Costaceae  Nakai 1941

pronounced: koss-TAY-see-eye

the costus family

Costus barbatusThe name is derived from the Sanskrit name of these plants, Kushtha. The plants are ginger-like, originally being included in the Zingiberaceae, but have 5 fused staminodes rather than 2, and contain no aromatic oils, though the stems have an acid juice. They are found in tropical parts of Asia, Africa, Central and South America.  The simple leaves are alternate, spiral or 4-ranked, with those towards the base of the stem usually bladeless. The leaf bases have a closed sheath with a ligule. The flowers are generally solitary or aggregated in inflorescences. Each flower has one stamen. The staminodes form a labellum that often functions to attract pollinators. The fruit is a berry or a capsule, and there is a fleshy rhizome with tuberous roots.


Costus barbatus - Spiral Ginger

Costus curvibracteatus - Orange Tulip Ginger

Costus speciosus - Crape Ginger


Photograaph © Donald Simpson 2012

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