Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Alpinia zerumbet
(shell ginger)

Datasheet

Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Alpinia zerumbet
  • Preferred Common Name
  • shell ginger
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. zerumbet is listed as an “environmental weed” and “cultivation escape” in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 201...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); mature plants, habit. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
TitleMature plants
CaptionAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); mature plants, habit. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); mature plants, habit. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
Mature plantsAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); mature plants, habit. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); habit - note person for scale. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
TitleHabit
CaptionAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); habit - note person for scale. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); habit - note person for scale. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
HabitAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); habit - note person for scale. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); habit and variegated foliage. Kahului, Maui. January, 2008.
TitleHabit and variegated foliage
CaptionAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); habit and variegated foliage. Kahului, Maui. January, 2008.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); habit and variegated foliage. Kahului, Maui. January, 2008.
Habit and variegated foliageAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); habit and variegated foliage. Kahului, Maui. January, 2008.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); inflorescence.
TitleInflorescence
CaptionAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); inflorescence.
Copyright©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); inflorescence.
InflorescenceAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); inflorescence.©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); close-up of flowers.
TitleFlowers
CaptionAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); close-up of flowers.
Copyright©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); close-up of flowers.
FlowersAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); close-up of flowers.©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); ripe fruits. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
TitleRipe fruits
CaptionAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); ripe fruits. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); ripe fruits. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
Ripe fruitsAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); ripe fruits. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); uprooted seedling. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
TitleSeedling
CaptionAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); uprooted seedling. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); uprooted seedling. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.
SeedlingAlpinia zerumbet (shell ginger); uprooted seedling. Kihei, Mau, Hawaii, USA. June, 2002.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B.L. Burtt & R.M. Sm.

Preferred Common Name

  • shell ginger

Other Scientific Names

  • Alpinia speciosa (J.C.Wendl.) K.Schum.
  • Amomum nutans (Andrews) Schult.
  • Catimbium speciosum (J.C.Wendl.) Holttum
  • Costus zerumbet Pers.
  • Languas speciosa (J.C.Wendl.) Small
  • Renealmia nutans Andrews
  • Zerumbet speciosum J.C.Wendl.

International Common Names

  • English: light galangal; pink porcelain lily; shell flower
  • French: atoumau
  • Chinese: yan shan jiang

Local Common Names

  • : teuila
  • Brazil: colonia; macassa; pacova
  • Cook Islands: kaopui; kaopu'l; kopi 'enua
  • Cuba: boca de lobo; cojate; colonia; colonia amarilla; lengua de lobo; lobo; pepu
  • Dominican Republic: burriquito; dragon; jockey club; palo santo
  • Haiti: de tui maux; tous maux
  • Indonesia: galoba merah; goloba koi; langkuas laki-laki
  • Myanmar: light galangal; padegaw-gyi
  • Philippines: langkuas na pula
  • Puerto Rico: boca de dragon; pimienta angola
  • Thailand: khaa khom
  • Tonga: teuila

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. zerumbet is listed as an “environmental weed” and “cultivation escape” in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012). The species forms dense thickets and can reproduce through rhizome fragmentation or by seed, producing as many as 1000 seeds per square foot (PIER, 2013). A. zerumbet is listed as a ‘potential transformer’ in South Africa, invading watercourses, forest margins, roadsides, and urban open space (Henderson, 2001). In Hawaii, it is generally an occasional escape from cultivation (Wagner et al., 1999) but invasive on Moloka’i and Maui Islands (Oppenheimer, 2008). A. zerumbet is listed as native to northeastern India, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, China and Japan, and has been actively cultivated as an ornamental across Southeast Asia and many tropical and subtropical countries (Ibrahim, 2001). It is considered a noxious weed in Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012), and invasive in many Pacific countries including Fiji, French Polynesia, Palau, and New Caledonia (PIER, 2013). The Global Invasive Species Programme lists A. zerumbet as an invasive weed in South Africa (Macdonald et al., 2003).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Zingiberales
  •                         Family: Zingiberaceae
  •                             Genus: Alpinia
  •                                 Species: Alpinia zerumbet

