Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Heliconia bihai
(macaw flower)

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Datasheet

Heliconia bihai (macaw flower)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Heliconia bihai
  • Preferred Common Name
  • macaw flower
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • H. bihai is a perennial rhizomatous herb adapted to growth in a wide variety of habitats and which often escapes from gardens and yards (where it has been introduced as an ornamental) into adjacent natural area...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Heliconia bihai (macaw flower) showing the erect and short peduncle bracts.
TitleHabit
CaptionHeliconia bihai (macaw flower) showing the erect and short peduncle bracts.
Copyright©Smithsonian Institution/Judith Knight
Heliconia bihai (macaw flower) showing the erect and short peduncle bracts.
HabitHeliconia bihai (macaw flower) showing the erect and short peduncle bracts.©Smithsonian Institution/Judith Knight
Heliconia bihai (macaw flower); propagated from a single plant recorded 12 years previously in Puerto Rico.
TitleHabit
CaptionHeliconia bihai (macaw flower); propagated from a single plant recorded 12 years previously in Puerto Rico.
Copyright©Smithsonian Institution/Judith Knight
Heliconia bihai (macaw flower); propagated from a single plant recorded 12 years previously in Puerto Rico.
HabitHeliconia bihai (macaw flower); propagated from a single plant recorded 12 years previously in Puerto Rico.©Smithsonian Institution/Judith Knight

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Heliconia bihai (L.) L.

Preferred Common Name

  • macaw flower

Other Scientific Names

  • Bihai bihai (L.) Griggs
  • Bihai distans (Griggs) Griggs
  • Bihai purpurea (Griggs) Griggs
  • Bihai rutila (Griggs) Griggs
  • Heliconia aurea G.Rodr.
  • Heliconia distans Griggs
  • Heliconia nigrescens Jacq.
  • Heliconia purpurea Griggs
  • Heliconia rutila Griggs
  • Heliconia schaeferiana G.Rodr.
  • Heliconia variegata Jacq.
  • Musa bihai L.

International Common Names

  • English: firebird; wild banana; wild plantain
  • Spanish: bihao; chichica; platano cimarrón; platinilla; platono silvestre; tacana
  • French: balizie; balsier; banane marron; banane sauvage

Local Common Names

  • Haiti: bananier barron; bananier marron
  • Lesser Antilles: balizye

Summary of Invasiveness

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H. bihai is a perennial rhizomatous herb adapted to growth in a wide variety of habitats and which often escapes from gardens and yards (where it has been introduced as an ornamental) into adjacent natural areas (Shenk, 1983; Andersson, 1998; Kress and Whittemore, 2000). Additionally, H. bihai often grows as a pioneer species in waste ground, forest gaps, disturbed secondary forests, and along roadsides, suggesting that this species has the potential to spread much further than it has to date both outside and inside its native distribution range (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Every, 2013). H. bihai spreads sexually by seeds and vegetatively by rhizomes and it is able to develop monospecific stands which may prevent the establishment of other plant species (Andersson, 1998; Wagner et al., 1999; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Zingiberales
  •                         Family: Heliconiaceae
  •                             Genus: Heliconia
  •                                 Species: Heliconia bihai

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Heliconiaceae is a family of one genus (Heliconia) and approximately 225 species, mostly distributed in the Neotropics (Central America, South America, and West Indies) but with six species and several varieties native to islands in the southwest Pacific area from Samoa to Indonesia (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Stevens, 2012). Heliconiaceae was formerly included in the Musaceae (banana family), but APG III confirms the Heliconiaceae as belonging in the order Zingiberales, within the commelinid clade of monocots (Stevens, 2012).

The taxonomy of Heliconiaceae is still an open research area that requires attention. Over 450 botanical names for species, varieties and hybrids of Heliconia have been published. In addition, over 200 cultivar and common names have been used in the commercial trade and popular literature. Despite all of these names (many of which apply to the same plants), there is no agreement on species boundaries (and therefore number) and relationships have not yet been determined (Kress, 1990; 1990b; Every 2013). An informal and preliminary classification that includes five subgenera and 23 sections has been proposed, but this classification is not based on phylogenetic analyses and will probably be modified as additional research on evolutionary relationships within Heliconia is completed (Kress, 1990; 1990b; Andersson, 1998; Kress et al., 2001).

