DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora- ZINGIBERALES, THE GINGER ORDER  

 

The term "ginger" is used fairly loosely in the floral trade, but Zingiberaceae is known as the Ginger Family, or true gingers, and has lent its name to the Zingiberales Order.  Other families in this Order include the Canna Lily Family, Cannaceae; the Spiral Ginger Family, Costaceae and the Arrowroot Family, Marantaceae.  The Heliconias also belong here, but have been given their own page.  As with the heliconias, larger members of the Order are often called Platanillas, a reference the the Banana Family, treated under Indonesian Flora.

Zingiberaceae presently encompasses roughly 1300 species, widely distributed in the tropics.  Some are important garden items in warmer parts of the globe, due both to a striking appearance, and often an attractive odor.  Most arise from underground rhizomes.

 

  Etlingera elatior is one of the more spectacular tropical flowers.  Like most of its genera, it is native to Indonesia and thereabouts, but now graces tropical gardens everywhere, and has naturalized in some areas.  The most common English name is Torch Ginger and in Latin America sometimes Boca del Dragon (dragon's mouth).  On the right, a hummingbird attends. Click to see big picture (526x480 pixels; 99 KB)
  The actual flowers of Torch Ginger can just be be seen poking up under the bright red bracts.  The leaves of this species are far taller than the flower stalk.  These photos were taken in northern Nicaragua, far from its native asian home. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 109 KB)
  Cone or Beehive Ginger (Zingiber spectabile) is another pantropical gift from Indonesia. The cone grows redder as it become older.  On the right the short size of the flower stalks may be seen compared to the tall leaves. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 150 KB)
  With Beehive Gingers, the flowers at least protrude from the waxy bracts.  On the right is Zingiber zerumbet, which is used in the orient to make a hair shampoo. Click to see big picture (574x480 pixels; 104 KB)
  Renealmia cernua, known as Red Renealmia, has a range from southern Mexico to Peru and Venezuela. Click to see big picture (377x480 pixels; 86 KB)
  Red Renealmia also comes in orange, in fact it seems a variable species. Click to see big picture (550x480 pixels; 92 KB)
  Renealmia alpinia, widespread in the Neotropics.  All species of this genus with the exception of R. Cernua above, keep their flowers and fruit on stalks at the base of their larger plants.  Photo from central Ecuador. Click to see big picture (627x480 pixels; 156 KB)
  At Omaere Etnobotanical gardens at Puyo, Ecuador, this appears to be Renealmia nicolaioides, known as Kumbia.  The fruit are edible when black.
  An orange bract Renealmia at the Wildsumaco Reserve in Ecuador.  This turns out to be R. aurantifera, of limited range.
  Another view of Renealmia aurantifera with its fruit beginning to form.
  Hedychium coronarium hales from the Himalayan foothills, but has adapted widely to planting in tropical and sub-tropical latitudes.  The most common English name is White Ginger. Click to see big picture (640x467 pixels; 92 KB)
  Despite its distant origin, Hedychium coranarium has been made the national flower of Cuba.  Extensively naturalized, it is known in Latin America by names such as Flor de San Juan and Mariposa Blanca. Click to see big picture (496x480 pixels; 71 KB)
  Hedychium gardnerianum also began its conquest from parts of the Himalayas, and has not only naturalized, but become a seriously invasive weed in several areas.  For some reason it is known as Jenibre Hawaiano (Hawaiian ginger) in Latin America. Click to see big picture (432x480 pixels; 76 KB)
  Red Ginger is another pantropical garden favorite.  Alpinia purpurata is native to Melanesia and the Pacific Islands and is the national flower of Samoa.  It is now all over the place in tropical Americas, often called Jenibre Rojo. Click to see big picture (488x480 pixels; 128 KB)
  Despite the Red Ginger name, the actual flowers are smaller and white. Click to see big picture (578x480 pixels; 111 KB)
 
Cannaceae, the Canna Lily Family is native to the neotropics, but some species have traveled to foreign gardens and naturalized.  Most are adapted to wet soils, and have been used to decontaminate swampy areas.
 
  One of the better known and wider flown species is Canna indica, which goes by the unusual name of Indian Shot.  Despite having India in both names, it is native to the Caribbean and tropical Americas. Click to see big picture (640x460 pixels; 103 KB)
  The seed pods of Canna indica contain hard, heavy, round seeds, which may be where the idea of "shot" came from.  Now the seeds are largely used for artesian jewelry.  This photo was taken in Tanzania, which gives some idea of how far the species has traveled. Click to see big picture (588x480 pixels; 103 KB)
  Canna tuerckheimii ranges from southern Mexico to Ecuador.  It is a tall plant, reaching to five meters, with orange flowers, and usually prefers wetlands. Click to see big picture (640x419 pixels; 86 KB)
  Canna jaegeriana is native to both the Caribbean and to the Tropical Andes.  In this case from near the town of Sumaco, Ecuador.
 


Costaceae is often termed the Costus Family after the genus which contains roughly 80 of its 100 species. but they are also referred to the Spiral Gingers.   Prominent in tropical Americas, it has species in most of the world's warmer areas.  The term Caña Agria is applied to many of these plants in Latin America.

