Monday 30 September 2013

A new species of Turmeric from the Bù Gia Mập National Park in southern Vietnam.

Turmeric (Curcuma) plants are members of the Ginger Family (Zingiberaceae) native to India, southern China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. Several species are grown for use as a spice or dye, and the more colourful species are popular garden plants in tropical areas, though they need constant warm temperatures and high rainfall to thrive. The plants can reproduce both sexually by flowering and asexually by means of rhizomes (modified underground stems). These rhizomes, when cooked and dried, are also the source of spices and dyes derived from the plants.

In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 26 August 2013, Jana Leong-Škorničková of The Herbarium at Singapore Botanic Gardens and Lưu Hồng Trường of the Southern Institute of Ecology at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, describe a new species of Turmeric found growing in the Bù Gia Mập National Park in southern Vietnam.

The new species is named Curcuma leonidii, Leonid Averyanov of the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, an expert on Vietnamese Orchids who discovered the first specimens of the species. Curcuma leonidii is a 30 cm herbaceous plant producing unbranching, bulb-like rhizomes and root tubers. It produces white flowers with yellow and red central parts in clusters of up to seven, low down on the plant between the leaves.

Curcuma leonidii. Leong-Škorničková & Lưu (2013).

The species is found in the understory of lowland tropical forests, usually near streams, at altitudes of between 350  and 400 m. It flowers in April-May and fruits in June. The species is known from several sites within the Bù Gia Mập National Park (which covers around 260 km²), but is unknown from outside the park, for which reason Leong-Škorničková & Lưu recommend that it be considered to be Endangered under the terms of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

The approximate location of the Bù Gia Mập National Park. Google Maps.

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