Description

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Plants of H. bihai are large, perennial rhizomatous herbs up to 1.5 m tall. Petioles are variable, up to 2 m long; leaf blades narrowly oblong, up to 2 m long, and 20 cm or more wide, glaucous when young, but often becoming green on both surfaces; apex cuspidate-acuminate, the base rounded to acute. Inflorescence erect with a short peduncle; bracts shallowly boat-shaped, 2.5-4 cm wide, narrowly triangular, succulent, the middle ones approximately 13 cm long or more, widely separated and never overlapping at the base, usually scarlet, crimson, or dusky red, often with the upper margins yellow; flowers bisexual with perianth 3 cm long, the sepals and petals white-tipped. Fruits are capsules bright blue. Seeds are stony, grayish, without arils (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005).

Distribution

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H. bihai is native to Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, and northern South America (Colombia, Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela; Broome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2013). It has been widely commercialized as an ornamental and can currently be found growing in gardens and naturalized in many tropical countries (see distribution table for details; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshPresentIntroducedSultana and Hassan, 2008Cultivated

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedPérez et al., 2005Planted as an ornamental
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Wagner et al., 1999; PIER, 2013

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
DominicaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
Dominican RepublicPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005
GrenadaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
GuadeloupePresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
HaitiPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedMolina, 1975Planted as an ornamental
JamaicaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013
MartiniquePresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
MontserratPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
Netherlands AntillesPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007Saba, St. Eustatius
PanamaPresentIntroducedShenk, 1983Planted as an ornamental. Considered a weed
Puerto RicoPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
Saint LuciaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013

South America

BrazilPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013
-ParaPresentNative
ColombiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013
French GuianaPresentNativeFunk et al., 2007
GuyanaPresentNativeFunk et al., 2007
SurinamePresentNativeFunk et al., 2007
VenezuelaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013

Oceania

French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedWelsh, 1998Cultivated
NiuePresentIntroducedSykes, 1970Cultivated
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2013Cultivated
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedPeekel, 1984Cultivated
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroducedMeyer, 2007Cultivated

History of Introduction and Spread

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In the West Indies, H. bihai is a native species. In other American countries as well as on islands in the Pacific region this species was probably introduced as an ornamental, but we do not have information about the years when introductions occurred in these areas.

Risk of Introduction

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International trade in H. bihai is very extensive. The species is commonly planted as an ornamental in gardens and yards throughout the tropics (Andersson, 1998; Kress and Whittemore, 2000; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Every, 2013). Considering that seeds of this species are dispersed by birds and that vegetative propagation by rhizomes also occurs, probability of invasion remains high (PIER, 2013).

Habitat

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Within its native distribution range, H. bihai is a common element in moist or wet forests, as well as in seasonally dry forests. This species grows in shaded moist habitats of primary forests, river banks, and is an aggressive colonizer of open, disturbed sites, pasturelands, and secondary forests (Shenk, 1983; Kress, 1990; Andersson, 1998; Kress and Whittemore, 2000; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Every, 2013).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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Shenk (1983) listed this species as a common weed affecting pasturelands in Panama.

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number in H. bihai is 2n = 24 (Sultana and Hassan, 2008). 

Reproductive Biology

Flowers of H. bihai are bisexual and each flower is open for only one day. There are typically many flowers per bract and many bracts per inflorescence, so that a single plant may be in flower for a long period of time. Within its native distribution range, H. bihai is pollinated by hummingbirds. In the West Indies the species Eulampis jugularis is the most important pollinator (Temeles et al., 2000; Temeles and Kress, 2003).  

Physiology and Phenology

In Venezuela, H. bihai blooms throughout the dry season and during the early portions of the wet season (from late December to early July; Seifert and Seifert, 1979).

In the West Indies, H. bihai produces flowers and fruits most of the year (Kress, 1990; Andersson, 1998; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005). 