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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As the largest family in the Zingiberales, Zingiberaceae, the ‘ginger’ family, includes approximately 53 genera and over 1200 species distributed in all tropical regions of the world, with highest concentration in Southeast Asia (Kress et al., 2014). Members of the ginger family are perennial herbs, mostly with creeping horizontal or tuberous rhizomes generally aromatic and rich in starch (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005). The distinguishing features of all gingers are the fusion of two sterile stamens into a labellum and cells containing essential or ethereal oils (Kress et al., 2014). Many gingers are cultivated as ornamental and economically important spice plants, notably ‘true’ ginger (Zingiber), turmeric (Curcuma), and cardamom (Amomum; Wagner et al., 1999). The genus Alpinia is named in honor of the sixteenth-seventeenth century botanist Perospero Alpino.   

Alpinia zerumbet was originally named Zerumbet speciosum by J.C. Wendland in 1798. In 1805 this species was placed in the genus Costus by Persoon, but because the epithet speciosus was already occupied by C. speciosus (J. König) Sm (1791), he coined the new name Costus zerumbet which is the basionym for A. zerumbet. The species was transferred in 1889 by J.H.K. Schumann to Alpinia speciosa; however, because this epithet was already occupied in Alpinia (A. speciosa (Blume) D. Dietrich 1839) the new combination by Schumann cannot be used. The species has been transferred to other genera such as Languas (L. speciose) by Small (1913) and Catimbium (C. speciosum) by Holttum in 1950 (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2014). Given that the species is currently recognized in Alpinia, the name to be used is A. zerumbet.

Description

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Robust herb. Pseudostems 2-3 m tall. Ligule tongue-like, coriaceous, 5-10 mm long, obtuse, pubescent abaxially; petioles 1-1.5 cm long; blades oblong to oblong-lanceolate, 30-70 × 5-14 cm, glabrous, margins brownish strigose, often densely so distally, cuneate at base, acuminate or sub-abruptly narrowed at apex to a spirally twisted, caudate tip. Inflorescence a raceme-like panicle, drooping, 10-30 × 7-12 cm (in flower); rachis purple-red, velvety; panicle branches short and stout, often densely pubescent, bearing 1- to 2 (-3)-flowers; bracteoles elliptic, 1.8-3.5 cm long, enveloping the buds, glabrous, white with a pink apex, deciduous. Flower pedicels 1-2 cm long; calyx subcampanulate, toothed at apex, 1.8-2.5 cm long, white; corolla tube shorter than calyx, the lobes oblong, 2.5-3 cm long, milky white tipped with pink, the central lobe larger than lateral ones; lateral staminodes subulate, ca. 2 mm long; labellum (lip) ovate or broadly ovate-spatulate, 3.5-6 cm long, the margins crisped and incurved, yellow with purple-red stripes; stamen 2.5-3 cm long; ovary hirsute, golden yellow. Capsule subglobose, ca. 2 cm in diam., ribbed, vermillion; seeds angled (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005).

Distribution

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Alpinia occurs throughout South and Southeast Asia, from India to Japan, southward to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Australia. Like many other Alpinia species, A. zerumbet is cultivated as an ornamental throughout Southeast Asia and many other tropical and subtropical countries, and is commercially produced in the United States and Europe. The species is native to East Asia (northeastern India, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, China and Japan) (Ibrahim, 2001). 

Disagreement between sources was found for Japan. USDA-ARS (2013) lists A. zerumbet as native to Japan, while Kato et al. (2006) report the species as introduced to the offshore Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands (PIER, 2013).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013
CambodiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
ChinaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2013
IndiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2013
JapanPresentNativePIER, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2013Including Ogasawara (Bonin) Is.
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentVictório et al., 2010Cultivated. Economically important crop
LaosPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013
MalaysiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationNativeGovaerts, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2013
MyanmarPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013; Kress, 2014Kachin, Taninthayi
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2013
SingaporePresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedChong et al., 2009
TaiwanPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013
ThailandPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2013
VietnamPresentNativeGovaerts, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2013

Africa

South AfricaPresentIntroduced Invasive Henderson, 2001; Macdonald et al., 2003Naturalised

North America

USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2013Volusia, Seminole, Orange, Brevard and Miami-Dade counties
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedWagner et al., 1999Naturalised. Kaua'l Is., Maui Is., Moloka'l Is.

