Order Zingiberales / Ginger, Orchidantha & Banana Plants

    Order Zingiberales

    Zingiberales’ order comprises several species of great economic importance, like the banana and the ginger. Members have almost restricted distribution to tropical regions. Zingiberales species have ptyxis, large flowers, attractive colors, and inferior ovaries. Pollination of Zingiberales involves a diverse group of pollinators (insects, birds, and fruit bats).

    Zingiberales Families

    Zingiberales Families

    Zingiberales has a well-defined, monophyletic group of 8 families, 92 genera, and more than 2100 species. The eight families under Zingiberales are:

    • Musaceae (Banana family)
    • Strelitziaceae (Bird-of-paradise flower family).
    • Lowiaceae (Orchidantha inoue, Orchidantha maxillarioides, Orchidantha chinensis & a few more).
    • Heliconiaceae (Platanillio family)
    • Zingiberaceae (Ginger family)
    • Costaceae (Costus family)
    • Cannaceae (Canna Lily family).
    • Marantaceae (Arrowroot family)

    Zingiberales Distribution

    Zingiberales Distribution

    The members under Zingiberales have almost restricted distribution to tropical regions. They occur primarily in wet lowlands or understory flora of wet tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

    • The order’s most prominent family, Zingiberaceae (ginger family), comprises 53 genera and over 1, 300 species[1]. This family is broadly distributed all over the tropics and subtropics. However, the species are incredibly abundant in Southeast Asia.
    • The families of Heliconiaceae, Marantaceae (arrowroot family), and Costaceae are mostly Neotropical. Musaceae, the banana family (2 genera and 40 species), is native to Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Strelitziaceae (3 genera and 7 species[2] ) are tropical and subtropical. They are found in Madagascar, the Northeast of South America, and the Southeast of the African continent.
    • Lowiaceae (1 genus and 10-20 species)[3] are found in tropical China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malesia, West Malaysia, and Borneo.
    • The Cannaceae (1 genus and 10 species)[4] are scattered from the southeastern part of Noth America through South America.

    Zingiberales Characteristics

    Zingiberales Characteristics

    Zingiberales Flowers and Reproduction

    Zingiberales Flowers and Reproduction

    The flowers of Zingiberaceae are brightly colored with nectars in the flower tubes. The presence of the 2 or 3 fused stamens or labellum combined with the pair of petal-like stamens makes the flowers look like an orchid.

    • The flowers can be solitary or in spike, raceme, or thyrse inflorescences. They are bracteates, epigynous, bisexual, and zygomorphicWhat is zygomorphic?A characteristic of the flower having only one plane of symmetry, as in a pea or snapdragon; bilaterally symmetrical; especially about a flower or corolla; Opposite is Actinomorphic; irregular flower;. The perianth has two whorls, the calyx, and the 3-lobed petaloid tubular corolla.
    • The androecium is made up of 1 stamen (fertile). There are four petaloid staminodes, the 2-form anterior labellum in the inner whorl connate and the other 2 in the outer whorl. The ovary is inferior, and the fruit is capsule or berrylike.
    • Musaceae flowers[5] are medium-sized to large and are very irregular. The inflorescence is a terminal thyrse of few-flowered cymes. Flowers are bracteateWhat is bracteate?Possessing or bearing bracts., zygomorphic, and functionally unisexual. There are 2 series of 6 petaloid tepals in the flower’s perianth. There are 5 fertile stamens and a staminode in the androecium. The gynoecium comprises 3 carpels in a single pistil, 1 style, and an inferior ovary. The fruit is a berry with many seeds.
    • Strelitziaceae flowers[6] can be brightly colored or not, with inflorescence resembling a crested bird head. The flowers arise from the shiplike spathe or large bract. As Musaceae, flowers are also irregular and zygomorphic. Strelitziaceae are perfect flowers with 5 to 6 stamens, septal nectaries, and inferior ovaries.
    • Pollination of Zingiberales[7] involves a diverse group of pollinators, comprising moths, butterflies, bees, flies, beetles, birds, bats, and lemurs. A study conducted[8] in Borneo conducted investigating the relationship between Zingiberaceae’s floral morphology and the types of pollinators. Gingers with longer floral tubes are pollinated by the Spiderhunts. The gingers with wider lips are more visited by the Amegilla insects. The Zingiberaceae species with smaller pistils and stamens are more prone to Halictid- pollination.
    • The Musaceae[9] species are visited by insects. However, hummingbirds, sunbirds, and fruit bats are also considered pollinators. Another research on Musaceae pollination[10] showed that long-tongued fruit bats pollinate Musaceae species with pendent (hanging down) inflorescence. Those with erect inflorescence are either self-pollinating or pollinated by sunbirds and tree shrews.
    • A study[11] on Lowiaceae pollination resulted in the addition of dung-beetle to the list of pollinators. The Orchidantha (genus 0f Lowiaceae) is frequently visited and pollinated by scarabaeid dung beetles.

    Zingiberales Family Differences

    The families under the Zingiberales order have the following differences.



    • Plants are arborescentWhat is arborescent?Becoming tree-like. suckers or acaulescent, with a stem having dichotomous branching.
    • The leaves are alternate and arranged distichously.
    • The inflorescence is a terminal or lateral thyrse.
    • The flowers are perfect.
    • Septal nectaries are present.
    • The fruit is a dehiscent capsule.
    • The seeds are inoperculate and arillate with starchy endosperm.


    Within monocotyledonous flowering plants, the order Zingiberales contains the petite Lowiaceae family, a botanical wonder named to honor the revered British botanist Richard Low. His passion for unraveling the mysteries of tropical flora, most notably in Borneo, left an indelible mark on the field.

    Encompassed within this fascinating family is the solitary genus, Orchidantha, boasting a modest yet captivating assortment of approximately 10-20 distinct species. These botanical jewels hail from the exotic lands of Southeast Asia, sprinkling their beauty across countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the enchanting Philippines.



    • Plants are herbaceous, aromatic, and possess rhizomes.
    • Members have pseudostems.
    • The leaves are simple and distichous. They have ligules.
    • Inflorescence can be terminal thyrse, raceme, or spike. Bracts are present.
    • Two nectaries are present.
    • The stigmas are funnelform.
    • The fruit is a dehiscent or indehiscent capsule.
    • The seeds are arillate.


    • Plants are non-aromatic, perennial herbs with rhizomes. They can be terrestrial or epiphytic (rare).
    • The stems are terete and usually without a branch.
    • The leaves are tubular ligulate, with spiral arrangements and close sheaths. The petiole is short with narrow to the broad elliptical lamina.
    • The flowers can be solitary, axillary, or spike (terminal on the leafy or leafless shoot).
    • The flowers are epigynous and perfect.
    • Fruit is a loculicidal and dehiscent or indehiscent capsule.
    • Seeds are arillate with poorly develop endosperm.


    • Plants are perennial with rhizomes.
    • The leaves are big, alternate, and spirally arranged. The sheathing base is present while the ligule is absent.
    • The flowers are perfect and large with attractive colors. The inflorescence is terminal, simple, or compound thyrse.
    • The septal nectaries are present.
    • Fruit is usually a loculicidal, sometimes indehiscent capsule.
    • Seeds are not arillate with very hard starchy endosperm.


    Zingiberales Example Species

    Zingiberales Example Species

    Species under Zingiberales are very beneficial. Some members are used as ornamentals, folk medicine, food, and food spices. The following are plants under the order Zingiberales:

    • Shell Ginger[12] – The species is grown as a houseplant or patio plant.
    • Red Ginger[13] – The species is commonly planted for ornamental purposes.
    • Wild Banana[14] – The fruit is edible.
    • Cavandish Banana – The fruit is edible.
    • Bird of Paradise[15] – The plant is of ornamental value.
    • Traveler’s Tree[16] – The plant has many beneficial uses. The seed and the fruit (raw) are edible. The seed oil is sometimes used in cooking. The leaves are consumed for roofing and packing material purposes. Traveler’s tree also possesses medicinal uses.
    • Lobak Hutan[17] – This plant has ornamental foliage and flowers desirable for landscaping.
    • Toucan Beak – The plant has ornamental value; ideal for outdoor planting.
    • Orange Tulip Ginger[18] – The plant has ornamental flowers. It is commonly used for landscaping.
    • African Arrowroot – The tubers of this species are edible.

    Suggested Reading: Big Colorful Butterflies

    Cite This Page

    BioExplorer.net. (2024, July 12). Order Zingiberales / Ginger, Orchidantha & Banana Plants. Bio Explorer. https://www.bioexplorer.net/order-zingiberales/.
    BioExplorer.net. "Order Zingiberales / Ginger, Orchidantha & Banana Plants" Bio Explorer, 12 July 2024, https://www.bioexplorer.net/order-zingiberales/.
    BioExplorer.net. "Order Zingiberales / Ginger, Orchidantha & Banana Plants" Bio Explorer, July 12 2024. https://www.bioexplorer.net/order-zingiberales/.
    Key References
    • [1]“Zingiberaceae – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [2]“Strelitziaceae – The Plant List”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [3]“Inflorescence and Flower Development in Orchidantha chinensis T. L. Wu (Lowiaceae; Zingiberales): Similarities to Inflorescence Structure in the Strelitziaceae | International Journal of Plant Sciences: Vol 181, No 7”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [4]“Cannaceae | Tropical Biodiversity”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [5]“Musaceae | SpringerLink”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [6]“Strelitziaceae | SpringerLink”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [7]“Tail-like anther crest aids pollination by manipulating pollinator’s behaviour in a wild ginger | Scientific Reports”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [8]“Three Pollination Guilds and Variation in Floral Characteristics of Bornean Gingers (Zingiberaceae and Costaceae) on JSTOR”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [9]“Studies on Pollination in Musaceae on JSTOR”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [10]“Studies on Pollination in Musaceae | Annals of Botany | Oxford Academic”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [11]“A New Pollination System: Dung-Beetle Pollination Discovered in Orchidantha inouei (Lowiaceae, Zingiberales) in Sarawak, Malaysia on JSTOR”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [12]“Variegated Shell Ginger, Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’ – Wisconsin Horticulture”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [13]“Alpinia purpurata (red ginger)”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [14]“Musa acuminata (wild banana)”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [15]“Strelitzia reginae (Queens bird-of-paradise)”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [16]“Ravenala madagascariensis – Useful Tropical Plants”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [17]“”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.
    • [18]“NParks | Costus productus”. Accessed February 05, 2022. Link.


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