A canoe plant brought to Hawai’i by Polynesian settlers. Zingiber zerumbet, commonly called shampoo ginger or `awapuhi, is a clump-forming perennial herb. Cultivated since antiquity, it’s unknown for sure where the native range is. Many people believe India is the home range of `awapuhi.
The genus name ‘Zingiber’ is derived from a Sanskrit word describing the shape of a bull’s horn.
Throughout the ages, `awapuhi has been used in medicine, as flavor enhancement, as food, and perhaps most famous as a shampoo/conditioner/lotion all in one. Additional ways `awapuhi were used in old Hawai’i include making a powder from dried rhizomes to add into kapa for a fresh smell. Today in modern times, `awapuhi has shaped the career of a famous shampoo and conditioner line.
Going dormant in the winter, `awapuhi comes back to life in the Spring. Arising from underground rhizomes emerges a pseudostem with alternately arranged leaves. The inflorescence resembles a pine cone with overlapping bracts. The waxy bracts are green in the Spring, turning a crimson red as the season progresses. The overlapping bracts create a pouch in which the creamy, ginger-smelling mucilaginous substance is made. Coming from in between the bracts are insignificant flowers. They are white, three-petaled, three lipped, and last a short time before withering away and falling off. Summer to late summer is when the inflorescence are the most full of “shampoo.” The leaves of `awapuhi can hide the pinecone shaped inflorescence as they are much taller. `Awapuhi rarely grows above 2.5 feet in Hawai’i. Use a large area for growing `awapuhi as the clump-forming herb fills in quickly. It does best in damp shady places — propagation by dividing rhizomes.
- Aquatic plant
- Container plant
- Cultural significance
- Cut flower
- No dangers