Costus spicatus

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Spiked spiralflag ginger
Indian head ginger
Spiked spiralflag ginger (Costus spicatus).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Costaceae
Genus: Costus
Species: C. spicatus
Binomial name
Costus spicatus
  • Alpinia spicata
  • Costus cylindricus

Costus spicatus, also known as spiked spiralflag ginger or Indian head ginger, is a species of herbaceous plant in the Costaceae family (also sometimes placed in Zingiberaceae).[1]


Costus spicatus is native to the Caribbean, (including Dominica, Guadeloupe, Hispaniola, Martinique, and Puerto Rico).[1][2][3]


Costus spicatus leaves grow to a length of approximately 1 ft (30 cm) and a width of approximately 4 in (10 cm). It produces a short red cone, from which red-orange flowers emerge one at a time.[4] In botanical literature, Costus woodsonii has often been misidentified as Costus spicatus.[5] Both species are common in cultivation.


Costus spicatus will grow in full sun if it is kept moist. It reaches a maximum height of about 6 to 7 feet.[4]


Costus spicatus can develop a symbiotic partnership with certain species of ants (often only a single species of ant will be compatible). The ants are provided with a food source (nectar in C. spicatus flowers) as well as a place to construct a nest. In turn, the ants protect developing seeds from herbivorous insects.[4]

Medicinal use[edit]

In Dominican folk medicine, herbal tea made from the leaves of C. spicatus is used to treat diabetes (hyperglycemia). However, a 2009 study concluded that this treatment "...had no efficacy in the treatment of obesity-induced hyperglycemia."[6]


  1. ^ a b United States Department of Agriculture. "Costus spicatus information from NPGS/GRIN". USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  2. ^ United States Department of Agriculture. "PLANTS Profile for Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag)". USDA Plants. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  3. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Costus spicatus
  4. ^ a b c Top Tropicals Botanical Garden (2010). "Costus spicatus, Alpinia spicata, Spiked Spiralflag". Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  5. ^ George W. Staples and Derral R. Herbst. 2005. "A Tropical Garden Flora". Bishop Museum Press: Honolulu. ISBN 978-1-58178-039-0.
  6. ^ Keller AC, Vandebroek I, Liu Y, Balick MJ, Kronenberg F, Kennelly EJ, Brillantes AM (January 2009). "Costus spicatus tea failed to improve diabetic progression in C57BLKS/J db/db mice, a model of type 2 diabetes mellitus". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 121 (2): 248–54. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.10.025. PMC 2643842Freely accessible. PMID 19027842.