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

Gingersrus Database Taxon ID 5231

Costus sepacuitensis

OLD NAME: Costus sepacuitensis

NEW NAME: Costus sepacuitensis


FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME: Costus sepacuitensis Rowlee

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 sepacuitensis was listed in the original monograph as an insufficiently known species. In 2018 I went to the type locality, the Finca Sepacuité, Alta Verapaz Guatemala to search for the species. There were no photographs and just a limited description that was based on the type specimen in the US National herbarium. The species was described in 1922 by W. W. Rowlee from the specimen that had been collected twenty years earlier by O. F. Cook and R. F. Griggs. Details such as the flower color and bract color were unavailable in the Rowlee description but I thought I would be able to recognize it by matching up to the type specimen.

I stayed in a small hotel in the nearby village of Senahú that was owned by Oscar Elias. When I explained to Oscar why I was there I was astounded to find out that the very same R. F. Griggs was his great, great grandfather! Oscar agreed to help me search for the plant at the Finca Sepacuité, a large coffee plantation. He could speak the local Mayan Q'eqchi language, so we went one Sunday and asked the plantation workers if they had seen a plant such as we tried to describe this species. Finally we found a man named Mario who thought he knew what we were looking for, and he agreed to take us there the next day.

We walked a few kilometers up into the mountains along the old trail to Senahú and there it was! I took many photos, wrote down detailed measurements and collected seeds to bring back home. Costus sepacuitensis was growing along the trail in a place where a seep of water was making very moist soil on a slope. Mario told us that was the only place in the region that he had ever seen that plant. It perfectly matched the type specimen, including even an unusual split in one side of the calyx.

Costus sepacuitensis produces a basal inflorescence on a leafless shoot with green non-appendaged bracts with red margins. The flowers are yellow with open labellums.

Before I found this species in Guatemala, Dr. Maas had been planning to describe the same with a new name to be called Costus oaxacus. The species is only known for a few records in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. There is insufficient data to fully evaluate for flowering season, but collections and observations of this species in flower have been limited to the rainy season.

DNA has been extracted from a sample of my R3443 and found to be in separate clade in a lineage with other Mexican species, Costus alticolus and Costus sp. Amith, as well as Costus pictus, Costus mollissimus and Costus dirzoi.

This species has been somewhat difficult to grow but I now (2022) have it growing well and I am hoping for flowers later this year. A propagule from my collection is also growing at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. It is not known to be in cultivation elsewhere.

ACCESSIONS:Click links (if any) to see details of individual collections. R3401- R3402- R3443- R3444- R3447-

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Photos (if available) of Taxon ID 5231
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Photo# 302 Accession# R0

Costus sepacuitensis type specimen - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 528 Accession# R0
Costus sepacuitensis type specimen

Costus sepacuitensis, photo from Skinner R3443, at type locality Sepacuite, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 301 Accession# R3443
Costus sepacuitensis, photo from Skinner R3443, at type locality Sepacuite, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala