Etlingera elatior – Torch Ginger

Etlingera elatior - Torch Ginger, Torch-ginger, Philippine Waxflower (flowers)

Etlingera elatior - Torch Ginger, Torch-ginger, Philippine Waxflower (leaves)

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Etlingera elatior

Synonyms: Nicolaia elatior, Phaeomeria magnifica

Common Names: Torch Ginger, Torch-ginger, Philippine Waxflower

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial

Growth Habit: Herb/Forb

Hawaii Native Status: Cultivated, but it can appear to be growing wild. This ornamental garden plant is native to parts of Southeast Asia.

Flower Color: Red, Pink, White (rare)

Height: Up to 20 feet (6 m) tall

Description: The large, torch-like, up to 5 foot (1.5 m) tall flower stalks emerge from fleshy underground rhizomes. The inflorescences have waxy, red to pink, white-edged bracts and are pinecone-shaped with a skirt of larger bracts. The individual flowers emerge from between the colorful bracts and have a dark red labellum (lip petal) with a bright yellow margin. The flowers are followed by green to reddish fruit. The leaf blades are green, hairless, lanceolate in shape, and up to 32 inches (81 cm) long. The pseudostems (formed by the leaf sheaths) emerge from underground rhizomes and are tall and arching.

Torch Ginger is one of the tallest, if not the tallest ginger found here in Hawaii. It can escape from gardens in wet to mesic (moderately wet) areas. The flowers make nice, long lasting cut flowers for tropical flower arrangements.

Special Characteristics

Edible – The unopened flower buds are edible and very flavorful, and they are used in Southeast Asian cooking.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
Subclass: Zingiberidae
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Zingiberaceae – Ginger family
Genus: Etlingera Giseke – waxflower
Species: Etlingera elatior (Jack) R.M. Sm. – torch-ginger