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|TROPICAL PLANT CATALOG||Printer friendly page|
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|Costus spicatus, Alpinia spicata|
Family: Costaceae / Zingiberaceae
Origin: Tropical America
Costus are easily distinguished from other commonly cultivated gingers because the leaves spiral around the main stem like a circular stairway. In fact they are called "spiral gingers". Sometimes Costus are still listed with other gingers in family Zingiberaceae, but generally they are accepted classified in a separate plant family, Costaceae, along with Dimerocostus, Monocostus and Tapeinochilos. Costus spicatus will grow in the sun if kept moist. Grows to about 6 to 7 feet tall. Leaves are about a foot long and about 4 inches wide. Plant produces a short cylindrical red cone with red-orange flowers emerging one at a time, long lasting and used as a cut flower. These plants often have close interactions with ants. The plant makes a sugary nectar which is attractive to many different kinds of ants. Ants protect the developing seeds which are under the bracts from insect enemies. Some plants have very specialized ants: they form an alliance only with one ant species, that not only get food from the plant but also get a place to nest.
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