DixPix Photographs





The Gingers are loosely defined as plants of the family Zingiberaceae, with its namesake genus Zingiber sometimes referred to as the "true gingers".  The family is pan-tropical, including roughly 1300 species in 52 genera, partly defined by a creeping rhizome.  It has supplied several showy flowers for tropical gardens, and a few condiments.

There is a small book titled Gingers of Sarawak by Axel Dalberg Poulsen and published by Natural History Publications of Borneo.  The same group and author has put out Etlingera of Borneo, referring to one of the more intriguing genera.

The family has given its name to its botanical order, Zingiberales, and three other families from this are added, including the Muscaceae or bananas.  In addition, one weed from the closely associated order Commelinales has been appended.


The Beehive or Cone Ginger, Zingiber spectabile, seems to have originated in Malaysia and adjacent parts of Indonesia, but has been planted in tropics everywhere.  The usual Indonesian name is Tepus Tanah.  Note that the actual plant is quite tall, with the floral cone near the ground. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 150 KB)
The cones tend to change from yellow to red with age, but there are other species and several cultivars to confuse things.  Here at Kew Gardens is the actual flowers of Z. spectabile. Click to see big picture (378x480 pixels; 80 KB)
Another common species is Zingiber zerumbet, sometimes known as the Shampoo Ginger.  It hales from India, but is now pan-tropical, and in Indonesia goes by the name of Lempuyang. Click to see big picture (232x480 pixels; 45 KB)
Looking a bit similar to the beehive gingers is the Indonesian Wax Ginger, Tapeinochilss ananassae.  These are native from Malaysia to Australia.  The actual flowers are small and yellow. Click to see big picture (640x461 pixels; 120 KB)
Perhaps the most famous of the ornamental gingers goes by several names, of which Red Torch or Torch Ginger are the most common in English, Etlingera elatior.  Its native range stretched from India to Australia, and the edible buds are part of varied cuisines. Kecomrang and Honje are common names in Indonesia, while Kantan seems more common in Malaysia. Click to see big picture (526x480 pixels; 91 KB)
Here the actual flowers of Etlingera elatior poke up from the ornamental head. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 108 KB)
In nature, Torch Ginger forms very tall leaf stalks, dwarfing the actual flowering cone near the ground.  On the right is the final seed mass. Click to see big picture (637x480 pixels; 154 KB)
Could this flower from Sumatra be the related Etlingera solaris, also found on Java?
Looking entirely different, Etlingera coccinea (punicea?)hugs the ground in Sumatra.  It may be found from Thailand to Java, and is edible (although small), being used as a condiment, under the name of Baku Tabu. Click to see big picture (640x464 pixels; 148 KB)
Another near-ground "flower" from Sumatra, this is of the genus Hornstedtia, likely H. scyphifera or something similar.  Note that the liquid in its tube is festering with mosquito larva etc., such is Sumatra. Click to see big picture (339x480 pixels; 83 KB)
Another ginger from northern Borneo.  This one appears to be Plagiostachys sp. Click to see big picture (545x480 pixels; 93 KB)
Known usually as White Ginger in garden circles, Hedychium coronarium is actually from near the Himalayas, but is now pan-tropical.  In fact it has become the national flower of Cuba and is considered invasive in parts of Brazil. Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 73 KB)
A better look at the White Ginger plant.  In Indonesia it tends to go by the name of Gandasuli. Click to see big picture (496x480 pixels; 71 KB)
Hedychium cylindricum in the Mesilau Sanctuary of Sabah.  This species is native to Borneo and Sumatra. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 110 KB)
In the case of H. cylindricum, the seeds are more colorful than the flowers. Click to see big picture (313x480 pixels; 72 KB)
Hedychium gardnerianum is often called Kahli Ginger, and it originated in the foothills of the Himalayas.  It is widely cultivated and naturalized, however, and considered invasive on some Pacific Islands.  The colors can vary. Click to see big picture (600x480 pixels; 94 KB)
The seed pods are also attractive. Click to see big picture (346x480 pixels; 58 KB)
Alpinia is a large and perhaps unstable genus.  Likely the most widely planted is Alpinia purpurata, known as Red Ginger, a large plant with a long-lasting red inflorescence of bracts.  It also comes in pink. Click to see big picture (488x480 pixels; 128 KB)
The actual flower of Red Ginger is white.  The species started out  from the region of Malaysia, but now graces gardens throughout the tropics, and is the national flower of Samoa. Click to see big picture (467x480 pixels; 56 KB)
Alpinia zerumbet has many English names including Shell Ginger.  It is also called Pink Porcelain Lily, although not a lily.  Of east Asian origin, it is now pan-tropical. Click to see big picture (605x480 pixels; 89 KB)
The rhizomes of Greater Galangale, Alpinia galanga, are used as a condiment, especially as soups and curries of Thailand and Indonesia.  In this role it is known as Lengkuas or as Laos. Click to see big picture (566x480 pixels; 90 KB)
The roots of Curcuma longa are more widely used as a condiment, and known as Turmeric.  It originated in India but is now found throughout tropical Asia and beyond. Indonesians know it as Kunir or Kunyet. Click to see big picture (388x480 pixels; 82 KB)
Indian Shot, Canna indica, is of the only genus in the family Cannaceae.  With India in both its popular and scientific names, it is somewhat surprising that it originated in the neotropics.  It is widely encountered in Indonesia, however. Click to see big picture (640x452 pixels; 106 KB)
Costus speciosus or Crape Ginger is of the Costaceae Family, closely related to the gingers and in Indonesia called Pacing.  It is a product of tropical asia, although found widely in gardens.  The roots have been used for birth control in India. Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 117 KB)
Heliconias are from the neotropics, but a wide variety have been planted and are thriving in Indonesia and in southeast Asia in general.  These are quite at home in Borneo, where they tend to be called Pisang Hias, although that term also extends to ornamental bananas, etc. heliconias


The family Muscaceae has only one genus, Musa-- the Banana.  Those who view bananas from the monotony of supermarkets may be surprised that there are some 50 species and additional cultivars.  They are also mildly radioactive due to a concentration of potassium.  Banana plants are the world's largest herb, the stem being a roll of leaves.  The genus originates in southeast Asia, and may have been first domesticated in New Guinea.  There are about 230 varieties recorded in Indonesia.


Bananas and their plants come in a wide variety.  Some are grown for textiles rather than for food. Click to see big picture (601x480 pixels; 91 KB)
On most species, the fruit grow pointing up.  The flowers and stem core are also eaten in some areas.  Most cultivated species are now seedless, and must be started from cuttings. Click to see big picture (640x450 pixels; 94 KB)
Many species have pink flowers, but Musa velutina actually grows pink bananas.  It is largely ornamental. Click to see big picture (640x452 pixels; 120 KB)
Yet none of the species can match Musa uranoscopus, also known as M. coccinea, for flaming color. red banana
The floating Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes, is actually of the Commelinales order.  Its beautiful flower has given this Brazilian a passport to many countries, where it has proved highly invasive, clogging tropical waterways.  Indonesians call it Eceng gondok. Click to see big picture (589x480 pixels; 82 KB)