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Costus curvibracteatus Maas 1976
pronounced: KOSS-tuss ker-vee-brack-tee-AH-tus
(Costaceae – the costus family)
common name: Orange Tulip Ginger
Costus is derived from the Sanskrit name for the species, Kushtha; curvibracteatus is Latin, with curved bracts.
The plant is native to Costa Rica and Panama. It was originally placed in the family Zingiberaceae, until further work by the botanist W. John Kress caused Coataceae to be recognized as a sister clade.
The plant usually grows in the understorey of forested montane areas at altitudes of 700 – 1900 m. It is not uncommon in its native habitat.
Despite the name of this plant, and its relationship to the ginger family, the rhizomes of this plant are not edible. The height of the plant is usually between 1 and 1.5 m, although it can grow taller. It is an evergreen perennial, and its large leaves can be effective ground cover. They range in size from 15 – 35 cm long by 5 – 10 cm wide; they are glossy and glabrous on the upper surface, but hirsute on the edges and the underside. They are alternate on a spiralling stem, coriaceous and dark green. Their shape is obovate to elliptic, with a cuneate to rounded base, and the apex is usually acute to acuminate. The ligule is considerably smaller than that of Costus barbatus.
The inflorescence is spiciform to ovoid in shape, with the bracts red to orange, usually becoming more orange at the apex, which curves outwards. There is a great deal of variation in the size of the inflorescence, anything from 4 to 18 cm in length, and 3 9 cm wide. The flowers emerge from the bracts; they are small, bisexual, yellow or orange tubular florets, usually about the same length as the bracts, but they can be longer. They produce abundant nectar, and are pollinated by hummingbirds.
Glabrous ellipsoid-shaped capsules are produced, yielding the seeds by which the plant reprooduces. The seeds should be soaked before planting, or cuttings from a mature plant can be used instead.
The plant is best grown in a well-sheltered location, where it can be kept warm and moist. It also grows well when potted, and will usually thrive indoors.
Photographed in Arcadia 2018
Page last updated 7th May 2018