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Weeds in our Area (Part One Hundred and Fifty One)

By Bob and Ena McIntyre – Garden Route Region.

UPDATED LIST: Alpinia zerumbet (= A.speciosa(J C Wendl.) Schum.)

(Pink porcelain lily, Shell ginger)

Family: Zingiberaceae (Ginger)

Alpinia zerumbet is a new entry to the updated list. Although recorded by Lesley Henderson in the 2001 publication it was not categorised. Ginger is of course a familiar name in every household. Many species are important ornamental plants, spices, or medicinal plants. Ornamental genera include the shell gingers (Alpinia), ginger lily (Hedychium), and ginger (Zingiber). Spices include ginger (Zingiber), turmeric (Curcuma), cardamom (Amomum, Elettaria).

Zingiberaceae is a family of flowering plants consisting of aromatic perennial herbs comprising circa 52 genera and more than 1300 species. The species is distributed throughout tropical Africa, Asia, and the Americas. In East Asia Alpinia zerumbet has many uses - the long leaf blades are used for wrapping zongzi (or zong), a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. The leaf parcels are cooked by steaming or boiling. In Okinawa, Japan, A. zerumbet is known as Getto - the leaves are sold as herbal tea and are used to flavour noodles and for wrapping rice cakes. A decoction of the leaves has been used in the bath to alleviate fevers.

Description: Native to eastern Asia, Alpinia zerumbet came into our country as an ornamental. Its robust appearance and impressive size (up to 4m high) as well as the very attractive orchid-like flowers may well have been quite irresistible to the keen plant-lover. The plants are clump-forming perennials with creeping horizontal or tuberous rhizomes. The leaves are broad, lance-shaped and sheath the stems. Flowers are borne in long racemes (up to 400mm) and the individual flower-buds are enfolded by pink-tinged bracteoles that have the appearance of a sea shell - hence the descriptive common name. The flowers have a white corolla with large yellow crinkled petals with red spots and stripes. The fruit is globose with many striations

Invasive Status: Updated list – Category 3 – Invasive species regulated by activity. The plants invade water-courses, forest margins, roadsides and urban open spaces in moist, warm coastal and inland areas and are potential transformers.
Control: No herbicides are registered. However, as caring citizens we can prevent proliferation of invasive species by disposing of our garden refuse responsibly and where garden services are used ensuring that they make use of the designated municipal facilities.
References: ALIEN WEEDS AND INVASIVE PLANTS: Lesley Henderson   Copyright @ 2001 Agricultural Research Council. www.wikipedia.org

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