GingersRus is a trademark of Le Jardin Ombragé
Click on logo above to go to GingersRus HOMEPAGE.
Datasheet for Costus guanaiensis

Plant Datasheet for Costus guanaiensis

CLICK HERE for a detailed botanical description and identification key for this species (opens in new window).
CLICK HERE to see a description of accession #R2876 . (opens in new window).

BOTANICAL NAME: Costus guanaiensis
FORMAL SCIENTIFIC NAME: Costus guanaiensis Rusby
STATUS :Accepted
CONTINENT: Neotropical

This is an accepted neo-tropical Costus species described by Rusby 1902 as "guanaiense" and included by Schumann in Das Pflanzenreich IV, 1904. The type specimen is at NYBG Herbarium, collected in May 1886 by H. H. Rusby #2225, at Guanai (Guanay) in Bolivia. It was first published in the Bulletin of the Torrey Bot. Club. 694. 1902.

In Maas' description in his Flora Neotropica monograph of 1972, he gives the species a wide diversity with variable amount of hairiness and inflorescence either terminal on a leafy stem or basal on a separate leafless shoot. The bracts are described as green with green foliaceous appendages, the covered part usually red. The appendages are likewise described variably as either rigid, ascending or slightly reflexed, narrowly triangular to deltate and sometimes even absent. The flowers have variably colored corollas and labellums.

All this variability is a reflection of the wide distribution. The type is from Bolivia, La Paz, in the community formerly called "Guanay", which the species is named after. The species may be found north as far as Chiapas, Mexico and east into Venezuela, the Guyanas and Amazonian parts of Peru and Brazil. It is also been reported in several of the Caribbean islands.

The classification of the different forms has changed several times, with reclassification in 1977 of some forms into separate species C. asplundii (PID3595) and apparently later into C. bracteatus (PID 3752).

There are currently three formally described varieties of Costus guanaiensis, but the differences in the three formal descriptions are difficult to discern, based mainly on the types of hairs on the leaves but overlapping between varieties.
Maas describes var. guanaiensis with the upper side of the leaves being strigose to glabrous, but the lower side of the leaves are ferrugineous-villose (long, soft, erect brown hairs).
He distinguishes var. macrostrobilus as having the upper side of the leaves strigose (stiff, appressed hairs or hirsute-erect in living material) and somewhat scabrid to the touch.
The third variety tarmicus the upper side of leaves are glabrous to puberulous (soft and short hairs).

I have further separated the forms I have found into separate web pages as follows. Go to these web pages to see photos and further description of these forms:
PID7585 - var. guanaiensis
PID7531- var. guanaiensis cultivar 'Sweet Charlotte'
PID7529- var. guanaiensis cultivar 'Emerald Crinkles'
PID3433 - var. macrostrobilus
PID7609 - var. macrostrobilus Siete Cataratas
PID7464 - var. macrostrobilus Bilsa plicate form
PID3600 - var. tarmicus
PID7464- var. tarmicus Huanuco form
PID7526- var. tarmicus Atalaya orange
PID7527 - var. tarmicus MLC red`

Photos on this page are of undetermined forms of the species Costus guanaiensis. I have included photos of the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves to provide details of the indumenta along with the flower and bract forms.


R2087 and R2666 from Bryan Brunner, origin unknown. Has dense soft hairs on both sides of the leaves.
R3069 from Reserva Juaneche in Los Rios province of Ecuador. Has dense soft hairs on both sides of the leaves.
R3141 from La Fortuna, Bocas del Toro, Panama. Has dense soft hairs on both sides of the leaves.
R3209 from Cabo Matapalo, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. Has moderately dense soft hairs on both sides of the leaves.


Rancho Mastatal, Latitude 9.674972, Longitude -84.371937, at 300 meters elevation.

Rio Piedra, Colon, Panama, Latitude 9.43197, Longitude -79.73353, at 60 meters elevation.

Area around Caluma, Ecuador, Latitude -1.578, Longitude -79.1957, at 836 meters elevation.

