Hedychium coronarium: Butterfly ginger

Family: Zingiberaceae
Common name: Butterfly ginger, Butterfly lily, White ginger lily, Butterfly ginger lily, Garland flower, White garland lily, Cinnamon jasmine, Ginger lily, White ginger, Mariposa, Garland lily, White butterfly ginger, White butterfly ginger lily

Butterfly ginger plants can be planted in a corner of your garden and forgotten, until they bloom with beautiful white flowers that look like butterflies and smell heavenly. Personally, they are my favorite flowers, bringing back memories of my childhood when we had a small patch of lovely Butterfly ginger plants in our garden.

Belonging to the family Zingiberaceae, these plants resemble Ginger and Turmeric plants with their broad, green leaves. They grow from root rhizomes, which are capable of producing new plants, helping the plant grow into large clumps.

These plants can grow to a height of 1-3 meters with long, upright or slanting stems, and lance-shaped leaves. The leaves are 40-50cms long, without stalks. Bases of the leaves are wrapped around the stem, another characteristic feature of plants in Ginger family.

The most distinguishing feature of these plants are the bunches of lovely white flowers that look like butterflies. They are very fragrant filling the night air with their light, jasmine-like fragrance.

The term Hedychium means ‘sweet snow’ which refers to the flowers or to the white rhizomes or root tubers. These rhizomes are edible with a slight spicy warmth like that of ginger.

Once the flowers fall away, the racemes on which they grew become larger and produce red-colored seeds. These seeds have small arils that help it travel small distances before it germinates on the ground.

Butterfly ginger plants are native to tropical Asian countries, and sometimes seen growing in the wild. They make lovely ornamental plants, and are ideal to grow along borders or as short hedges.

These plants flower during spring and autumn, producing large bunches of flowers that can attract birds, bees and butterflies into your gardens. Butterfly ginger flower is the national flower of Cuba and has a lovely name, ‘Mariposa’ which means butterfly in Spanish.

This plant has some medicinal uses in the treatment of sore throats, tonsillitis, bronchitis, chest pain, stomach ailments, sore joints, fever, bruises and strains. Rhizomes are used in preparation of savory dishes in some parts of the world.

Part of the butterfly ginger plant is used in making cosmetic products like masks and skin conditioners. The fragrant flowers are used extensively for making perfumes.

Propagation is through rhizomes and seeds.