Alpinia zerumbet

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Alpinia zerumbet
200410 Alpinia zerumbet 1.JPG
Shell ginger as a streetplant
Alpinia zerumbet pods.jpg
Shell ginger fruit dehiscing.[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Zingiberaceae
Genus: Alpinia
A. zerumbet
Binomial name
Alpinia zerumbet
(Pers.) B.L.Burtt and R.M.Sm.[2]

Alpinia zerumbet, commonly known as shell ginger, is a perennial species of ginger native to East Asia. They can grow up to 8 to 10 ft (2.4 to 3.0 m) tall and bear colorful funnel-shaped flowers. They are grown as ornamentals and their leaves are used in cuisine and traditional medicine. They are also sometimes known as the pink porcelain lily, variegated ginger or butterfly ginger.


Native to eastern Asia, this plant is a rhizomatous, evergreen tropical perennial that grows in upright clumps 8 to 10 ft (2.4 to 3.0 m) tall in tropical climates. It bears funnel-formed flowers. Flowers have white or pink perianths with yellow labella with red spots and stripes.[3] There are three stamens, but only one has pollen. There is one pistil. The fruit is globose with many striations. In more typical conditions, it reaches 4 to 8 ft (1.2 to 2.4 m) feet tall in the green house, and 3 to 4 ft (0.91 to 1.22 m) feet tall, as a house plant.[4]

It was originally called Alpinia speciosa, which was also the scientific name of torch ginger. To avoid the confusion, it was renamed as A. zerumbet while torch ginger was reclassified in the genus Etlingera, no species is called A. speciosa. today.[citation needed]

Alpinia zerumbet


Alpinia zerumbet is best grown in rich medium-wet, to wet well drained soils in full sun to part shade. Afternoon shade in hot summer climates, is recommended. Indoors, the plant must have bright light and humid conditions. Flowering rarely occurs before the second year.

Alpinia zerumbet is called a "shell ginger" or "shell flower" most commonly, because its individual pink flowers, especially when in bud, resemble sea shells. Other common names in English include "pink porcelain lily", "variegated ginger, "butterfly ginger", and "light galangal".

In Japanese it is known as gettō' (ゲットウ). In Okinawan, it is known as sannin. In Chinese, it is known as yàn shānjiāng (艳山姜) or yuetao (月桃).


The plant's long leaf blades are used for wrapping zongzi, a traditional Chinese dish made of rice stuffed with different fillings. In Okinawa, Japan, A. zerumbet is known in the local language as sannin, or in Japanese as getto. Its leaves are sold for making an herbal tea and are also used to flavor noodles and wrap mochi rice cakes.

Statistically, Okinawan natives who consume a traditional diet that includes shell ginger have a very long life expectancy.[5] Recent research has investigated its effects on human longevity and the phytochemicals that may be responsible.[6]



  1. ^ "Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger)". Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project. Retrieved March 19, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B.L. Burtt & R.M. Sm". United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Retrieved March 19, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Jackes, Betsy (14 Dec 2012). "Alpinia zerumbet (Shell Ginger, Pink Porcelain Lily)". Discover Nature at JCU. Plants on Cairns Campus. Australia: James Cook University. Retrieved 17 May 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B. L. Burtt & R. M. Sm". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved March 19, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Bouthier, Antoine. "Okinawan plant holds promise of elixir of youth". Business World Online. BusinessWorld Publishing. Retrieved 4 November 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Teschke, Rolf; Xuan, Tran Dang (2018). "Viewpoint: A Contributory Role of Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) for Human Longevity in Okinawa, Japan?". Nutrients. US National Institute of Health. 10 (2): 166. doi:10.3390/nu10020166. PMC 5852742. PMID 29385084.

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