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Rainforest Plants – Shell Flower

Family: Zingiberaceae

Genus: Alpinia

Species: zerymbet

Synonyms:Alpinia speciosa, Alpinia nutans, Costus zerumbet, Catimbium speciosum, Languas speciosa, Zerumbet speciosum

Common Names: boca de dragon, colonia, de tui maux, getto, jockey club, light galangal, palo santo, pink porcelain-lily, shellflower, shell ginger, tous maux

General Description: The Shell flower is a member of the ginger family that is native to western Asia. It has become an interesting garden perennial throughout the world. It is most commonly cultivated and distributed in the tropics, including Brazil, Peru, the Amazon, and the USA states of Florida, Hawaii and the territory of Puerto Rico.

Location: This plant is an evergreen tropical perennial with tall clumps of green leaves growing to ten feet tall in warm tropical climates. It produces ginger-like rhizomes from which the plant grows. This is a beautiful plant that is becoming popular as a house plant because of its tropical appearance. It is also used as a landscape plant in warmer climates. Several different cultivars are now for sale in United States garden stores under the name “variegated ginger.” In these typical conditions, the plants are smaller; they reach eight feet in a green house and three to four feet tall as a houseplant.

Shell flower gets its name from the individual shell pink flowers that droop from the ends of the stems. The flowers resemble sea shells. The flowers are fragrant and waxy.

Alpinia is a large genus with more than 230 species from the Ginger family (Zingiberaceae). They are in demand throughout the world as ornamentals because of their bright, eye-catching flowers.

Shell flowers prefer medium wet, well drained soils in full sun to semi-shade. As a house plant, it needs bright light and humidity. The plants don’t produce flowers until the second year.

Uses: The long leaf blades of the Shell flower are used for wrapping zongzi in China; zongzi are Chinese rice dumplings. In Brazilian herbal medicine, Shell flower essential oil is a tonic for hypertension and cardiac health. This plant has many other uses around the world: balsamic, diuretic, colds, flu, fevers, intestinal bloating and gas, stomach problems and indigestion.

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