Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Alpinia caerulea (R.Br.) Benth.

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
Click/tap on images to enlarge
Flower. © Barry Jago
Leaves and fruit. © CSIRO
Leaves and Flowers. © CSIRO
Fruit, side views and dehiscing fruits. © W. T. Cooper
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon and 1st leaf stage, hypogeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon and 1st leaf stage, hypogeal germination. © CSIRO

Bentham, G. (1873) Flora Australiensis 6: 265.

Common name

Common Ginger; Ginger, Common; Ginger, Native; Native Ginger


Usually flowers and fruits as a shrubby plant about 1-2 m tall, occasionally taller, but it should be noted that only the leaves are above ground level. The true stem is below the soil surface.


Leaf blades shortly petiolate or sessile, leaf blades to about 40 x 3.5-10 cm, ligule up to 1.5 cm long, entire or shallowly emarginate.


Inflorescence terminal, usually shortly pubescent. Bracts narrowly lanceolate, 15-20 mm long each subtending a group of 4-6 flowers. Bracteoles about 5-15 mm long, pedicels 10-20 mm long. Calyx about 10 mm long. Corolla tube about 12 mm long, lobes about 5-8 mm long. Labellum orbicular, shortly clawed, shortly bilobed, about 10 mm diam. Anther about 2-3 mm long, crest entire, about 1-2 mm long, filament about 2-3 mm long, wider than the anther. Ovary up to 6 mm long, usually pubescent, style about 11 mm long.


Capsules glabrous, globular, tardily dehiscent, about 10-15 mm diam. Seeds numerous, aril thin and +/- translucent.


One cataphyll produced before the first true leaf. First true leaf glabrous, cordate or ovate, about 15-20 mm long, petiole as long as or longer than the leaf blade. Second leaf narrower. At the tenth leaf stage: leaves 2- ranked, leaf blade linear-lanceolate, about 15-16 x 3.5-4 cm, petiolate, apex acuminate, base obtuse, glabrous. Lateral veins closely spaced, parallel and departing from the midrib at a low angel, about 10 degrees. Sheathing leaf base glabrous, ligule bilobed, mainly glabrous except for the upper margin. Terminal bud rolled resembling the stipule of a fig or the terminal bud of Geijera. Seed germination time 30 to 232 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to Australia, occurs in CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as coastal central New South Wales. Altitudinal range in CYP and NEQ from near sea level to 1400 m. Grows in disturbed areas in well developed lowland, upland and mountain rain forest.

Natural History & Notes

Food plant for the larval stages of the Banded Demon Butterfly. Common & Waterhouse (1981).

Fruit eaten by Cassowaries. Cooper & Cooper (1994).

A widespread species commonly cultivated in gardens. The large upright stems with basal leaves can be a feature. White flowers are followed by blue fruits.

Alpinia caerulea (R.Br.) Benth. var. caerulea, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 11: 18(1895). Hellenia caerulea R.Br., Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae : 308(1810), Type: NSW, Hunter River, R. Brown; syn: BM; Queensland, Northumberland Is., R. Brown; syn: BRI.
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