Zingiberaceae Martinov

This family is accepted.


Zingiberaceae, J.M.Lock. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1985

Morphology General Habit
Perennial herbs, usually with creeping rhizomes; usually terrestrial but occasionally (not in East Africa) epiphytic; sterile and fertile shoots often separate, usually unbranched All parts are glabrous, or hairy with simple (rarely stellate) unicellular hairs (bicellular in >i>Costus)
Morphology General
Vegetative parts with oil cells (except in Costus) and aromatic
Morphology Leaves
Leaves solitary at the nodes or occasionally crowded at the base of the stem, alternate and 2-rowed, or (>i>Costus) in an open spiral, consisting of sheath, ligule and lamina; sheaths encircling the stem, sometimes forming a pseudostem, with the margins free or joined; ligule adaxial, often bilobed, sometimes (>i>Costus) encircling the stem and then often called an ochrea; lamina usually narrowly elliptic, narrowing into a short false petiole, with a strong median nerve and parallel laterals which diverge from the midrib at about 45° (in >i>Costus the laterals are themselves joined by parallel tertiary veins)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences racemose (spikes, panicles and racemes occur); bracts and bracteoles (if present) usually large and conspicuous, sometimes coloured
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers (hermaphrodite, strongly zygomorphic, 3-merous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx tubular or spathaceous, often 3-lobed at the apex, valvate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 3, equal or unequal, fused at the base with the androecium to form a perianth-tube, imbricate in bud
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Androecium composed of a single, often petaloid stamen, with anther-thecae dehiscing by longitudinal slits, and a large petaloid variously lobed member, the labellum, formed from 2 fused staminodes (filamentous outgrowths at the base of the stamen are sometimes claimed to represent other staminodes; in >i>Costus 5 staminodes are believed to be involved in the formation of the labellum)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary inferior, 3-locular, with axile placentation and usually numerous ovules; style and stigma one
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Nectaries
Nectaries of various forms occur either beside the style-base (those which are paired and elongated have often been called stylodia), or embedded in the top of the ovary
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit a berry or capsule, often large and with thick fleshy walls, usually black or red when ripe; sometimes subterranean
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds surrounded by a fimbriate aril, usually smooth and hard, with abundant endosperm


Maas, P.J.M. & Maas-van de Kamer, H. (2009). Neotropical Zingiberaceae.


Perennial often large-sized, aromatic herbs, with rhizomes; indument composed of simple to stellate hairs. Stems terete , straight. Leaves alternate , distichous , with open sheaths and a very small, truncate ligule . Inflorescence generally a terminal panicle , mostly on a separate leafless shoot ; bracts mostly herbaceous to membranous , often soon falling off, each subtending 1-10 flowers; bracteole herbaceous , tubular and closed before anthesis, sometimes cup-shaped and open even before anthesis. Flowers zygomorphic ; calyx tubular, turbinate , or urceolate, 3- lobed ; petals 3, connate into a distinct tube; fertile stamen 1, with a very short filament , anther 1; labellum equaling the corolla , basal part narrowed, with 2 minute tooth-like lateral staminodes, apical part 3- lobed , tubular or horizontally spreading; style 1, filiform , lying close to the stamen and embraced by the thecae, stigma 1, cup-shaped; ovary inferior, 3-locular, with nectarial glands around the base of the style , placentation axile , ovules many, anatropous. Fruit an often red to black capsule , 3-locular, mostly crowned by the persistent calyx , longitudinally and loculicidally dehiscent . Seeds many, ellipsoid , with a large, yellow, orange, or white aril , glossy brown.

