Singapore Government Logo

A Singapore Government Agency Website

Costus stenophyllus


Costus stenophyllus Standl. & L.O.Williams

Family Name: Costaceae
Common Name: Bamboo Ginger, Bamboo Costus, Snake Ginger, Red Snake Ginger

Costus stenophyllus or Bamboo Ginger is a rhizomatous herb that grows to 2 m in height. It is known for its bamboo-like stems covered in brown and white stripes and thin linear foliage. The spike inflorescence is red, oval produced at the base of the plant while yellow tubular flowers yellow and tubular emerge from between the bracts. This herb is suitable for as a hedge, planted in balconies or containers under full sunlight conditions.


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names
Species Summary

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Monocotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 2 m


Native Distribution Costa Rica
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Non-native

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is an evergreen spiral ginger which can grow to a height of 2 m and uncharacteristically straight, erect stems that only spiral slightly at the top.
Foliage Its foliage are thin and linear-lanceolate, pubescent on the upper surface. They have a smooth to wavy leaf margin, pointed tip, spirally arranged along the top half of the plant. Especially in the younger leaves, they are slightly folded inwards along the midvein. The young stems have light and dark green stripes which matures to brown and white resembling the appearance of bamboo grass.
Flowers Its flowers emerge between the red scale-like bracts of the spike inflorescence. The oval Inflorescences occur singly and are borne on thick, curved stalks that arise from the bottom of the plant. Only large, mature plants produce inflorescences while the true flowers are yellow and tubular.
Fruit Its fruits are fleshy, containing black, oval seeds surrounded by white fleshy tissue.
Habitat Occurs in lowland rainforests.
Cultivation Plant this species in fertile, well-drained, but moist soil that is slightly acidic to neutral (pH = 6 - 7.5). Individuals should be spaced 0.3 - 0.4 m apart. Protect plants from direct sun and wind. Potted plants will eventually need to be divided and re-potted, because the rhizome will outgrow the pot.
Etymology The genus "Costus" is Latin for fragrant plant. The species epithet "stenophyllus" is derived from the Latin words for narrow ("steno") and leaf ("phyllus"). This species is called "Snake Costus," because the oval inflorescences borne on thick curved stalks resemble snakes.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping This species looks best in mass plantings, creating a bamboo-like appearance. The advantage of planting this species over bamboo is that bamboo tends to grow aggressively, whereas Bamboo Costus does not. Another advantage is that bamboo flowers are typically not showy, while the inflorescence of Bamboo Costus is large and bright red. This species will grow well in containers and is suitable for balconies, but make sure plants receive at last 6 hours of light. The erect, tightly spaced stems could also be used as a hedge.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Stems
Landscape Uses General, Hedge / Screening, Container Planting
Thematic Landscaping Zen / Minimalist Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Vertebrates (Bird))

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade, Full Sun
Water Preference Lots of Water, Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Acidic (low pH) Soils
Propagation Method Division, Storage Organ (Rhizome)


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Spiral
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire, Entire - Wavy / Undulate
Foliar Apex - Tip Acuminate
Foliar Base Attenuate

Non - Foliar and Storage

Stem Type & Modification Herbaceous
Root Type Underground (Fibrous Root)
Specialised Storage Organ(s) Underground (Rhizome)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers , Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Red, Yellow / Golden
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Individual Flower Shape Tubular
Inflorescence Type Spike
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Fleshy Fruit , Fleshy Fruit


References Riyas, C.T & Dan, M (2018). Comparative macroscopic and microscopic foliar characterization of twelve species belong to four genera in family Costaceae. International Journal of Research and Analytical Reviews, 5(4), pp. 753 - 758.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (continuously updated). Plants of the World Online | Kew Science. Accessed 05 January 2022.

Image Repository



Master ID 578
Species ID 1873
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 27 November 2023.