 
  Costus barbatus is one of the most widely cultivated of its genus, and has gone from neotropical to pantropical in distribution.  It is also the one to which the term Spiral Ginger is most often applied. Click to see big picture (314x480 pixels; 60 KB)
  Native from southern Mexico to Venezuela, Costus comosus (approx.) has a larger floral head, and is known as Red Tower Ginger in garden circles.  This specimen is looking a bit aged. Click to see big picture (300x480 pixels; 77 KB)
  With larger white flowers, Costus ( or Cheilocostus) speciosus is also a garden favorite.  It originated in southeast Asia, but is now widely cultivated under the title of Crape Ginger. Click to see big picture (499x480 pixels; 93 KB)
  Costus woodsonii has gone by names such as Lipstick Costus and strangely as Dwarf French Kiss.  It is native from Nicaragua to Columbia. Click to see big picture (269x480 pixels; 55 KB)
  Costus pictus is yet another popular species, which ranges from southern Mexico to Panama, and beyond in gardens. Click to see big picture (539x480 pixels; 100 KB)
  C. pictus differs from most other Costus species by having wide leaves, patterned flowers and bracts which  remain at least partly green. but then so does Costus laevis. Click to see big picture (527x480 pixels; 86 KB)
  Another species with green bracts and wide leaves at Jatun Sacha Reserve in Ecuador.  It looks a bit like a washed out C. laevis.
  With both red bracts and flowers, this would be the widespread Costus scaber, at the Wildsumaco Reserve, Ecuador.
  Judging by the reddish leaf sheaths, this appears to be Costus curvibracteatus, which may be found from Costa Rica to Colombia. Click to see big picture (409x480 pixels; 103 KB)
  Eventually Costus species open their bracts to reveal their unusual seeds, and allow them to escape. Click to see big picture (640x472 pixels; 123 KB)
 


Marantaceae is generally called the Arrowroot Family, and most have starchy rhizomes.  There are over 800 species.  Mainly they are appreciated for patterned leaves, which have given rise to many cultivars aimed at the house plant industry.  The Calathea genus, on the other hand, has several large species with unusual floral structures that have found a home in tropical gardens.  These tend to known as Bijagua in Latin America.

 
  Calathea crotalifera is one of the better known of its genus.  Native from southern Mexico to Peru, it is called the Rattlesnake Plant in English and the equivalent Cascabel in Spanish. Click to see big picture (614x480 pixels; 106 KB)
  A closer look at the actual flowers of the Rattlesnake Plant, protruding from their yellow bracts. Click to see big picture (411x480 pixels; 62 KB)
  Another widespread species is Calathea lutea, often referred to as Cuban Cigars in English and Pampano in Spanish.  In the wild if flourishes from southern Mexico to Bolivia and Brazil. Click to see big picture (545x480 pixels; 126 KB)
  Calathea lutea is a variable species.  Here it shows white (instead of yellow) flowers on the left, and red stems and bracts in the Colombian example on the right. Click to see big picture (640x454 pixels; 94 KB)
  From the Kuna Yaki area of northeastern Panama, this appears to be an unidentified Ctenanthe?, whose bracts start out a hairy green and then turn white. Click to see big picture (395x480 pixels; 87 KB)
  Calathea burle-marxii likely started out in Brazil, but has mainly become a garden item.  Here it is in the Denver Botanical Gardens. Click to see big picture (349x480 pixels; 64 KB)
  Calathea marantina is found in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador and Peru and in adjacent uplands, where it is known as Uchu Panga.  Jatun Sacha Gardens, Ecuador.
  Some of this genus are prized garden and house plants because of patterned leaves.  Here we have Calathea veitchiana known as Puma Panga.  Jatun Sacha gardens, Ecuador.
  Calathea zebrina is also widely known for its striped leaves, but additionally has attractive basal flowers as seen here at the Botanical Gardens of Bogota.
  The variable Calathea warscewiczii has been co-opted as a house plant for its patterned leaves, under the name of Jungle Velvet.  Not all have these reddish bracts.  In nature they seem confined to Costa Rica and Panama. Click to see big picture (630x480 pixels; 88 KB)
  Calathea cylindrica is Brazilian by origin, but has been planted widely, and is here happily going to seed in the highlands of Colombia. Click to see big picture (432x480 pixels; 67 KB)
  Calathea marantifolia growing the the Santa Elena area of Costa Rica.  Native from Guatemala to Ecuador. Click to see big picture (309x480 pixels; 61 KB)
  Known as Sweet Corn Root, Calathea latifolia does indeed have roots which are large and edible.  It is found in wet areas from here in Panama to Brazil.
  It is known as Wheat Calathea, but its latin name, Pleiostachya pruinosa, puts it in another genus.  Fibers of this plant, which occurs from Mexico to Ecuador, are important to indigenous weaving of baskets and other items.
  Ctenanthe dasycarpa ranges from Costa Rica to Colombia.  Note the distinctive sharp leaf tip. Click to see big picture (640x424 pixels; 94 KB)
  Titled both Stromanthe lutea and S. jacquinii, this species is better known as Pico de Gallo from Costa Rica to Venezuela. Click to see big picture (557x480 pixels; 89 KB)
  Of similar appearance is Stromanthe stromanthoides, found in both the Amazon Basin and adjacent highlands of Ecuador and Peru. Its leaves are widely used to wrap idems for cooking.