Zingiberaceae, or the Ginger family, is a family of flowering plants consisting of aromatic perennial herbs with creeping horizontal or tuberous rhizomes, comprising ca. 52 genera and more than 1300 species, distributed throughout tropical Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Many species are important ornamental plants, spices, or medicinal plants. Ornamental genera include the shell gingers (Alpinia), Siam or summer tulip (Curcuma alismatifolia), Globba, ginger lily (Hedychium), Kaempferia, torch-ginger Nicolaia, Renealmia, and ginger (Zingiber). Spices include ginger (Zingiber), galangal or Thai ginger (Alpinia galanga and others), melegueta pepper (Aframomum melegueta), myoga (Zingiber mioga), turmeric (Curcuma), cardamom (Amomum, Elettaria).
Members of the family are small to large herbaceous plants with distichous leaves with basal sheaths that overlap to form a pseudostem. The plants are either self-supporting or epiphytic
, usually strongly zygomorphic
, in determinate
cymose inflorescences, and subtended by conspicuous, spirally arranged bracts. The perianth is comprised of two whorls, a fused tubular calyx, and a tubular corolla with one lobe larger than the other two. Flowers typically have two of their stamenoids (sterile stamens
) fused to form a petaloid lip, and have only one fertile stamen. The ovary is inferior and topped by two nectaries, the stigma is funnel-shaped.
Some genera yield essential oils used in the perfume industry (Alpinia, Hedychium).
The Zingiberaceae has a pantropical distribution--found in the tropics of Africa, Asia and the Americas--with its greatest diversity in Southeast Asia