Sunday 6 August 2017

Zingiber alba: A new species of Ginger from Sumatra.

Sumatra is the world's fifth largest island, and is considered a biodiversity hotspot, being largely covered by tropical rainforest, and having a large number of endemic animals and plants (i.e. species not found elsewhere). One group known to have a very high diversity on the island are the Gingers, Zingiberaceae, with a large number of species known to local people, who use the plants for a variety of different purposes, including foodstuffs, dyes and medicines, yet relatively few species formally described by plant taxonomists.

In a paper published in the journal Taiwania on 20 July 2017, Nurainas Nurainas of the Herbarium Universitas Andalas, and Dayar Arbain of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Sumatran Biota Laboratory at Andalas University, describe a new species of Ginger from Sumatra.

The new species is placed in the genus Zingiber, True Gingers, and given the specific name alba, meaning 'white' in reference to the colour ot its flower bracts; it is known locally by the name Penggalan. It is a rhizomous herbaceous plant reaching 3-3.5 m in height, with up to 22 leaves recorded on a single plant. The flowers are born on bracts that rise from the base of the plant, reaching 40 cm in height.

Zingiber alba. (A) The plant habit. (B) Part of the pseudostem showing the lower part of leaves and ligules. (C) Inflorescence. Nurainas & Arbain (2017).

The species was found across West Sumatra, as well as in the Batang Gadis National Park in North Sumatra. It was observed in flower in February and May, and producing fruit in October.

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