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Temporal range: 80 Ma
Late Cretaceous - Recent
Starr 061212-2337 Alpinia purpurata.jpg
Alpinia purpurata
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Type genus
Zingiber Mill.

see text

The Zingiberales are an order of flowering plants. The order has been widely recognised, at least for the past few decades, and includes many familiar plants, such as ginger, cardamom, turmeric, galangal and myoga in the Zingiberaceae or ginger family, bananas and plantains in the Musaceae or banana family, arrowroot in the Marantaceae or arrowroot family, Ravenala, Phenakospermum and Bird of Paradise flower in the Strelitziaceae family, along with various types of heliconias in the Heliconiaceae family.


Zingiberales are a diverse order of monocots.[1] They are rhizomatous herbaceous plants, often containing raphides. Leaves usually petiolate, leaf arrangement distichous (spiral in Musaceae).[2] Flowers in thyrse-like spikes, epigynous, and zygomorphic to asymmetric. Stamens 6, 5 or 1. Septal nectaries often present. Pollen sulcate but often inaperturate. Fruit capsular or schizocarp.[3][4]

Specific characteristics which help to distinguish this order include a herbaceous arborescent stem, distichous phyllotaxy, large petiolate leaves in which the petioles are often long, parallel and transverse venation diverging laterally from a common midrib, and inflorescences of conspicuous colorful bracts (bracteate inflorescence) and the substitution of one to five rudimentary staminodia for fertile stamens.[5][6]

Leaf architecture is useful for distinguishing families within Zingiberales, based on vein pattern type, vein length per area, and other aspects of vein architecture such as angle of vein divergence, with three main types of venation recognized. These are the Zingiber-type, with square to vertically elongate areoles, the Costus-type, with horizontally elongate areoles and the Orchidantha-type with cross veins spanning multiple parallel veins.[1]

Based on morphology alone, the Zingiberales have bee considered to form two main groups, utilising the number of fertile stamens. A paraphyletic basal assemblage of "banana-families" (the bananas) with 5 or 6 fertile stamens (Musaceae, Strelitziaceae, Lowiaceae, Heliconiaceae), and a derived clade of "ginger-families" (the gingers) with only one fertile stamen and four or five highly modified staminodia (Zingiberaceae, Costaceae, Cannaceae, Marantaceae).[7]


The Zingiberiflorae, whether treated as a separate superorder, as here, or an order in a more widely circumscribed unit, is one of the most indisputably natural suprafamilial group[8]


The Zingiberales have always been considered a unique and coherent (monophyletic) group. For a brief history of the taxonomy of this order, see Kress 1990.[5] Based on morphological grounds, earlier systems, such as the Wettstein system, last revised in 1935, and the Engler system, updated in 1964, recognised a similar order (containing the same plants, although divided over fewer families), the Scitamineae. The Cronquist system also recognised this order with eight families, but organized the order in the subclass Zingiberidae of the class Liliopsida (monocotyledons). In the classification system of Dahlgren the Zingiberales were the sole order in the superorder Zingiberiflorae (also called Zingiberanae), with the same eight families.

Modern era[edit]

Using molecular phylogenetics, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, the APG III system, of 2009,[9] and the APG II system (2003) recognized this order and assigned it to the clade commelinids, in the monocots, as sister group to Commelinales.

clade monocots :
Cladogram: Phylogeny of the commelinids (APG IV)[10]






The order, which now has has more than 2,500 species, distributed in 68 genera over eight families, has been subdivided from early times. In the Bentham and Hooker system (1883), their Ordo Scitamineae had four tribes: Zingibereae, Maranteae, Canneae, and Museae. The modern classification is into the following families: Zingiberaceae (gingers), Musaceae (bananas), Heliconiaceae (heliconias), Strelitziaceae (bird-of-paradise), Costaceae (spiral gingers), Cannaceae (canna lilies), Marantaceae (prayer plants), and Lowiaceae (Orchidantha).[1] The family structure was retained from the earlier systems, and is circumscribed as:

Families (genera/species)[11]


The common ancestor of the Zingiberales is estimated to have originated 158 million years ago with six of the eight families established by the end of the Cretaceous,[7] but Stevens on the APWeb lists a number of papers that date variously the stem and crown groups age.[4] Probably the ancestral Zingiberales were distributed in tropical Gondwanaland encompassing the present day Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia with subsequent dispersals between Africa and the Americas; the current distribution of the Zingiberales seems to be a product of numerous secondary and tertiary dispersal events between the major tropical regions of the world.[7] The phylogenetic diversification and biogeographic dispersal of the Zingiberales was in part driven by the evolutionary radiation and diversification of their associated animal pollinators, which include bats, birds, non-flying mammals, and insects.[7] Six of the eight families of the Zingiberales contain taxa specialized for pollination by vertebrates, which appears to be the plesiomorphic state in the order.[7] Of these six families two are exclusively vertebrate-pollinated (Strelitziaceae, Heliconiaceae).[7] Pollination by insects also occurs in six families with one (Marantaceae) or possibly two (Lowiaceae) families predominantly specialized for insect visitors. (Kress and Specht 2005[7])

The leaf fossil record for Zingiberales extends back to the Late Cretaceous. Species of the Zingiberales order, together with those of the Commelinales order, are thought to have evolved around 80 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous.[1]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Tropical and subtropical, worldwide.[1]


Many Zingiberales are grown as ornamental plants, while others have culinary and medicinal uses.[6]





External links[edit]