Siphonochilus is an African genus of gingers (Family: Zingiberaceae) that was taxonomically separated from the related Asian genus Kaempferia in 1982.

Siphonochilus aethiopicus is a magnificent ginger that occurs naturally in the south-eastern regions of southern Africa. It is a forest-dwelling herbaceous perennial that dies down to a rhizome and tuberous roots during the dry winter months. Sadly this plant is nearly extinct in the wild due to over-exploitation by indigenous tribes for its use in traditional medicine and magi-cultural practises.

This species is easy to grow in pots or raised beds if it is given some shade and a dry winter rest when it is dormant. It will produce its striking scented flowers during the summer months at ground level. The rhizome is also strongly scented of ginger and violets. The photo below by Rogan Roth of Siphonochilus aethiopicus growing in a raised bed demonstrates the habit of the plant nicely.

Siphonochilus aethiopicus, Rogan Roth

Siphonochilus kirkii is a common species existing from Sudan south through eastern Africa to Zimbabwe. Plants grow from a short thick rhizome with tuberous swellings at the apex of the roots. Flowering occurs at the start of the rainy season together with the emergence of the leaves. Flowers are produced successively and the flowering period can last up to a month long. Seeds ripen several months later and require a dry dormancy period before they will germinate. The photos below were taken by Nicholas Wightman of plants growing in Lilayi, Zambia but collected in Eastern Province, Zambia.

Siphonochilus kirkii, Nicholas WightmanSiphonochilus kirkii, Nicholas WightmanSiphonochilus kirkii, Nicholas Wightman

Siphonochilus longitubus is endemic to south central Zambia and grows from ellipsoid tubers. The flowers appear at the start of the rains either with or without the leaves and the seeds develop within the fruits underground. Seeds are distributed by ants. Photos by Nicholas Wightman taken near Lilayi, Zambia of plants collected in Central Province, Zambia.

Siphonochilus longitubus, Lilayi, Nicholas WightmanSiphonochilus longitubus, Lilayi, Nicholas WightmanSiphonochilus longitubus, Lilayi, Nicholas Wightman

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