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HaitiPresentIntroducedTortue
HondurasPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2013
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2005
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012

South America

BoliviaPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2014Beni, La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba
BrazilPresentIntroducedFLORIDATA, 2013
-Sao PauloPresent
ColombiaPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2014
EcuadorPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2014Introduced and cultivated

Oceania

Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedMcCormack, 2013Naturalised
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1979Cultivated. Vanua Levu Is., Viti Levu Is.
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Florence et al., 2013Fatu Hiva Is., Hiva Oa Is., Moorea Is., Taha'a Is., Raiatea(Havai) Is., Tahiti Is., Makatea (Ma'atea) Is., Raivavae Is., Rimatara Is., Rurutu Is.
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2013
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2013; Wagner et al., 2013Ralik Chain (Jaluit Atoll)
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedPIER, 2013Weno (Moen) Is., Yap Is., Pohnpei Is.
NauruPresentIntroducedThaman et al., 1994Cultivated
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive MacKee, 1994Ile Grande Terre
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentWagner et al., 2013Rota, saipan, Tinian Is.
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive Space et al., 2009; PIER, 2013
Papua New GuineaPresentNative Invasive PIER, 2013
TongaPresentUSDA-ARS, 2013Cultivated
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2013Cultivated. Wallis Is.

History of Introduction and Spread

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A. zerumbet is native to east Asia, where it has been used for hundreds of years, and was introduced to tropical and subtropical regions around the world as a medicinal and food crop as well as an ornamental (Ibrahim, 2001; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005). It is now naturalized in much of the Neotropics and widely used for medicinal and food purposes. 

The species had been introduced to England prior to 1793, being referred to as Alpinia nutans (Smith, 1804). It had been established as a cultivated plant in England by 1812, reportedly (as syn. Renealmia nutans) ‘a common ornamental’ (Salisbury, 1812).

Introduction in the Caribbean seems to be relatively recent, as it is not cited by Grisebach in his Flora of the British West Indies (Grisebach, 1864). The species was collected in Puerto Rico in 1885 (US National Herbarium) and reported by I. Urban as nearly spontaneous (Urban, 1905). By 1917 the species was “rather widely naturalized in the West Indies” according to a publication on the natural history of the Isle of Pines, Cuba, with Carnegie Museum specimens reportedly collected along the Majagua River north of Los Indios in 1910 and near Nueva Gerona in 1912 (Holland, 1917). The plant was present in Bolivia before 1918, being referred to as Languasspeciosa (Britton, 1918). The earliest Indonesian specimen of A. zerumbet housed in the Smithsonian was collected on Amboina Island in 1913 (US National Herbarium).

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction for A.zerumbet is high. In Hawaii, it is “a serious weed where it occurs, forming dense monotypic thickets like other naturalized species in this family. Its use as an ornamental should be strongly discouraged, and removal of cultivated plants should also be considered if they occur near suitable habitats in natural areas” (Oppenheimer 2008). The species is listed as one of the 100 most harmful species in Cuba, and is also listed as an invasive transformer species that ‘changes the character, condition, form or nature of ecosystems’ (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). A. zerumbet has been widely planted as an ornamental in tropical regions and has become invasive after escaping from cultivation in many of these countries. Because the species continues to be commercially produced for the nursery and landscape trade around the world, the probability of invasion remains high (Ibrahim, 2001; Randall, 2012). A risk assessment of A. zerumbet resulted in a high score of 10, recommending against importing the species (Australia), and indicating the species poses a high threat of becoming a serious pest in the Pacific and Florida, USA (PIER, 2013).

