Shell ginger

Shell ginger

Alpinia zerumbet

Common Name:

Shell ginger

Scientific Name:

Alpinia zerumbet

Alternative common names:

Skulp gemmer(Afrikaans), Gemmer, Skulp(Afrikaans), Shell ginger(English) Ginger, Shell(English) 


Shell Ginger is a 4- to 8-foot-tall herbaceous perennial that is used in the landscape for its attractive foliage and shell-like flowers. The leaves of this plant are green and yellow variegated and are quite striking. They are 18 to 24 m long and have a distinct, spicy fragrance. The white, fragrant flowers of the shell ginger are borne in drooping clusters toward the stem ends.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

East Asia (East Indies)

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 3.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

How does it spread?

It spreads by seeds dispersal and by extensive network of creeping underground stems (rhizome) divisions. Humans disperse the plant by cultivating the plant for ornamental use. The species is also dispersed by water, birds as it thrives along stream banks, in wetlands, and in generally moist environments.

Why is it a problem?

The Shell ginger forms large spreading clumps. It competes with and has potential to replace the indigenous species in moist sites such as watercourses and forest margins.

What does it look like?

Leaves: Alternate bright green, glabrous and shinning, up to 600 mm long and 200 mm wide

Flowers: In racemes up up to 400 mm long, main axis are hairy, white, waxy, pink-tined bracteoles enfold the buds; flowers are orchid-like; corolla white, lip to 40 mm, crinkled yellow, with red and brown variegations.

Fruit/seeds: Capsule - Red capsules.

Does the plant have any uses?

Used for Ornamental Purposes, Medicine Use; specimen; border; mass planting; accent; suitable for growing indoors; cut flowers

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