Crepe Ginger is a species of flowering plant in the family Costaceae. Some botanists have now revived the synonym Hellenia speciosafor this species. It is native to Southeast Asia and surrounding regions, from India to China to Queensland, It is especially common on the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is also reportedly naturalized in Mauritius, Fiji, Hawaii, Cosa Rica, and the West Indies. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental.
Despite its common name, crepe ginger is only a distant relative of the edible ginger family. It is a tall and dramatic landscape plant with large dark green leaves arranged on the stalk in a spiral. This Costus can grow to 10 ft tall in frost-free areas, but is typically small as a potted plant. The flowers appear in late summer or early fall, and are quite unusual looking. They form on red 4 in cone-shaped bracts, with several 2 in pure white crinkled flowers protruding from each cone. The flowers look like crepe paper - thus the common name of crepe ginger. After the flowers fade away, the attractive red cone-shaped bracts remain. The large crepy object is not the petal, but the stamen - the three true petals of each flower are inconspicuous, and are alomst hidden by the bell shaped stamen.
Crepe Ginger has many historical uses in Ayurveda, where the rhizome has been used to treat fever, rash, asthma, bronchitis, and intestinal worms. It is mentioned in the Kama Sutra as an ingredient in a cosmetic to be used on the eyelashes to increase sexual attractiveness.