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Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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Rainforest Ginger

Photo: Courtesy of Damon Ramsey
BSc.(Zool) Biologist Guide

Snowflake GingerBlue GingerNative Cardamon

Narrow-leaved Ginger

Red Ginger.


Families Zingiberaceae and Costaceae

  • Most gingers are found in the rain forests of tropical Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas.

  • They tend to be shrub like, with no single trunk, but several large stems that shoot up from the ground and develop large, long banana-like leaves.

  • These giant leaves and their sheathing make up the 'pseudostems', for the true stems are actually quite short and low to the ground.

  • Where these true stems are underground, they are called the 'rhizomes'; this can often be quite thick and is actually the 'hand' of the ginger that we use for flavoring.

  • There is much variation in flower and fruit display in this group.

  • Both families (as well as the closely related families Cannaceae and Marantaceae) have flowers that are characterized by one main functional stamen, while the other four stamens have usually been modified into 'staminodes' which often act as attracting petals.

  • Gingers were previously placed in one large family of over 1500 species in 50 genera (de Wit 1967), but are now generally split into two families, Zingiberaceae and Costaceae. While the latter family tends to have shorter, fatter spirally arranged leaves with a closed sheath on the main stem, the former has the classic long and large banana-like, aromatic and distichously arranged leaves, such as found in the true ginger (Larsen et al 1999).

  • While the Zingibers have their centre of diversity in Asia and Australia, the Costaceae are found mainly in Africa and South America (Larsen 1999).

  • As mentioned, Gingers are of course best known as their use in flavoring, with the true ginger coming from the root of the Asian ginger plant Zingiber officinale.

  • But many other species are used; the leaves are used as food wrapping, some species of seeds are eaten or used for flavoring, and other spices, such as cardamom and turmeric, are from the ginger family.

  • The showy flowers, fruits and bracts are increasingly being used for ornamental purposes.

Script: Courtesy of  Damon Ramsey BSc.(Zool) Biologist Guide

Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Lake Eacham, Atherton Tablelands
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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