Alpinia caerulea is an understorey perennial lily-type plant (not woody) growing to 3 m high in rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests in eastern Australia. It is found north of Gosford in NSW and extends along the coast into Queensland. It is related to species such as Ginger.
The sword-shaped leaves are up to 40 cm long and to 10 cm wide. They can have dark red undersides, which lends to its beauty.
The leaves are produced on non-woody palm-like stems which emerge from a ginger-like rhizome.
The flowers have a modified structure but have flower parts somewhat like a lily (i.e. monocot) with 6 tepals, some of which are fused into a tube. Each flower has a front wide showy tepal (which is a landing pad for insects). Flowers are produced in a terminal spike-like head up to 30 cm long and are mainly white but with yellow and red parts.
The blue seed capsule is globose, to 1 cm across, with a brittle outer covering containing black seed and white pulp.
A hardy plant in cultivation and it prefers a lightly shaded to full shade position and will form a clump to 2 metres tall. Can also be used indoors. Not frost tolerant and prefers a warm climate. Lends well to rainforest and tropical gardens.
Flowers attract bees and butterflies.
A good bush tucker – the centres of new shoots have mild gingery flavour and are excellent in various dishes as a ginger substitute. The roots can also be used in cooking, and have a more earthy resinous flavour.
Seed or rhizome division.
Likely fire retardant. Can likely regenerate easily from rhizomes after fire but unlikely to be in habitats exposed to fire.
Alpinia – is named in honour of Prospero Alpini (1553-1617), a 16th and 17th -century Italian doctor and botanist who specialized in exotic plants and discovered some very important aspects relating to plant pollination and use. The ginger-family genus Alpinia was named in his honour by Carolus Linnaeus.
caerulea – from the Latin caerulea / caeruleum – which means ‘blue’, ‘dark blue’ or ‘sky blue’ referring to the fruit colour.
Not considered at risk in the wild.