Description from Flora of China
Herbs perennial, terrestrial, rarely epiphytic, aromatic, with fleshy, tuberous or non-tuberous rhizomes, often with tuber-bearing roots. Stems usually short, replaced by pseudostems formed by leaf sheaths. Leaves distichous, simple, those toward base of plant usually bladeless and reduced to sheaths; leaf sheath open; ligule usually present; petiole present or not, located between leaf blade and sheath, cushionlike in Zingiber; leaf blade suborbicular or lanceolate to narrowly strap-shaped, rolled longitudinally in bud, glabrous or hairy, midvein prominent, lateral veins usually numerous, pinnate, parallel, margin entire. Inflorescence terminal on pseudostems or on separate, short, sheath-covered shoots arising from rhizomes, cylindric or fusiform, sometimes globose, lax to dense, few to many flowered, sometimes with bracteolate cincinni in bract axils and then a thyrse, sometimes a raceme or spike; bracts and bracteoles present, often conspicuous, colored. Flowers bisexual, epigynous, zygomorphic. Calyx usually tubular, thin, split on 1 side, sometimes spathelike, apex 3-toothed or -lobed. Corolla proximally tubular, distally 3-lobed; lobes varying in size and shape. Stamens or staminodes 6, in 2 whorls. Lateral 2 staminodes of outer whorl petaloid, or forming small teeth at base of labellum, or adnate to labellum, or absent. Median staminode of outer whorl always reduced. Labellum formed from lateral 2 staminodes of inner whorl. Fertile stamen median, of inner whorl; filament long or short; anther locules 2, introrse, dehiscing by slits or occasionally pores; connective often extended basally into spurs and/or apically into a crest. Ovary inferior, 3-loculed initially, 1- or 3-loculed when mature; ovules ± numerous per locule; placentation parietal, basal, or axile. Developed style 1, very thin, placed in a furrow in filament and between anther locules; stigma appearing above anther, funnelform, papillose, ± wet, margin often ciliate. Stylodes 2, reduced to nectaries at apex of ovary. Fruit a capsule, fleshy or dry, dehiscent or indehiscent, sometimes berrylike. Seeds few to many, arillate; aril often lobed or lacerate.
Wu Te-lin, Chen Sen-jen, Tsai Hsi-tao, Tong Shao-quan, Chen Pei-shan & Zhao Shi-wang. 1981. Zingiberaceae subfam. Zingiberoideae. In: Wu Te-lin, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 16(2): 22--148.
About 50 genera and 1300 species: pantropical with center of diversity in S and SE Asia, some species in America and subtropical and warm-temperate Asia; 20 genera (one endemic) and 216 species (141 endemic, four introduced) in China.
(Authors: Wu Delin (吴德邻 Wu Te-lin)1; Kai Larsen2)