Hedychium horsfieldii R. Brown ex N. Wallich, Hooker's J. Bot. Kew Gard. Misc. 5: 376 (1853).

Accepted name

Hedychium horsfieldii R. Brown ex N. Wallich, Hooker's J. Bot. Kew Gard. Misc. 5: 376 (1853).


The Java Ginger is an evergreen plant for the heated greenhouse or conservatory. Hedychium horsfieldii is a very strange Hedychium and has been moved around taxonomically. It started life as a Hedychium in 1853 but was split from Hedychium into its own genus, Brachychilum in 1893. As recently as 1990 it was lumped back in with Hedychium.  

Hedychium horsfieldii grows as a forest epiphyte in Java, clinging to tree branches with its thick, fleshy roots covered in "sticky" root hairs. The foliage is bright green, about 70 cm tall and somewhat more succulent than is usual for Hedychium. It flowers freely with greenish-white flowers that are most un-Hedychium like. The lip or labellum that is the chief feature of most Hedychium flowers is reduced to a tiny appendage; the name Brachychilum means "short lip". In contrast, the lateral staminodes are enlarged, rounded, and held together at the top of the flower like Mickey Mouse-ears. A somehow unexpected feature of the flowers of Hedychium horsfieldii is their surprisingly strong scent. They are fascinatingly different from "normal" Hedychium flowers but to be honest no-one would grow this plant for its flowers, despite their scent. The chief ornamental feature of this plant is the spectacular and reliably produced display of seed pods. The display of seed is reliable because Hedychium horsfieldii is chasmogamous, that is, the flowers pollinate themselves even before the flower opens. So there is always heavy seed set even under less than ideal growing conditions. The fruits ripen greenish-yellow and then split open to reveal orange ovary walls and masses of seed enclosed in bright red arils. This colour combination is typical Hedychium but it is the size and sheer number of fruits that makes Hedychium horsfieldii such a rewarding plant to grow.

Despite its epiphytic habit in nature, Hedychium horsfieldii adapts happily to life in a pot with ordinary potting compost with a little added grit and does not need to be grown in "orchid compost".


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last updated 01/10/2008