Environmental Requirements

H. bihai grows in areas with high annual precipitation regimes at elevations below 500 metres (Kress, 1990; Andersson, 1998). H. bihai is shade tolerant but can also grow in open areas with full sunlight exposure. It develops best in wet and fertile sandy and loamy soils with pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 (Every, 2013).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 30
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 5

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Botrytis Pathogen All Stages not specific
Calonectria spathiphylli Pathogen Adults not specific
Cephaloleia neglecta Herbivore All Stages not specific
Cercospora Pathogen All Stages not specific
Colletotrichum Pathogen All Stages not specific
Cordana Pathogen All Stages not specific
Curvularia Pathogen All Stages not specific
Fusarium Pathogen All Stages not specific
Pestalotia Pathogen All Stages not specific
Pseudocercospora Pathogen All Stages not specific
Thanetophorus cucumeris Pathogen All Stages not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Several diseases including fungal, virus, and bacterial infections have been found in leaves, stems, roots, and inflorescences of H. bihai in both cultivation and natural habitats (Sewake and Uchida, 1980; Alarcón, 2007). A list of these diseases is included in the Natural Enemies Table.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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H. bihai spreads sexually by seeds and asexually by rhizomes. Fruits are bright blue, very attractive to birds, and consequently seeds are primarily bird dispersed. New pseudostems (formed by the leaf sheaths) can emerge from branched underground rhizomes (Kress 1990; Andersson, 1998; Kress and Whittemore, 2000; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Every 2013).

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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H. bihai can behave as a pioneer species. It is able to rapidly invade and colonize open and disturbed areas forming monocultures and avoiding the establishment of other plant species (Kress 1990; Andersson, 1998; Every 2013).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Negatively impacts animal/plant collections
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally

Uses

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H. bihai is commonly used as an ornamental in gardens and yards. The use of Heliconia leaves in cooking practices as wrappers for foods and covers for stone ovens is widespread in tropical areas (Kress, 1990). In some islands in the Pacific, the fibres in the epidermis of the leaf bases are stripped off and dried for use in straining coconut milk and as a scouring tool (Kress, 1990).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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On several islands in the West Indies, H. bihai populations coexist and share pollinators with other species of Heliconia and as a result several natural interspecific hybrids have been evolved (Meléndez-Ackerman et al., 2005; Every, 2013). For example, in St. Lucia, H. bihai coexists with Heliconia caribaea, a red-bracted species that form hybrids with H. bihai (Meléndez-Ackerman et al., 2005). Over the natural distribution range of H. bihai, many colour forms have evolved, mostly in tones of red and yellow (Every, 2013).

References

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Acevedo-Rodríguez P; Strong MT, 2005. Monocots and Gymnosperms of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 52:1-416. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/PRFlora/monocots/

Acevedo-Rodríguez P; Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

Alarcón JJ, 2007. [English title not available]. (Enfermedades en la producción de Heliconias en los Departamentos de Caldas, Risaralda y Quindio.) Agronomia, 15(1):45-61. http://agronomia.ucaldas.edu.co/downloads/agronomia15%281%29_4.pdf

Andersson L, 1998. Heliconiaceae. In: The Families and Genera of Vascular plants vol.4 [ed. by Kubitzki, K.]. New York, USA: Springer-Verlag, 226-230.

Broome R; Sabir K; Carrington S, 2007. Plants of the Eastern Caribbean. Online database. Barbados: University of the West Indies. http://ecflora.cavehill.uwi.edu/index.html

Every JLR, 2013. Heliconiaceae. Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics [ed. by Milliken, W. \Klitgard, B. \Baracat, A.]. www.kew.org/neotropikey

Funk V; Hollowell T; Berry P; Kelloff C; Alexander SN, 2007. Checklist of the plants of the Guiana Shield (Venezuela: Amazonas, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro; Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana). Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 584 pp.

Govaerts R, 2013. World Checklist of Heliconiaceae. Richmond, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/

Kress WJ, 1990. Taxonomy of Old World Heliconia (Heliconiaceae). Allertonia, 6:1-58.

Kress WJ, 1990. The phylogeny and classification of the Zingiberales. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 77:698-721.

Kress WJ; Prince LM; Hahn WJ; Zimmer EA, 2001. Unraveling the evolutionary radiation of the families of the Zingiberales using morphological and molecular evidence. Systematic Biology, 50(6):926-944.

