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

Gingersrus Database Taxon ID 4892

Hellenia potierae

OLD NAME: Cheilocostus potierae

NEW NAME: Hellenia potierae



STATUS : synonym

CONTINENT: Australia

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This is either a valid Australian Costus species or a form of Costus speciosus depending on who you believe. I have not seen it and was mistaken about a plant I previously had listed as this species in my shopping cart. Based on everything I have read, I think it is distinct enough to be listed as a separate species. Notes below.

Discussion on Facebook Planet Heliconia-Ginger group, verifies existence of native species and photos posted - yellow flowers. Website at
gives details.


Botanical Name

Costus potierae F.Muell.

Mueller, F.J.H. von (1864) Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae 4: 164. Type: Queensland, Rockingham Bay, 17 Apr. 1864, J. Dallachy, s.n.; lecto: MEL. Fide R. M. Smith, Fl. Australia 45: 453 (1987).


Costus speciosus (Konig) Smith, Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, Botany 1: 249(1791), Type: ?.


Usually flowers and fruits as a shrub up to 4 m tall. Usually multistemmed from underground rhizomes.


Leaves about 20-30 x 6-8 cm, lateral veins diverging from the midrib at a very low angle and running parallel to one another. Petiole base forming a pubescent, longitudinally veined sheath about 2-4 cm long, completely enclosing the stem. Petiolar sheath with a truncate ligule (about 0.2-0.4 cm long) at the apex.


Flowers produced in cone-like heads of overlapping red bracts. Flowers exceeding the bracts. Corolla 3-lobed, the largest lobe (labellum) quite conspicuous, about 2.5-3 cm diam. Upper surface of the labellum and the inner surface of anther filament hairy. Fertile stamens one, the filament broad and petaloid. Anther locules well below the apex of the filament.


Fruit ovate-elliptic, about 1.5 cm long. Calyx persistent at the apex of the fruit. Outer surface of the fruit clothed in short erect hairs.


First pair of leaves simple, longitudinally veined, petioles forming a cylindrical sheath enclosing the stem. At the tenth leaf stage: leaves longitudinally veined, petiole forming a longitudinally veined cylindrical sheath enclosing the stem. Pale hairs present on the lower surfaces of the leaf blade and the outer surface of the sheathing petiole. Ligule clothed in pale hairs.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to Queensland, occurs in CYP and NEQ with collections from some of the Torres Strait Islands and the Tully areas. Altitudinal range very small, being found only slightly above sea level. Usually grows in disturbed areas of lowland rain forest.


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

From Brian Middleditch - Costus potierae was first described by Mueller in 1864. It is found in Queensland, and is the only Costus endemic to Australia. Rosemary Smith has a description in her chapter on Costaceae and Zingiberaceae in volume 45 (1987) of Flora of Australia. C. potierae has been reported throughout southern and southeast Asia, with the distribution extended to a few locales in northeastern Australia. Rosemary Smith contributed to a REGIONAL flora (Australia) in 1987, so she considered ONLY specimens from that region. Maas in 1979 had concluded that C. potierae is C. speciosus. Rosemary Smith pointed out that the Australian flowers had significant differences from the classical C. speciosus. So she steadfastly maintained that the Australian specimens were C. potierae. Note that she was contributing to a REGIONAL flora and discussed only the AUSTRALIAN specimens that she had examined. Since she had not included any Asian species during this study she made no comment on the validity of the claim by Maas that all of the C. potierae were C. speciosa.

From Hiltje Maas - According to my husband Costus potierae is a synonym of C. speciosus. He published this in an article in Blumea 25: 543-549. 1979: Notes on Asiatic and Australian Costoideae (Zingiberaceae).

From Brian Middleditch - Maas did, indeed, state that Costus potierae is a synonym of C. speciosus in his 1979 article. That article was cited by Rosemary Smith in her 1987 monolog in Flora of Australia. But she clearly stated that, "the Australian plant has yellow rather than white flowers and a markedly smaller labellum."Miss Smith unequivocally maintained that the Australian plant is C. potierae. She consulted the article by Maas and also examined Australian herbarium specimens. She meticulously followed the rules of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. Thus, the AUSTRALIAN plant is C. potierae. Brian (Houston)

HORTICULTURAL NOTES: - Costus potierae This is an interesting clumping Ginger with very unusual white and golden marked flowers. In summer a single flower erupts from under each scale on its weird round green cone. White flower heads, marked in gold. Native to the rainforests of North Queensland it is a shade lover and does particularly well indoors as well as out in the garden or rockery or in a tub. Foliage makes an attractive feature. Likes a well composted position and moisture. Most of the Gingers can be cut back prior to their spring flush when they reshoot vigorously off a strong rhizome. Will grow in warm temperate areas and maybe colder if given warmth in winter. Shade.

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Photos (if available) of Taxon ID 4892