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Bright red flowering cones bloom at ground level and even partially below the soil. Each scale produces a single inch-wide red flower with a creamy colored lip marked in red. Winter dormant. Rhizomes remain underground through winter.
The seed capsules are used in India as a spice.
Erect, from 6-8 feet tall, and the inflorescences are basal. The bracts are pale yellow in a young inflorescence, becoming red as it matures, especially if it gets some full sun. All parts of the plant have a strong gingery fragrance. Attractive in the garden and as a cut flower. Blooms from July through November. Propagated by division, stem cuttings and seeds.
Pinecone ginger is considered a canoe plant, that is, a plant introduced throughout the Pacific by the ancient Polynesian settlers. All parts of the pinecone ginger are spicy fragrant. The leaves and inflorescences of the pinecone ginger arise from a thick knobby rhizome that grows just under the surface of the soil. The leaflets are arranged alternately along an arching pseudostem that grows one to two meters (3 to 7 feet) in length. The inflorescence is borne on a separate pseudostem from the leaves. It is a spike; bracts subtend the position of each of the flowers giving the inflorescence its pinecone shape. The inflorescence is green until flowering. The pale yellow or white flowers emerge from the lowest bracts first, when the flower is spent, it dries and falls away. After flowering, the bracts change color. The color change continues upward until the entire inflorescence is bright crimson. This is an excellent fast-growing landscape plant for tropical effect, and the cone shaped flowers are long lasting and useful for cut flower arrangements. This plant is most widely known around the world as the "Shampoo Ginger" for the milky substance in the cones, and it is in fact used as a shampoo in Asia and Hawaii, and as an ingredient in several commercial shampoos. In mid to late summer, separate stalks grow out of the ground with green cone-shaped bracts that resemble pinecones. The green cone turns red over a couple of weeks and then small creamy yellow flowers appear on the cone.
These small acid fruits are liked by children as well as by adults. A small spreading tree, with drooping branches grows readily and quickly on poor ground. Even moderately saline soils are tolerated. The tree will thrive without any special care. All parts of the plant have medicinal uses. Jujube is widely cultivated China and India. The Chinese have been growing and eating jujubes for more than four thousand years and have more jujube trees than any other type of fruit tree. From Indian legends, the tree is hard because it's blessed with a boon that no matter how badly it was cut, it will not die, and even if a single root of it was left, it will spring up again... In India, the tree is held sacred: fruits are offered to Siva, and the plant is known as the "Tree which removes sorrow". Cold hardy, mature plants withstand hard freeze.
Its presence is said to indicate underground water. It usually has a crooked trunk and drooping branches. The glossy, drooping leaves are conspicuously three-veined from the base. The branches are usually covered with stipular spines, one curved and one straight. Inconspicuous yellowish flowers are borne in clusters and produce abundant nectar that attract many insects, especially bees. The roundish fruits are russet-colored when mature and contain a dry meal-like pulp. The fruits are sought after by many birds and wild animals. Bark, leaves and roots and decoctions of these have been used for many ailments, such as skin infections, chest troubles, dysentery, measles, swollen glands, lumbago, and various pains such as toothache. During the Anglo-Boer War, the seeds were ground and the powder used as a coffee substitute. It is a very rewarding garden tree, growing well in any climate but a cold, wet one. It grows quickly from seed and reaches a height of about 7 m at maturity with a spread of about 10 m. It is drought and frost resistant and is a good choice for gardens where little else can grow.