Only available in Queensland
Native Turmeric (also called the “Cape York lily”) is a moisture-loving flowering ginger, native to northern Australia. It is the only native Australian Curcuma plant out of over 100 or more species around the world. It featured as a roast root vegetable in Guugu Yimithirr Aboriginal cuisine. Native Turmeric occurs naturally on Cape York Peninsula (QLD), in the Northern Territory, and in Papua New Guinea, typically in wet woodland and forest areas, and in moist pockets across sandstone regions.
Native Turmeric rhizomes can be used as a local substitute for Asian turmeric, giving a warm, earthy quality to a variety of savoury dishes — think curries, stews, meat seasonings and more. Alternatively, try this spice in sweet turmeric recipes, such as spiced biscuits, cakes, puddings, and your morning latte. This plant also produces fruits, however they are not edible.
This species puts on a spectacular flowering from November to March in tropical/subtropical regions, producing tall, showy flower spikes bearing pink or red bracts and white or yellow buds. Consider the plant’s first bloom as a sign of maturity, and allow another year of growth and spread before harvesting the rhizomes. To harvest, trim the above-ground parts of the plant 2-3 weeks prior to harvest. Then, gently dig up the outer rhizomes without disturbing the main plant. (Or you can dig up the main plant, leaving the younger rhizomes for the following season.)
The perennial Native Turmeric is a tropical ginger that prefers a rich, well-drained soil and full sun, but should also do well in clay loam or sandy loam in a partly shaded spot. Water well while the plant is growing, but keep it relatively dry during dormancy. Gardeners in colder regions of Australia may have more success growing this species in a heated greenhouse. Native Turmeric is not frost-tolerant, however a healthy specimen may survive light frost damage and resprout the following Spring.
The above-ground parts of Native Turmeric can reach 1m in height and up to 1m in spread. This plant is well-suited to ornamental gardens, bog gardens, tropical courtyards, and edible micro-forest garden beds. Like other gingers, it’s suitable for growing in medium to large containers.
- Kumbigi (Guugu Yimithirr)
Given the Native Turmeric goes dormant, when is the best time to plant it in my garden?
We recommend planting your Native Turmeric rhizomes in the Spring, as early as possible but after the last frost. Given ideal conditions, your plant may establish and grow quickly enough to flower in the coming Summer. Be sure to protect Native Turmeric from frost, even when it is dormant,
The flowers look amazing! Are they edible too? Can I at least use them as a garnish?
While some species of turmeric do produce edible flowers, we do not currently have data on whether Native Turmeric is one of them. However you may get away with using them as table decoration. Consider planting smaller rhizomes in decorative containers if you wish to enjoy the aesthetic qualities of this plant indoors, as flowers may wilt or oxidise quickly once cut.
Do I need to fertilise my Native Turmeric?
Apply a slow-release fertiliser once your Native Turmeric produces its first shoots during the warm season.