Curcuma australasica – Native Turmeric

A stunning tropical flowering plant, common in the tropics of Australia particularly Cape York, but also growing in Papua New Guinea. It is the native turmeric plant, known as kumbigi to Guugu Yimithirr people of North Queensland, and the roots of the plant can be roasted and eaten. There is a white flowering form found occasionally in the wild.
Grows on rainforest margins and in shaded areas, and the plant dies back to the perennial rhizome in the dry season. Needs rich, well drained soil in the sun. It needs to be grown in a heated greenhouse in the southern parts of Australia, but apparently can be grown in temperate climates in a protected, shady position. If it is knocked down by light frosts, it will resprout once warm weather comes. Often the exotic Indian species C. inodora is sold as the Australian species, however the Indian species is much faster growing with leaves larger than 1m, the leaves having red bands and colouring.

Scientific Name:Curcuma australasica
Common Name:Native Turmeric
Other Common Names:Cape York Lily, Kumbigi
Plant Type:Small shrub, Clumping perennial, Bulb or bulb-like
Height:1 ~ 1.5 metre
Width:0.5 ~ 1 metre
Flower Colour:White, Yellow, Pink
Flowering Time:Summer
Ph Level:Neutral
Soil Type:Sandy, Loamy, Sandy loam, Clay loam, Potting mix
Plant Environment:Low maintenance garden, Courtyard, Container growing, Flower garden
Climate Zone:Tropical, Sub-tropical, Warm temperate
Light:Light shade, Half shade
Planting Season:Spring
Growth Habit:Deciduous, Open foliage, Spreading
Soil Moisture:Well-drained, Moist moderate drainage
Propagation Method:Seed, Bulb, Division
Frost Tolerance:Not frost tolerant
Plant Usage:Feature plant
Special Uses:Edible, Cut flower, Bog gardens, Playground friendly






Once you have found the plant that you want, the next step is to find where to get it. Visit or ring your favourite nursery to see if they have it in stock. If they don’t, they may be able to order it in for you.  Specialist nurseries are also able to give great advice, and if they don’t have the plant you want, they can often suggest an alternative to you. Below is a list of our favourite specialist nurseries, and some who do mail order. Click on the links for their details-


The Wildflower Place Erina – NSW 


Sydney Wildflower Nursery – NSW


Newcastle Wildflower Nursery – NSW


Cool Country Natives – ACT


Geelong Native Plants – Victoria


Wimmera Native Nursery – Victoria


Zanthorrea Nursery – Perth WA


Manuka Native Nursery – South Australia


Sydney Wildflower Nursery – mail order


The Native Shop – mail order




Angus recommends Bush Tucker fertiliser for native plants.