Cheilocostus speciosus

Family : Costaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini



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Cane-shaped 3 m stems, showy leaves and long-lasting spectacular inflorescences © Giuseppe Mazza

The Cheilocostus speciosus (J.König) C. Specht (2006) is native to the humid forests of southern China, Taiwan, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Australia (Queensland).

The name of the genus comes from the combination of the Greek word “cheilos” = lip, and “costus”, genus in which the plant was previously inserted with the name of Costus speciosus, still widely utilized; the name of the species is the Latin word “speciosus” = beautiful, striking.

The most utilized common names are : “kustha”, “kashmira”, “kemuka”, “shura”, “pushkarmu- la” (Sanskrit); “keukand”, “keu”, “kust” (Hindi); “cane-reed”, “crepe-ginger”, “Malay ginger”, “wild ginger” (English); “gingembre crê- pe” (French); “Kreppingwer” (German); “Cana de la India” (Spanish).

Perennial herbaceous plant, rhizomatous, it shows thin stems similar to canes, tall up to three metres in the wild; the leaves, long about 30 cm and wide 7 cm, spirally arranged on the stem, are of a glossy dark green colour on the upper side, pubescent underneath. The terminal inflorescences, conical, long lasting, are thick spikes tall up to 15 cm, with several dark red coloured bracts, inside which come out showy flowers, with white corolla and white funnel-shaped labellum, 7 cm long and 8-10 cm wide, with a wrinkled margin. The fruits are globose red berries, 15 mm of diameter, containing small (about 3 mm), black coloured seeds. It reproduces easily by division and by cutting of the stem.

The plant is frequently cultivated in the tropical and subtropical countries, due to its showy inflorescences and the luxuriant vegetation; in some areas of origin, the rhizomes are also utilized in the traditional medicine. It needs a humid warm climate, partial shade and rich, draining, soils, to be kept humid during the vegetative period. It can be cultivated also outside from the tropical and subtropical climate zones, where, nevertheless, it has a more reduced size, as it can stand, at the level of the rhizome, temperatures up to -12°C; in such case it loses the aerial part every winter, but it vegetates again in spring.

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The fruits are red globose berries of 15 mm of diameter containing small black seeds of about 3 mm © Giuseppe Mazza

Synonyms : Banksea speciosa J.König in A.J.Retzius (1783); Costus speciosus (J.König) Sm. (1791); Tsiana speciosa (J.König) J.F.Gmel. (1791); Planera speciosa (J.König) Giseke (1792); Kaempferia speciosa (J.König) Thunb. (1825); Amomum arboreum Lour. (1790); Costus foeniculaceus Noronha (1790); Amomum hirsutum Lam. (1791); Hellenia grandiflora Retz. (1791); Costus crispiflorus Stokes (1812); Costus vaginalis Salisb. (1812); Costus speciosus var. angustifolius Ker Gawl. (1822); Costus angustifolius Ker Gawl. (1823); Costus nipalensis Roscoe (1826); Costus hirsutus Blume (1827); Costus sericeus Blume (1827); Costus glabratus Rchb. in J.C.Mössler (1829); Costus argyrophyllus Wall. (1832); Costus loureiroi Horan. (1862); Costus potierae F.Muell. (1864); Costus spicatus var. pubescens Griseb. (1864); Cardamomum arboreum (Lour.) Kuntze (1891); Costus speciosus var. argyrophyllus Wall. ex Baker in J.D.Hooker (1892); Costus lamingtonii F.M.Bailey (1898); Costus speciosus var. glaber K.Schum. (1899); Costus speciosus var. hirsutus (Blume) K.Schum. (1899); Costus speciosus var. sericeus (Blume) K.Schum. (1899); Costus glaber (K.Schum.) Merr. (1924); Costus formosanus Nakai (1941); Costus speciosus var. formosanus (Nakai) S.S.Ying (1988); Costus speciosus var. dilnavaziae M.R.Almeida & S.M.Almeida (1999).


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