General Description
Notes on delimitation
  • Zingiberaceae belong to the order of Zingiberales. Neotropical Zingiberaceae can be distinguished from all other families in this order by being aromatic and in having an indument often composed of stellate hairs.
  • Aframomum K.Schum. - cultivated.
  • Alpinia Roxb. - cultivated.
  • Boesenbergia Kuntze - cultivated.
  • Curcuma L. - cultivated and sometimes naturalized (C. xanthorrhiza).
  • Etlingera Giseke - cultivated.
  • Hedychium J.Koenig - cultivated, but often naturalized (H. coronarium).
  • Kaempferia L. - cultivated.
  • Renealmia - Native.
  • Zingiber Boehm. - cultivated.
Number of genera
  • 1 genus: Renealmia (60 spp.).
General notes
  • Aframomum melegueta K.Schum. is cultivated in the Guianas for its spicy fruit.
  • Several species of Curcuma and Zingiber are cultivated for their spicy rhizomes.
  • Hedychium coronarium J.Koenig is naturalized all over the Neotropics, and in the Andes it is even a pest, replacing the original vegetation along roads.
  • The other genera are cultivated as ornamentals, 2 important species being Alpinia purpurata K.Schum. and Etlingera elatior (Jack) R.M. Sm.
Distribution in the Neotropics

Family:  from Mexico in the North to Bolivia and S Brazil in the South, also present in the West Indian Islands.

  • Renealmia L.f. is the only native genus in the Neotropics.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Aromatic herbs.
  • Indument composed of simple to stellate hairs.
  • Leaves distichous, with a very small, truncateligule and an open sheath.
  • Inflorescence generally a bracteate panicle.
  • Flowers zygomorphic.
  • Stamen 1.
  • Labellum more or less the same size as the petals, basal part narrowed, apical part tubular to spreading.
  • Fruit a capsule, 3-locular, mostly crowned by the persistentcalyx, longitudinally and loculicidally dehiscent.
Key differences from similar families

Zingiberaceae differ from Costaceae in having:

  • Aromatic leaves.
  • Open leaf sheaths.
Other important characters
  • Leaf sheaths striate to reticulate or sometimes smooth, often beset with minute stellate hairs.
  • Inflorescence generally a panicle, but sometimes a raceme or spike, sometimes terminal on a leafy shoot.
  • In several species the basalinflorescence trails on the ground.
Important literature

Larsen, K., J.M. Lock, H. Maas and P.J.M. Maas 1998. Zingiberaceae. In: K. Kubitzki (ed.), The families and genera of vascular plants 4: 474-495.

Maas, P.J.M. Maas. 1972. Renealmia (Zingiberaceae- Zingiberoideae). Costoideae (Additions) (Zingiberaceae). Flora Neotropica Monograph 18: 1-161.


Zingiberaceae, F.N. Hepper. Flora of West Tropical Africa 3:1. 1968

Morphology General Habit
Perennial herbs, usually aromatic, with horizontal tuberous rhizomes; stems sometimes very short, leafy or bearing only flowers
Morphology Leaves
Leaves in two rows or spirally arranged, with an open or closed sheath, sessile or stalked on the sheath, the blade usually large with numerous closely parallel pinnate nerves diverging obliquely from the midrib
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers solitary or in a distinct inflorescence accompanying or separate from the leaves, mostly bisexual, symmetric or asymmetric
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Perianth
Perianth 6-merous, 2-seriate, the outer calyx-like, the inner corolla-like and often very showy and delicate; outer segments united into a tube, inner more or less united, the posterior segment usually the largest
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamen 1, with a 2-locular anther, sometimes accompanied by petaloid staminodes which may form the conspicuous part of the flower (see Fig. 341)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovules mostly numerous Ovary inferior, (2-)3-celled with axile placentas, or 1-locular with parietal or rarely basal placentas; style sometimes enveloped in a groove of the fertile stamen
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit fleshy and indehiscent or a capsule
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds mostly arillate; endosperm abundant, white

Zingiberaceae Martinov appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Tekhno-Bot. Slovar 682. 1820 [3 Aug 1820] (as "Zinziberaceae") (1820)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/boj.12385

  • Flora of Tropical East Africa

    Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Flora of West Tropical Africa

    Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Neotropikey

    Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.