(Alpinia zerumbet). Leaves and flowers
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Alpinia zerumbet, commonly known as shell ginger, is a perennial species of ginger native to East
Asia. They can grow up to 8 to 10 ft (2.4 to 3.0 m) tall and bear colorful
funnel-shaped flowers. They are grown as ornamentals and their leaves are used in cuisine and traditional
medicine. They are also sometimes known as the pink porcelain lily, variegated ginger or butterfly
Native to eastern Asia, this plant is a rhizomatous, evergreen tropical perennial that grows in upright clumps 8 to 10 ft (2.4 to 3.0 m) tall in tropical
climates. In more typical conditions, it reaches 4 to 8 ft (1.2 to 2.4 m) feet tall in the green
house, and 3 to 4 ft (0.91 to 1.22 m) feet tall, as a house plant.
It is commonly called shell ginger or shellflower because its individual shell pink
flowers, particularly when in bud, resemble sea shells. It is distinguished from other members of the ginger family by the fact that its flowers droop from the ends of leafy stems rather than rise directly from plant
rhizomes. Waxy, light pink flower buds open to tubular flowers with yellow inside lips and red
throats. Flowers have white or pink perianths with yellow labella with red spots and
stripes. There are three stamens, but only one has pollen. Flowers are
fragrant. Flowers appear in drooping racemes in summer. The fruit is globose with many
striations. Lance-shaped green leaves to 2’ long and 5” wide. Leaves and flowers are attractive in flower
arrangements. Rhizomes have a gingery aroma.
One of the most popular varieties is Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata,' often known as shell
ginger. The variegated form, by far the most popular, offers striking green and gold
streaking, fanning out from the central rib. The exact pattern varies from leaf to
leaf, making for a wonderful mosaic of color.
Synonymous with A. nutans and A. speciosa. Genus name honors Prosper
Alpino, 16-17th century Italian botanist. Other common names in English include
"pink porcelain lily", "variegated ginger, "butterfly ginger", and
In Japanese it is known as getto. In Okinawan, it is known as sannin. In Chinese, it is known as yan shanjiang or
Alpinia zerumbet is best grown in rich medium-wet, to wet well drained soils in full sun to part
shade. Afternoon shade in hot summer climates, is recommended. Indoors, the plant must have bright light and humid
conditions. Flowering rarely occurs before the second year.
In China, the plant's long leaf blades are still used for wrapping
zongzi, a sticky rice dish prepared during the Dragon Boat Festival. In Japan, its leaves are sold as herbal tea and
also used to flavour noodles and wrap mochi rice cakes.
The leaves and the extracted oils of the plant have long been used in Asia to relieve fevers and
malaria, as well as to serve as a general health tonic. It is also used in South and Central America as a
diuretic, antihypertensive, and antiulcerogenic. Its tea has hypotensive, diuretic and antiulcerogenic properties. Decoction of leaves has been used during bathing to alleviate
fevers. The leaves and rhizomes have been proven effective against HIV-1 integrase and neuraminidase
enzymes, and has also shown anti-diabetic effect through inhibitions of formation of advanced glycation end
products. Besides, the antioxidant activities of different parts of Alpinia zerumbet has already been