Near Caluma, Los Ríos, Ecuador, Latitude -1.67935, Longitude -79.2984, at 187 meters elevation.

Jardin Botanico del Pacifico, Bahía Solano, Choco, Colombia, Latitude 6.26367, Longitude -77.37173, at 150 meters elevation.

Drake area, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, Latitude 8.67, Longitude -83.7, at 50 meters elevation.

Along road 1.5 km above Atalaya, Rio Madre de Dios, Peru, Latitude -12.89482611, Longitude -71.35813194, at 630 meters elevation.

Manu Learning Centre, Manú Province, Peru, Latitude -12.786083, Longitude -71.401722, at 510 meters elevation.

El Remanso Lodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, Latitude 8.39, Longitude -83.3, at 200 meters elevation.

near Siete Cataratas, Lita area, Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador, Latitude 0.883, Longitude -78.517, at 900 meters elevation.

Trail leading down from school, Alto del Valle, Panama, Latitude 8.812, Longitude -82.178, at 420 meters elevation.

La Fortuna area, Alto del Valle, Panama, Latitude 8.81, Longitude -82.18, at 1200 meters elevation.

La Fortuna area, Panama, Latitude 8.78, Longitude -82.21, at 1000 meters elevation.

San Rafael Indian village, Maynas Province, Peru, Latitude -3.556, Longitude -73.11, at 90 meters elevation.

Trail from Rio Mazán, Santa Teresa, Maynas Province, Peru, Latitude -3.54, Longitude -73.177, at 120 meters elevation.

Along road to Bilsa, Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador, Latitude 0.359, Longitude -79.654, at 447 meters elevation.

Reserva Bilsa, Manabí Province, Ecuador, Latitude 0.3657, Longitude -79.7319, at 500 meters elevation.

Juaneche, Canton Vinces, Los Ríos Province, Ecuador, Latitude -1.403, Longitude -79.726, at 25 meters elevation.

Buenaventura, west of Piñas, El Oro, Ecuador, Latitude -3.656, Longitude -79.769, at 450 meters elevation.

Mastatal, San José Province, Costa Rica, Latitude 9.68, Longitude -84.37, at 300 meters elevation.

Sendero Oropendola, PN Tapantí, Cartago Province, Costa Rica, Latitude 9.7495, Longitude -83.7819, at 1280 meters elevation.

Herrerra Bot. Gdn., Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica, Latitude 8.53, Longitude -83.31, at meters elevation.

Near Aqua Buena, Osa Peninsula, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica, Latitude 8.678, Longitude -83.504, at 55 meters elevation.

Cabo Matapalo, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, Latitude 8.39, Longitude -83.3, at 220 meters elevation.

Parque Nacional Tingo Maris, Gloriapatra Trail, Las Palmas, Peru, Latitude -9.420526, Longitude -75.972235, at 760 meters elevation.

Along road past Cueva Pumahuassi, Leoncio Prado Province, Peru, Latitude -9.19382, Longitude -75.95601, at 700 meters elevation.

Costus guanaiensis is a highly variable and widespread species characterized by appendaged bracts and mostly white flowers with red stripes and a yellow blotch on the labellum. There are three named varieties, but the differences have nothing to do with the bract shapes or the flower colors - they are minor differences in the hair structure on the leaves, that frankly I have not been able to distinguish in the field.

This listing is for a plant that typifies the species, but there is some variation depending on the collection site. They are quite tall, usually growing to about 8-10 feet at maturity, and the flower colors should be mostly white as in the photos here. The leaves are large and tropical looking.

Costus guanaiensis should be grown outdoors over winter only in USDA zone 10 as they are not hardy in colder areas. They prefer a fairly sunny area but will grow in part sun or light shade.

Copyright © 1999-2016 - Dave Skinner,
All text and images on this page are copyrighted. They may be downloaded and/or printed for personal use and scientific research, but may not be published in paper or electronic media without my express consent. They absolutely may not be used commercially in any way whatsoever without my express consent. To inquire about permissions, contact