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Costus is a group of perennial herbaceous plants in the family (Costaceae) described by Linnaeus as a genus in 1753.[2][3] It was formerly known as Hellenia after the Finnish botanist Carl Niclas von Hellens.[4] It is widespread through tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas.[1][5][6]

Costus pulverulentus.jpg
Costus pulverulentus at Rara Avis, Costa Rica
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Costaceae
Genus: Costus
  • Gissanthe Salisb.
  • Acinax Raf.
  • Jacuanga T.Lestib.
  • Cadalvena Fenzl

Costus is often characterized and distinguished from relatives such as Zingiber (true ginger) by its spiraling stems. The genus as a whole is thus often called spiral gingers, but this can also refer to C. barbatus specifically.

Costus spectabilis is the floral emblem of Nigeria; its flowers are represented (erroneously in red instead of yellow color) on its coat of arms. It is important not to confuse Costus speciosus, C. spectabilis etc. with the herb known by the common name "costus". Some species are of importance to herbivores, such as caterpillars of the restricted demon (Notocrypta curvifascia) which feed on Costus speciosus (crêpe ginger). The crêpe ginger is also a source of diosgenin, a compound used for the commercial production of various steroids, such as progesterone. In Trinidad and Tobago, a mix of Costus scaber juice and crushed Renealmia alpinia berries is used to treat dogs bitten by snakes.[7]


Formerly placed here[1]

Numerous other species have been called Costus over the years, but are now regarded as members of other genera. Such genera include Alpinia, Amomum, Caulokaempferia, Cheilocostus, Chamaecostus, Dimerocostus, Hellenia, Paracostus, Renealmia, Tapeinochilos, etc.



  1. ^ a b c d World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ Linnaeus, Carl von. 1753. Species Plantarum 1: 2 in Latin
  3. ^ Tropicos, Costus L.
  4. ^ Forsius, Arno. "Hellens, Carl Niclas von" (in Swedish). Biografiskt lexikon för Finland. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  5. ^ Flora of China Vol. 24 Page 320 闭鞘姜属 bi qiao jiang shu Costus Linnaeus
  6. ^ Specht, C. D. & D. W. Stevenson. 2006. A new phylogeny-based generic classification of Costaceae (Zingiberales). Taxon 55(1): 153–163.
  7. ^ Aweke, G., 2007. Costus afer Ker Gawl. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands