This plant is a perennial species of ginger native to East Asia. The plants can grow up to 8-10 feet tall and bear colorful funnel-shaped flowers. They are grown as ornamentals and their leaves may be used in cuisine and traditional medicine. Zongzi, a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings may be wrapped in the large flat leaves of Alpinia zerumbet. The ground leaves of Alpinia zerumbet have been sold as both an anti-hypertension and anti-stress medication.
The common names of the plant include shell flower, pink porcelain lily, variegated ginger or butterfly ginger. The individual pink flowers, especially when in bud resemble sea shells. The flowers droop from the ends of leafy stems rather than rise directly from the plant rhizomes. This feature distinguishes Alpinia zerumbet from other members of the ginger family.
The genus name honors Prosper Alpino a 16-17th century botanist.