Habitat

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A. zerumbet is a lush, clumping evergreen that forms dense thickets in typically wet environments such as stream banks and shady slopes, and occurs in natural forests, riparian zones, and wetlands, preferring low altitudes (ISSG, 2013). In South Africa, it is found invading "watercourses, forest margins, roadsides, urban open space in moist, warm, coastal and inland regions" (Henderson, 2001). In Fiji, A. zerumbet is cultivated or possibly sparsely naturalized along roadsides near sea level (PIER, 2013). The species is naturalized in the Cook Islands, occurring in lowlands and inland valleys (McCormack, 2013). Similarly in Taiwan, the species is widely distributed at low altitudes throughout the island and the adjacent islets (Flora of Taiwan Editorial Committee, 2014). 

The species occurs both naturally and in cultivated areas, and has been grown for spices and medicine as well as ornamentals in gardens, pots and greenhouses (Salisbury, 1812; Ibrahim, 2001; UNIDO, 2005). In Puerto Rico, the species is commonly cultivated for ornamental use, and occurs in moist roadsides and river banks, persisting in some areas (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005). In Bolivia it is cultivated in lowland rainforests (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2014). In Colombia, it can be found in a range of habitats including humid to very humid premontane forest, humid to very humid tropical forest, and tropical dry forest, at a wider range of altitudes from 0-2000 m (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2014). 

In Florida, USA, A. zerumbet is commonly cultivated, but rarely escapes, and if so is found in disturbed hammocks and thickets at very low altitudes of 0-30 m (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2014). The species does not occur in wetlands in Florida, but in Hawaii and Puerto Rico it may be found in both wetlands and non-wetlands (USDA-NRCS, 2013).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural
Wetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Present, no further details Natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Freshwater
Irrigation channels Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Irrigation channels Present, no further details Natural
Rivers / streams Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Present, no further details Natural

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -12
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 17 30

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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A. zerumbet spreads by seeds and by rhizome division (Ibrahim, 2001). Dispersal by humans is primarily through cultivation for ornamental use and the spice/food/medicine trade. The species is also dispersed by water, as it thrives along stream banks, in wetlands, and in generally moist environments (ISSG, 2013). Oppenheimer (2008) also cites dispersal of the seeds by birds.

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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A. zerumbet is listed as one of the 100 most harmful species in Cuba, and has been classified as an invasive transformer species that ‘changes the character, condition, form or nature of ecosystems’ (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). Because of its multiple uses in the spice/medicine trade and as an ornamental, A. zerumbet has been cultivated widely around the world, leading to both intentional and accidental escape and further spread. The species grows quickly and can dominate native flora, resulting in severe negative impacts to the local environment.

Green Mountain, declared a National Park in 2005, is the highest point on Ascension Island and was originally covered with a carpet of ferns. This included endemics like the ‘Near Threatened (NT) Marattia purpurascens [Ptisanapurpurascens], the ‘Critically Endangered (CR)’ Pteris adscensionis, and (CR) Anogramma ascensionis, the ‘Near Threatened (NT)’ Asplenium ascensionis, and (NT) Xiphopteris ascensionensis [Stenogrammitisascensionensis], and the tiny grass classified as ‘Vulnerable (VU)’ Sporobolus caespitosus. The upper slopes of Green Mountain are now clothed in dense forest and scrub composed of introduced species such as A. zerumbet. Management of the introduced species to prevent further spread and the reintroduction of small pockets of endemic ferns are some of the actions ongoing to conserve endemic species and the conservation value of Green Mountain (ISSG, 2013).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Anogramma ascensionis (Ascension Island Parsley Fern)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)AscensionISSG, 2013
Asplenium ascensionisNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)AscensionISSG, 2013
Pteris adscensionisCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)AscensionISSG, 2013
Ptisana purpurascensNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)AscensionISSG, 2013
Sporobolus caespitosusVU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)AscensionISSG, 2013
Stenogrammitis ascensionensisNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)AscensionISSG, 2013

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally

Uses

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A. zerumbet is commercially grown as both a spice/food/medicine and as an ornamental in most tropical regions of the world today. It is used as a substitute spice for Alpinia galangal and Zingiber officinale and contributes to the international ginger trade, which represents 15-16% of the tonnage of spices imported globally between 1996 and 2000 (ITC, 2002; FAO, 2014;). In the USA, ginger has become one of the 12 main spices consumed (FAO, 2014). It is particularly considered an economically important medicinal crop in Brazil and Okinawa, Japan (Victorio et al., 2010; Chompoo et al., 2012). 

Both the flowers and rhizomes of A. zerumbet are grown for their essential oils and as spice crops (UNIDO, 2005). In Brazil, A. zerumbet is one of the most cited plants for folk medicine and it has been suggested for use by Brazil’s public health system (SUS) (Victorio, 2010, 2011). Ibrahim (2001) states: “In the Philippines a decoction of the leaves is used as a bath against fevers. The rhizome stimulates digestion, and is also employed in the treatment of dyspepsia, flatulence, vomiting, gastralgia, colic, diarrhoea and malaria. In China the plant is used to treat stomach disorders, vomiting and dyspepsia. Its rhizome is traditionally applied as a stomachic, carminative, astringent, tonic and sedative. The seed is used to clear cold, invigorate the spleen and warm the stomach”. A tea made from the leaves is often used as a hypertensive and diuretic medication, particularly in Japan and Brazil (Chan et al., 2010; Victorio, 2010). 

The rhizome is used as a substitute for Alpinia galangal as well as for ginger, Zingiber officinale. The aromatic leaves are used to wrap rice or fish for cooking, particularly in Okinawa, Japan, while the tips of the young shoots, leaves and flowers are eaten boiled in parts of Asia (Hanelt et al., 2001; Ibrahim, 2001; Seidemann, 2005). The species is widely cultivated as an ornamental in both the Old World and the neotropics (Britton, 1918; Ibrahim, 2001; Branney et al., 2005).The fibres of the shoots and sometimes the whole plant are used for paper production, and as a substitute for flax in times of scarcity (Hanelt et al., 2001; Ibrahim, 2001). Like many members of the Alpinia genus, A. zerumbet, is also cultivated as a garden plant and pot plant for its attractive, often variegated leaves and striking inflorescences (Ibrahim 2001).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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A. zerumbet is similar to A. malaccensis. A. zerumbet has a leafy stem up to 3 m tall, whereas A. malaccensis can grow to 4 m. The petioles of A. malaccensis are 3-7 cm long, longer than those of A. zerumbet, which grow up to 2.5 cm long. The inflorescences of A. malaccensis are erect or slightly curved, about 35 cm long, and with 30 or more cincinni of 2 flowers each, whereas the inflorescences of A. zerumbet are de-curved or drooping, shorter (up to 20 cm long), and bear 25 or more cincinni of 2 flowers each. The flowers of A. zerumbet are larger than those of A. malaccensis. While A. malaccensis is commonly found in primary forest and shaded rocky outcrops at low and medium altitudes, A. zerumbet occurs naturally in open, shaded forest (Ibrahim, 2001). 

There are several cultivars of the species. A. zerumbet ‘variegata’, variegated shell ginger, grows to about 6 ft (1.8 m) tall, whereas the non-variegated species A. zerumbet can grow to as much as 12 ft (3.7 m) tall. There is also a dwarf cultivar, A. zerumbet 'Variegata Dwarf', which grows only to about 1 ft (0.3 m) tall, but has the same green and yellow variegated foliage with white seashell flowers as A. zerumbet ‘variegata’. There also is a cultivar, 'Variegata Chinese Beauty', which has light green and dark green marbled foliage that grows to 8 ft (2.4 m) tall (FLORIDATA, 2013).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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A. zerumbet has been the subject of much recent scientific research due to its widespread use in alternative medicine, but research is needed on the extent of its potential threat to native flora, particularly in those places where it has been introduced, and methods of diagnosis and control of its spread.

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Catalogue of Seed Plants of the West Indieshttp://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Smithsonian Zingiberales Researchhttp://botany.si.edu/zingiberales/index.cfm

Contributors

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06/3/2014 Original text by:

Marianne Jennifer Datiles, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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