Globba winitii

mauve dancing ladies


Globba winitii

C.H.Wright 1926

pronounced: GLAH-buh win-IT-ee-eye

(Zingiberaceae — the ginger family)


common name: mauve dancing ladies

Globba is a genus of delightful dainty plants that could hardly have been given a more unattractive or inappropriate-sounding name. I wonder whether Linnaeus was pulling our leg when he named the genus? The name derives from an Indonesian word for the plants, galoba, which somehow sounds better! Winitii is named for Phya Winit Wanandorn, 20th century Thai botanist.

This plant is a tender perennial from Thailand and Vietnam. The foliage grows to about 60 cm in height, forming clumps of mid-green lanceolate leaves on short stems; but the real attraction is the unusual flowers. The inflorescence hangs down from the stem, and is made up of showy bracts in purple or mauve with tiny yellow flowers. The plant is called ‘Dancing Ladies’ because of the way that the flowers seem to dance in the air, suspended from the bracts.

There are several popular cultivars in other colours. ‘White Dragon’ has, as the name implies, pure white bracts with the same yellow flowers. ‘Red Leaf’ has pinkish purple bracts, and a reddish tint on the underside of the leaves. A grower in Hawaii has patented a series of cultivars named ‘Dancing Jewels’; these include ‘Ruby Queen’, ‘Pristine Pink’, ‘Purest Angel’ (white) and ‘Blushing Maiden’ (pink and white).

Dancing Ladies ginger is propagated by division of clumps during the growing season, or by cutting pieces of dormant rhizome, or from seed. If planted in the garden, they are ideal for the front of a shady border, where the unusual blooms can be viewed close at hand. They like a fertile, well-drained soil. They will go dormant in winter, so the gardener will need to mark their spots, as they are among the last of the plants to reappear in spring. In colder climates, the rhizomes are usually lifted in winter and stored in a cool garage or basement in slightly damp peat. These plants are virtually pest-free, and very easy to grow if they are given suitable conditions. They are best in full shade, but will tolerate a little sun if they are kept moist. They need regular moisture during the growing season.

Many species of Globba have the rather peculiar habit of producing bulbils on the inflorescence in place of the lower flowers. These often drop off at maturity and produce new plants in the surrounding soil. In some species the bulbils are somewhat spicy, and are occasionally eaten.

Despite its delicate appearance, this species is excellent for cut flowers: the flowers can last for up to 3 weeks in water.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2011
Page last updated 5th January 2019