This page contains photos and description of a species, form or cultivar of Costaceae.

Gingersrus Database Taxon ID 3217

Costus malortieanus

OLD NAME: Costus malortieanus

NEW NAME: Costus malortieanus


FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME: Costus malortieanus H.Wendl.

STATUS : accepted

CONTINENT: Neotropical

FIELD OBSERVATIONS:(If field observations are available, you can click on the link to open in a new window.)

PHOTOS:(If photos are available, you can click on the link to open in a new window.)

- Costus elegans Hortul., Petersen in Mart. (1890)

Costus malortieanus is an accepted species of neotropical Costus first described by H. Wendland in 1863. ( Hamburger Garten- und Blumenzeitung 19: 30-31. 1863.) The type locality was described as "Im Walde in der Nahe des Sarapiquifluffes und nahe bei la Diuelle im nordlichen Costa Rica sand ich diese prachtige plfanze noch am Lage vor meiner Rudsehr nach Europa Mitte August 1857 (In the forest near the Sarapiqui ___ and near at la Diuelle (La Muelle?) in the northern Costa Rica I found this prachtige plfanze still able before my ___ to Europe mid-August 1857) This is a villiage on the river just north of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui and is in the general region of the OTS station La Selva. Paul Maas selected a neotype since there is no herbarium material of Wendland. The neotype it from the nearby OTS field station, La Selva.

Costus malortieanus is a short plant growing to no more than 1 meter tall, with a very short ligule (barely 1 mm long) and large felty leaves. It flowers terminally with green non-appendaged bracts and open-labellum flowers with creamy white to yellow corolla and red-striped labellum wings.

Costus malortieanus grows in the Cordillera Central and Cordillera de Tilaran of Costa Rica and is found in other areas north of San Jose and adjoining Nicaragua where it is quite common. The species also has been widely cultivated for many years around the world. It flowers year round.

In 2014 I completed an IUCN Red List assessment for this species and it is now classified as Least Concern. My assessment rationale can be found at

A partial phylogeny was completed by Eugenio Valderrama and his associates in the Chelsea Specht Lab at Cornell University and was published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science in September 2022. My cultivated plant (R1562) has been sampled for DNA and whole genome sequencing was completed for this sample. It was found to be in an earlier lineage and separate clade with the Atlantic side samples of Costus pictus, Costus mollissimus and Costus dirzoi.

Based on information at the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) this species is in ex situ cultivation at 52 botanical gardens world wide, making it one of the most popular species of Costus in cultivation. I have found this species to be relatively easy to grow in my garden and greenhouses at Le Jardín Ombrage.R1562 from a nursery in Houston, this is common in cultivation and the plants I have seen in the wild are all consistent in appearance to this. It is sometimes called the "velvet stepladder ginger". I have seen it rated to zone 8B, but I think that is stretching it a bit, maybe zone 9, but the foliage melts away below 45 degrees F.

ACCESSIONS:Click links (if any) to see details of individual collections. R1562- R2962-

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Photos (if available) of Taxon ID 3217
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Costus malortieanus type specimen - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 506 Accession# R0
Costus malortieanus type specimen

Costus malortieanus, photo from Skinner R1562,  cultivated plant - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 257 Accession# R1562
Costus malortieanus, photo from Skinner R1562, cultivated plant