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a genus of herbaceous plants of the family Zin-giberaceae. They are perennial plants, 0.5–3 m tall, with thick rootstocks. The leaves are usually large and lance-shaped or oblong. The flowers are in dense, spike-like inflorescences surrounded by bracts that are sometimes brightly colored. There are more than 40 species, mainly in tropical Asia and a few in northern Australia and tropical Africa. Many species of Curcuma have long been cultivated as food, spice, and medicinal plants. The most important is turmeric (C. longa), whose aromatic rootstock is used as an ingredient in spicy seasonings. The yellow dye obtained from it is used to dye fabrics and color butter and cheeses. The rootstock of C. zedoaria is used in medicine and perfumery; a starchy meal (a substitute for arrowroot) is obtained from it and from other species.