Article and images by Danielle Outram, conservation partnerships officer, Sunshine Coast Council
The Sunshine Coast may be home to the Ginger Factory, but it is also home to 2 species of native ginger, Alpinia caerulea and Alpinia arundelliana.
Can they be eaten?
Yes. The young growing tips of the creeping rhizome can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw they are crunchy and refreshing with a mild ginger taste and in cooking they can be used as a ginger substitute with a milder, less spicey taste.
The fruit is ripe when it’s blue and the casing should be peeled off. The white pulp that surrounds the seeds is edible and has a pleasant zesty taste. There’s a lot of seeds and not much pulp so sucking off the flesh is just a taste.
The leaves can be used for wrapping food for cooking to impart a slight gingery taste, they’re perfect for fish.
How do I tell them apart?
A. caerulea is a perennial herb growing up to 3m high. It has large glossy leaves up to 40cm long. It has white flowers and blue, globose fruit. A. arundelliana is superficially similar but smaller, growing to 2m. The flowers are pink and the leaves are smaller as well (to 25cm) with wavy, undulating margins.
What’s up with the circular cut-outs on the leaves?
Female leaf-cutter bees (Megachile sp.) cut circular sections out of leaves of both species of native ginger. She rolls these sections between her legs and flies off to a suitable nest hole.
What else uses native ginger?
A. caerulea is a known food source for caterpillars of the banded demon butterfly (Notocrypta waigensis). The wide leaves also create a cool microclimate for frogs.
Medium sized members of the genus Amegilla which are blue-banded or brown and densely bristled bees. They are specialist visitors of lower rainforest and wet sclerophyll plants including Alpinia. They either alight directly on the flowers or hover with their long tongues extended, feeding on floral nectar.
What other fun facts do you have about native gingers?
The genus Alpinia is named after Prospero Alpini (1553-1617) a 16th and 17th century Italian doctor and botanist who specialised in exotic plants and pollination. The species name arundelliana was named in honour of Edward Howard Arundel (1840-1910), a prominent early citizen of Eumundi.
Native gingers are also suitable for growing in a pot.