Kress WJ; Whittemore AT, 2000. Heliconia. In: Flora of North America North of Mexico, vol. 22 [ed. by Flora of North America Editorial Committee]. 299-300.

Meléndez-Ackerman E; Speranza P; Kress WJ; Rohena L; Toledo E; Cortes C; Treece D; Gitzendanner M; Soltis P; Soltis D, 2005. Microevolutionary process inferred from AFLP and morphological variation in Heliconia bihai (Heliconiaceae). International Journal of Plant Science, 166(5):781-794.

Meyer JY, 2007. Rapport de mission sur l'Ile d'Uvea (Wallis & Futuna) du 6 au 17 Novembre 2007: Inventaire preliminaire de la flore vasculaire secondaire ([English title not available]). Papeete, Tahiti: Ministère de l'Education, l'Enseignement Supérieur et la Recherche, 39 pp. http://www.li-an.fr/jyves/Meyer_2007_Rapport_Plantes_Introduites_Wallis.pdf

Molina RA, 1975. Enumeration of the plants of Honduras. (Enumeración de las plantas de Honduras) Ceiba, 19(1):1-118.

Peekel PG, 1984. Flora of the Bismarck Archipelago for naturalists. Lae, Papua New Guinea: Office of Forests, Division of Botany, 638 pp.

Pérez A; Sousa MS; Hanan-Alipi AM; Chiang Tenorio FCPL, 2005. [English title not available]. (Vegetación terrestre.) In: Biodiversidad de Tabasco., Mexico: CONABIO-UNAM, 65-110.

PIER, 2013. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/index.html

Randall RP, 2012. A Global Compendium of Weeds. Perth, Australia: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 1124 pp. http://www.cabi.org/isc/FullTextPDF/2013/20133109119.pdf

Seifert RP; Seifert FH, 1979. Utilization of Heliconia (Musaceae) by the Beetle Xenarescus monocerus (Oliver) (Chrysomelidae: Hispinae) in a Venezuelan Forest. Biotropica, 11:51-59.

Sewake KT; Uchida JY, 1980. Diseases of Heliconia in Hawaii. Research Extension Series, Hawaii Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources:24 pp.

Shenk M, 1983. Weed control in pastures. (El combate de malezas en potreros.) Aspectos en la utilización y producción de forrajes en el trópico [ed. by Novoa B., A.R.]. Turrialba, Costa Rica: CATIE, 55-70.

Stevens PF, 2012. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/

Sultana N; Hassan A, 2008. The genus Heliconia L. cultivated in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Journal of Plant Taxonomy, 15(2):141-153.

Sykes WR, 1970. Contributions to the flora of Niue. New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Bulletin 200. p. 238.

Sykes WR, 1970. Contributions to the flora of Niue. New Zealand Department. Sci. Indust. Res. Bull. 200: 1-321.

Temeles EJ; Kress WJ, 2003. Adaptation in a plant-hummingbird association. Science, 300:630-633.

Temeles EJ; Pan IL; Brennan JL; Horwitt JN, 2000. Evidence for ecological causation of sexual dimorphism in a hummingbird. Science, 289:441-443.

USDA-ARS, 2013. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx

Wagner WL; Herbst DR; Sohmer SH, 1999. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawaii. Revised edition. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: University of Hawaii Press/Bishop Museum Press. [Bernice P. Bishop Museum special publication.]

Welsh SL, 1998. A summary revision of the flowering plants of the Society Islands. Orem, Utah, USA: EPS Inc., 420 pp.

Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Angiosperm Phylogeny Websitehttp://www.mobot.org/mobot/research/apweb/
Flora of the West Indieshttp://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Monocotyledons of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islandshttp://botany.si.edu/Antilles/PRFlora/monocots/
Neotropical Heliconiaceae in: Kew Royal Botanical Garden- Neotropikeyhttp://www.kew.org/science/tropamerica/neotropikey/families/Heliconiaceae.htm
Zingiberales Researchhttp://botany.si.edu/zingiberales/index.cfm

Contributors

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02/07/13 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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