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Datasheet for Costus spectabilis

Plant Datasheet for Costus spectabilis

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Photo# 11269 Specimen# R2934
Costus spectabilis
From cultivated,

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Photo# 11270 Specimen# R2934
Costus spectabilis
From cultivated,

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Photo# 11271 Specimen# R0
Costus spectabilis at Smithsonian US Bot. Research Greenhouse, Washington, DC USBRG#96-284

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Photo# 11272 Specimen# R0
Costus spectabilis at Smithsonian US Bot. Research Greenhouse, Washington, DC USBRG#96-284

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Photo# 11273 Specimen# R0
Costus spectabilis at Smithsonian US Bot. Research Greenhouse, Washington, DC USBRG#96-284

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Photo# 11274 Specimen# R0
Costus spectabilis at

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BOTANICAL NAME: Costus spectabilis
FORMAL SCIENTIFIC NAME: Costus spectabilis (Fenzl) K.Schum.
STATUS :Accepted
Costus pistiifolius K.Schum. (1892), Cadalvena dalzielii C.H.Wright (1912),

This African species is recognized in Paul Maas' monograph on African Costaceae, published on 16 December 2016. (Monograph of African Costaceae, H. Maas-van de Kamer, P.J.M. Maas, J.J. Wieringa, C.D. Specht, Blumea 61, 2016: 280 - 318,

The African Plant Database lists this species as accepted. Biology : Perennial herb with a rhizome covered in brown papery scales, hairy in their lower half Ecology : Rocky savanna; black soil in Oxytenanthera thicket with some Combretum-Terminalia woodland; in shade on sandy soil in open Combretum-Terminalia or Isoberlinia woodland; elsewhere in seasonal grassland; often around termitaria; among rocks; 150-1850 m alt. Sometimes cultivated as an ornamental, but not particularly easy. S. Tome.

TAXONOMY NOTES BY BRIAN MIDDLEDITCH - Costus spectabilis P.J.M. Maas:First named Cadalvena spectabilis Fenzl (1865), not to be confused with Cadalvena spectabilis C.H. Wright (1905) - which has been combined with Costus macranthus Schumann (1901). Schumann (1904) decided that Cadalvena is a subgenus of Costus, and the species had already been renamed Costus spectabilis (Fenzl) Schumann (1893). In the meantime, for a few years, it was Kaempferia spectabilis (Fenzl) Benth. (1883). Costus spectabilis Zipp. (from an undated manuscript in the Leyden Herbarium) is Tapeinochilos spectabile (Zipp.) Schumann (1899). Then there are other synonyms, including Costus pistifolius (Fenzl) Schumann (1892) and Cadalvena pistifolia (Schumann) Baker (1898).

Schumann describes this species and places in subgenus Cadalvena - Das Pflanzenreich IV, 1904.

Cadalvena spectablilis - Flora of Tropical Africa, 1898 - describes this species, Cadalvena listed as separate genus, distinguishes C. spectabilis from C. pistiaefolia, imbricated leaves NOT thickened at base.
"1. C. spectabilis, Fenzl in Sitz. Akad. Wissen. Wien, Math. Nat.Li. Abth.ii. 140. Leaves usually 4 in a spiral rosette, obovate-cuneate,much imbricated, 2-8 in. long and broad, pale green, membranous,glabrous, not thickened at the base. Flowers few, on short pedicels.From the centre of the rosette, contemporary with the leaves. CalyxShort, funnel-shaped. Corolla-lobes lanceolate, ascending, 1 1/2-2 in. long.Lip pale yellow, obovate-cuneate, 3 in. long 1 1/2-2 in. broad; fertilestamen sborter than the corolla-lobes; anther-cells llearly parallel,1/2 in. long, overtopped by a long pale yellow strap-shaped petaloid process.-Kaempferia spectabilis, Benth. Gen. Plant. Iii. 642. Costusspectabilis, Schumann in Engl. Jahrb. Xv. 422, and in Engl. Pfl Ost-Afr. C. 150.
Nile Land. UpperSeuaar; Fazokl,Boriana; Jur; JurGhattas, Schweinfurth,1888! Galabat: banks of the GendnaRiver, Schweinfurth,1345!Lower Guinea.. Congo: Loukoungou,700-2000 ft., Hens, 353!
Mozamb. Dist. German East Africa:Usambara, Holst! Portuguese EastAfrica: MorambalaMountain, 2000--3000 ft., Kirk! Waller! British CentralAfrica: Nyasaland; Shire Highlands, Buchanan, 26! Near Blantyre, Last! MountSochi, Scott Elliot, 8521! Between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa,Johnston!And without precise locality, Buchanan,532! 668!

Flora of West Tropical Africa, (1936) - listed, wide distribution.

P. J. M. Maas mentions this plant (but does not include a description) in Flora Neotropica Monograph No. 8. He says it is from Africa and is part of his subgenus Cadalvena. It is listed by him as Costus spectabilis (Fenzl) Schumann, and he says it is the type species for subgenus Cadalvena.


Le Jardin Ombragé - Costus spectabilis - a very different looking Costus from Africa, this one can produce huge succulent leaves that lie absolutely flat on the ground. The flowers are showy bright yellow. The plant has a natural dormancy and produces long snake-like rhizomes. Due to its natural dormancy, it should be hardy to about zone 8, but I don't know if this has been tested.

From: "Mike Bordelon" - Discussion on natural dormancy of gingers, "Based on greenhouse growing outside of Wash. D.C. Zone 7…. Within the Costus is Costus spectabilis and it goes dormant."Posted by: TimChapman Z8 Louisiana ( on Tue, Feb 11, 03 at 23:57 Brian, As mentioned during your call, the plant is definitely C. spectabilis. I don't think they were as big as you recall though. The collection you speak of is amazing isn't it!! C. spectabilis was introduced by me several years ago via Ghillean Prance of Kew Gardens. It has one of the largest blooms of all Costus, but I don't think it will hybridize well with others for a few reasons…. all the more reason to try it though! The reason why you don't see it commercially available much (if at all?) is that it is a very difficult species to handle, as if repotting it you are very lucky not to break off the plant from the rhizome. It is very difficult to pack for obvious reasons. It spends all of its resources making a VERY long rhizome but not additional plants during the growing season. One plant's rhizome can make a few circles inside a 3 gallon pot and still come out of the bottom. In tissue culture it is very difficult to root, just makes a plant and lots of tiny rhizome… even with hormones. On a side note, every wild photo of it I've seen has leaves that are at least somewhat cupped, whereas the cultivated form is flat. Tim Chapman

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