Wild Ginger

© Ton Rulkens

Name

Wild Ginger or Natal Ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus)

Wild Ginger Description

A wild ginger plant blooms during October to November. Its dainty flowers vary in colour from pale pink to light purple and are 60 to 80mm in width. These aromatic flowers grow near to the ground and last one day. However, the plant blooms as many as 25 times during the flower season.

The plant carries a bunch of leaves which grow during or after flowering. Its rootstock smells and tastes like common ginger, being a part of the ginger family, and is predominantly used as a treatment against cold and flus. It is becoming increasingly rare in the veld.

Wild Ginger Habitat

In South Africa, the wild ginger can be found growing in bushveld regions and rocky areas. It is extinct in parts of its historical range.

Field Notes

As it is substantially used in traditional medicines, wild ginger has been extensively harvested and is now nearing extinction. It is used in the Zulu culture to ward off lightning and snakes. The rootstock and roots are chewed fresh as a treatment for asthma, cold, flu and coughs. It is also chewed fresh by Swati women during menstruation to relieve pain, and is used against malaria. The plant is now being cultivated to safeguard its survival.