"


Heliconia stricta "Tagami"


Heliconia psittocorum "Golden Adrian"


Most common H. planted in the city proper. Takes full sun. Planted in front of the Taj.


Alpinia purpurata "Pink"


Alpinia "Kimi Red"


Zinziber spectabile "Maracas"


Etlingera Venusta "Red"

End of post – will be revised after comments.

28. February 2012

Don Dean, Project Amazonas

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lawrence Green on February 28, 2012 at 19:30

    Beautiful, would love to cultivate them in my yard…


  2. Posted by Janis Amodeo on February 28, 2012 at 20:32

    The beauty of these plants moves me to tears. I’m honored to be connected to this project!


  3. From Devon Graham:

    986 – H. chartacea
    644 – H. velutina
    643 – H. schummaniana
    631 – H. standleyanum
    628 – H. spathocircinatum
    601 – H. chartacea
    594 – H. orthotricha
    592 – H. orthotricha (old flower)
    565 – Canna indica (canna lily – aka “achira” in Peru)


  4. From Carla Black:

    > Here are my IDs for your photos:
    > 986 and 601 H. chartacea
    > 644 and 626 H. lasiorachis
    > 643 and 638 H. schumanniana
    > 631 H. standleyii
    > 628 H. irrasa
    > 606 H. hirsuta
    > 595 H. velutina
    > 594 and 592 H. orthotricha
    > 565 Canna sp.
    > In your acquired plants, the beefy H. psitts are hybrids of H. psittacorum x H. spathocircinata, and the Etlingera is E. elatior.
    > The Heliconia Society of Puerto Rico website is authoritative on species and cultivar names:
    > http://www.heliconiasocietypr.org/heliconia_cultivars1.htm


  5. From Héctor:
    According to my humble observations, these are my recommendations for identification. I am not an expert.

    Photo H. 986 is H. chartacaea Sexy Pink
    H. 644 is H. velutina
    H 631 is H. standleyi
    H. 628 is H. irrasa
    H 601 is another version of H. chartacaea Sexy Pink
    H. 594 is H. orthotricha She
    H. 592 is an older version of H. orthotricha Sexy Pink


  6. Posted by Carla on August 9, 2012 at 09:39

    Hi Don,

    In case it matters to you all, Heliconias are native to the Americas and gingers are native to the Old World tropics. So your E. elatior (baston), Zingiber spectabile (beehive ginger) and Alpinia purpurata (red ginger) are introduced species.

    There is one genus in Zingiberaceae native to the Neotropics: Renealmia. I’m sure there are representatives in your forest.

    Costus (caña agria or spiral ginger) is a close ginger relative, also native in the forest around Iquitos.

    Tropically yours,


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