Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
The Torch Ginger is a terrestrial and perennial herb belonging to the species Etlingera elatior (Zingiberales - Zingiberaceae), native to Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. It is also widely cultivated and naturalized in South East Asia.
Inflorescences of the Torch Ginger are truly stunning. The large, torch-like, up to 1.5 m tall flower stalks emerge from fleshy underground rhizomes. The inflorescences have waxy, red to pink, white-edged bracts and are pinecone-shaped with a skirt of larger bracts. The individual flowers emerge from between the colorful bracts and have a dark red labellum (lip petal) with a bright yellow margin. The flowers are followed by green to reddish fruit.
Beside its beauty this plant is edible. The showy pink inflorescences are widely used as cooking herb (in the curries), and eaten raw for its medicinal properties to treat earache; while the leaves are also used for cleaning wounds.
A research on the pharmacological potential of the Torch Ginger flowers shown that the methanol extract possesses broad spectrum antibacterial and antifungal activity (in vitro).
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Photo credit: [Top: ©Joana Garrido | Locality: Singapore, 2007] - [Bottom: ©Alex Stehouwer | Locality: San Pablo City, Calabarzon, Philippines, 2013]