Scientific Name: Costus woodsonii
Common Names: Indian Head Ginger, Indianhead Ginger, Red Cane, Scarlet Spiral Flag
Growth Habit: Shrub, Subshrub, Herb
Hawaii Native Status: Introduced, Cultivated. This mostly cultivated but also locally naturalized ornamental garden plant is native to Central and South America.
Flower Color: Reddish orange and yellow. The more conspicuous floral bracts are dark red.
Height: Up to 12 feet (3.7 m) tall
Description: The tubular, orange to red-orange flowers emerge one at a time from between shiny, red, tightly overlapping floral bracts on round-tipped, egg-shaped to cylindrical inflorescences at the stem tips. The individual flowers remain almost closed and have a barely revealed yellow labellum (lower lip petal). Young plantlets emerge from the base of the old inflorescences and can take root if they touch the ground. The leaves are glossy, dark green, hairless, spirally arranged, drooping, and elliptic to egg-shaped. The cane-like stems emerge from underground rhizomes and are erect to leaning.
Here in Hawaii, Indian Head Ginger grows in sunny to shady gardens with moist soil. The plants spread by rhizomes, plantlets, or stem cuttings. The showy inflorescences make long lasting cut flowers in tropical flower arrangements.
Spiked Spiralflag (Costus spicatus) is commonly misidentified as this plant, but Spiked Spiralflag has larger flowers with a much larger, ruffled, yellow labellum, red-green floral bracts, and leaves with hair along the upper midrib.
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
Family: Costaceae – Costus family
Genus: Costus L. – costus
Species: Costus woodsonii Maas