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For the plant known in Ancient Rome as “costus”, see Saussurea costus.
See Catherine of Alexandria for the man named Costus often held to be her father.
Costus pulverulentus.jpg
Costus pulverulentus at Rara Avis, Costa Rica
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Costaceae
Genus: Costus

Many, see text


Banksea Koenig

Costus is a genus of perennial tropical herbaceous plants from the costus family (Costaceae). They are often characterized and distinguished from relatives such as Zingiber (true ginger) by their spiraling stems. The genus as a whole is thus often called spiral gingers, but this can also refer to C. barbatus specifically.

Costus spectabilis is the floral emblem of Nigeria; its flowers are represented (erroneously in red instead of yellow color) on its coat of arms. It is important not to confuse "Costus speciosus, C. spectabilis etc. with the herb known by the common name 'costus'. Some species are of importance to herbivores, such as caterpillars of the Restricted Demon (Notocrypta curvifascia) which feed on Crape Ginger (C. speciosus). The Crape Ginger is also a source of diosgenin, a compound used for the commercial production of various steroids, such as progesterone. In Trinidad and Tobago, a mix of Costus scaber juice and crushed Renealmia alpinia berries is used to treat dogs bitten by snakes.

Selected species[edit]

Formerly placed here[edit]

Plants for some time placed in this genus include Alpinia nutans (as Costus zerumbet)


Aweke, G., 2007. Costus afer Ker Gawl. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands