Zingiber zerumbet, Ornamental Ginger, Pinecone Ginger

Uses: Xeriscaping, Edible, Forage, Medicinal. Native to : India, naturalized throughout the tropics.
     This plant is very striking even in a landscape filled with striking plants. It's no wonder the plant has traveled from India to now exist worldwide in tropical areas. The leaves grow several feet tall even in my shady, rainfall-irrigated  front yard. It does seem to prefer dampish, shady places, and would be a good choice for understory use.
     The leaves die back in the fall, but the plant returns from the rhizomes underneath the soil surface. The rhizome itself is a ginger and can be used in any way the ginger root is used. The leaves can be used as an herbal flavoring for cooked food. The red flower, not shown here, can be squeezed and the juices used as a natural shampoo, as it is high in saponins and smells wonderful.
     Medicinally the rhizome is used worldwide to treat inflammation and indigestion disorders. A good deal of research has been conducted, and the folk uses for soap ginger do hold up to science. Additionally, it has beneficial properties to maintain health, such as tumor and microbial suppression.
     I was unable to locate any research on whether soap ginger greens are safe to feed livestock, but since they are safe for humans, they are a good bet. I have given small quantities, about one leaflet a day, to my rabbits with no ill effects, in fact, even dried they are relished as a tasty treat. One can only assume that the leaves are completely safe since they are eaten by humans. (They ate one of the flowers too, with no problems!)


Survival Gardener, AKA David the Good said...

I love the way the flower cone feels when you squish it. Really, really weird.

chrissy bauman said...

The soap ginger flower IS really strange looking and feeling, I completely agree. It's very alienlike, as if it was something out of Star Trek. I'm looking forward to making pinecone ginger shampoo next summer! Also, the flower would probably be a great ingredient to add to homemade barsoap, since it grows well here, smells great, and has a high saponin content. Someday I'll try making soap. Probably as soon as I can locally source the ingredients (fat - grocery store? butcher?, lye - home depot? internet? mysterious wood ash process?, scents - my garden?).