Alpinia zerumbet is a perennial herb with clumping pseudostems 5–12 feet tall. Its leaves are oblong-lanceolate in shape, with dense and minute fringe of hairs on the leaf margins and under the midvein. The flowers are produced in a terminal inflorescence (produced at the end of a leafy shoot ) that hangs down like a pendant. Flowers are at first enclosed in shell-like white porcelain-like bracts which later fall off. The flowers are white with a tinge of pink, and the labellum of each flower (the expanded lower portion) is a bright yellow mottled with red streaks. Crushed parts of the plant have a spicy aromatic fragrance.
(Staples, George, and Derral R. Herbst. A Tropical Garden Flora: Plants Cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and Other Tropical Places. Honolulu, Hawai'i: Bishop Museum, 2005.)
In the Philippines, the leaves of Alpinia zerumbet are used in a bath to relieve fevers.
Alpinia zerumbet is thought to be a native of Papua New Guinea and nearby areas. It is grown in cultivation throughout the tropics. It was first recorded in Hilo, Hawaii in 1874, by Isabella Bird.
Pseudostems of Alpinia zerumbet are used to make paper and rope in Southeast Asia, and leaves are used for food wrappers in the Moluccas. In Malaysia, a portion of the pseudostem is eaten. In the Ryukyus, mochi is wrapped in the leaves which impart a flowery taste during steaming.
(Staples, George, and Derral R. Herbst. A Tropical Garden Flora: Plants Cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and Other Tropical Places. Honolulu, Hawai'i: Bishop Museum, 2005. Print.)
We currently have 12 herbarium specimens for Alpinia zerumbet in our collection. Click on any specimen below to view the herbarium sheet data.