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Plant Species

Plants: Species Collection: Ginger

Members of the Zingerberaceae family are perennial herbs, comprising about 47 genera and around 1,000 species. This family includes gingers, bananas, bird's of paradise, and cannas. The ginger family is found in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. In the Zoo's growing collection there are 61 taxa representing the Americas, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific.


Valued by gardeners for their large, bold leaves and fragrant flowers, many gingers are also used as medicinal or culinary herbs. The most common culinary ginger is true ginger Zingiber officinale, used in kitchens around the world and an essential ingredient in ginger ale and gingerbread. Other spices derived from the ginger family include turmeric and cardamom. Essential oils for perfumes can be extracted from species such as Alpinia and Hedychium.


Gingers are also used extensively as cut flowers due to their delightful fragrance. At the San Diego Zoo, a new ginger garden is continuing to develop at the bottom of Fern Canyon and in Sun Bear Forest. Come by and see the collection as new plantings continue.