Family : Heliconiaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to Brazil (Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Pará, Roraima, Rondônia and Tocantins), Colombia and Peru, where it grows in the humid forests on mainly clayey soils at low and medium altitudes.
The name of the genus comes from the Latin “Heliconius, a, um” = of the Helicon, mount sacred to Apollo and to the Muses in the Greek mythology; the name of the species is the combination of the Greek terms “lasios” = villous, shaggy, and “rhachis” = rachis, with obvious reference.
The Heliconia lasiorachis L.Andersson (1985) is an evergreen, perennial, rhizomatous erect herbaceous species, forming dense 1,5-2 m tall tufts.
The leaves, on a 35-70 cm long petiole, are basal, alternate, simple, entire, oblong-elliptic with brusquely pointed apex and prominent central nervation in the lower page, of intense green colour above, glaucous green and waxy below, 20-50 cm long and 8-15 cm broad, and sheathing tubular foliar bases forming a pseudo-stem.
The inflorescence is an up to about 15 cm long erect terminal spike, with pubescent greenish yellow rachis formed by 4-12 bracts, alternate, distichous, concave, coriaceous, arranged almost perpendicularly to the rachis, at the base 10-12 cm long and progressively decreasing upward, of red colour. The bracts subtend numerous 2,5-3 cm long tubular flowers, of pale green colour with dark green spot towards the apex, opening in succession. The flowers, with bilateral symmetry, are hermaphroditic, with 3 sepals, two of which merged and one free, and 3 petals fused together, little differentiated each other, 5 fertile stamina and one staminode opposite to the free sepal; the flowers are pollinated by the hummingbirds. The fruits are sub-globose drupes of blue colour when ripe, containing 1-3 seeds. It reproduces by seed, previously kept in water for 2 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 24-28 °C, but usually and easily by division of the rhizomes, with each section provided with several vegetative buds.
It is a species diffused in the wild, but little cultivated out from the origin zones, that would deserve greater interest due to its potentiality as ornamental plant, to be utilized in groups or edgings.
Cultivable in the humid tropical and subtropical climate zones in semi-shaded position on soils rich of organic substance, acidic or neutral, draining, maintained almost constantly humid, but without stagnations. Where the climate does not allow its permanence in open air during the winter months, it can be cultivated in capacious pots to be sheltered in greenhouses, verandas, or luminous winter gardens, utilizing an organic substratum with addition of siliceous sand or agri-perlite for a 30% to improve the drainage, with high ambiental humidity and temperatures, best at 24-26 °C, and lowest night temperatures not under the 15 °C. The watering must be regular and abundant in summer, avoiding stagnations, cause of easy rottenness, more spaced in winter, allowing the substratum to partially dry up before giving water again, with fertilizations preferably done with slow release balanced products with addition of microelements.
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza