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Alpinia caerulea (ZINGIBERACEAE) Native Ginger, Blue Berry Ginger


Native Ginger
PHOTO: Robert Whyte LOCATION: Yoorala St East

A multi-stemmed, clumping herb with upright arching stems to 3 m. Common in subtropical rainforests in Qld and NSW. Long fleshy green simple, alternate, glossy green and broadly elliptical leaves up to 40cm long.

A dark blue berry can be easily opened and the pith around the seeds eaten - it is palatable, but there are a lot of seeds. You'd have to work hard to get a meal.

The gingery root tips are also edible. Easy to grow in the garden, which makes collecting seed very easy. It prefers moist shady areas, but can tolerate some sun. A North Queensland variety with reddish leaf undersides is rapidly mixing with local populations, and is effectively indistinguishable.

Image: Fruit

Photo: Robert Whyte

The Alpinia genus are perennial herbs with shoots with well-developed stems belonging to the family Zingiberaceae described as perennial, rhizomatous herbs, meaning they have a type of fleshy underground growth from which the shoots and roots emerge. The plants spread by the growth of this rhizome.

The family is of some economic importance in the production of a number of spices and condiments, e.g., Ginger, Turmeric, Cardamon and Indian Arrowroot.

Image: Flowers

alpinia caerulea
Photo: Robert Whyte

Alpinia is a rather large genus of plants, with more than 230 species occuring in tropical and subtropical climates of Asia and the Pacific, and in great demand as ornamentals because of their flashy flowers.

Image: Propagation

Alpinia caerulea
Photo: Robert Whyte

DNA sequence-based methods have shown that this genus is represented by six clades distributed across the tribe Alpinieae, that do not correspond to Smith's (1990) classification of the genus. Further research is needed to specify the taxa in this genus. (Wikipedia)

Alpinia after Prosper Alpini, Italian botanist, 1553-1616; caerulea from Latin caeruleus, dark blue, dark green, cerulean, azure or more particularly, the deep blue of the Mediterranean sky at midday, referring to the colour of the pericarp of the fruit.