Species: S. Aethiopicus
Common names: Natal ginger, Wild ginger (English); Wildegemmer (Afrikaans); indungulo, isiphephetho (Zulu).
Siphonochilus has quite a distinctive aroma - coming from the rhizomatus roots. In Springtime, the leaves sprout from the underground stem. The leaves can grow up to about 40cm individually. Siphonochilus, which is a forerst floor plant, has it's male and female organs borne on separate plants - the male plants grows taller than the females. The fruits, which are small berries or berry-like, grows near the ground. The natural habitat of Siphonochilus is South Africa - the word Aethiopicus basically means "from South Africa"
Siphonochilus have been used as a medicine to treat both human and animals. It has been given to horses as a prevention of sickness.
Human use of the rhizomes and roots:
Hysteria, colds and flu, coughs and also to treat asthma. The plant is taken orally - either chewed fresh or brewed in the form of a tea.
Further use of Wild ginger by the Zulu people are as protection against snakes and also lightning.
The flowers vary from white with a yellow centre to bright pink and has a distinctive scent. The flowers are shaped in a lip and very attractive. Due to the plant's popularity for its medicinal value, it has been exploited naturally and almost reached the point of extinction.
The roots and rhizomes are still being sold on the muti-market. This plant is currently listed in the Red Data book of South African plants.
The wild ginger belongs to the same family as the true ginger which is widely used for culinary purposes. This family is reputed to have a number of important spice plants such as turmeric and cardamom. There are also a number of very attractive garden plants which belong to this family.