Curcuma inodora (scentless turmeric)
An attractive, perennial herb from India, scentless turmeric is cultivated as an ornamental and also used in traditional medicine.
Curcuma indoor in Narsapur, Medak district, Andhra Pradesh, India. (Photo: J. M. Garg, licensed under CC by 3.0)
Curcuma inodora Blatt.
scentless turmeric, hidden lily
Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Tropical moist deciduous forest.
About this species
Scentless turmeric is a perennial herb found only in India, where it is used in traditional medicine for the treatment of muscular pain, psychosomatic disorders and constipation.
A genus within the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), Curcuma contains nearly 100 species, including turmeric (Curcuma longa), the underground stems of which are the source of the bright yellow spice. The name Curcuma comes from the Arabic kurkum meaning turmeric.
Curcuma purpurea Blatt.
Geography and distribution
Curcuma inodora is native to India. It is reported to occur in Maharashtra, extending up to northern Karnataka, and has been more recently reported from Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. It is common in barren, laterite areas, plains and roadside cuttings, and also occurs in tropical moist deciduous forest.
A perennial herb that can grow up to 120 cm tall. Flowers are large, showy, pink-purple with a dark yellow band at the centre.
The plant is dormant from November to April/May when it appears above-ground again, growing up from its rhizomes (underground stems). This dormancy has given rise to the common name hidden lily.
Threats and conservation
The main threats to Curcuma inodora come from habitat loss and overharvesting (for local medicinal use and the horticultural trade). Its habitats have suffered from conversion to agricultural land and human settlements and are now highly fragmented over large parts of its range. However, occurrence of C. inodora along roadsides suggests that the species is able to persist and regenerate in disturbed and secondary vegetation.
Ornamental gingers have rapidly increased in popularity in the western world in the past few years, promoting an increase in illegal collecting.
Conservation assessments carried out at Kew
Curcuma inodora is being monitored as part of the 'IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants' project, which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.
Curcuma inodora is used in traditional medicine for the treatment of muscular pain. Tubers are mixed with water to form a paste, which is applied locally. It is also used in the treatment of psychosomatic disorders and constipation.
An attractive plant with large, showy flowers, scentless turmeric is also cultivated as an ornamental.
This species at Kew
Pressed and dried specimens of Curcuma inodora are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of herbarium specimens of some other Curcuma species can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.
Jagtap, S. D. et al. (2009). Traditional ethnomedicinal knowledge confined to the Pawra tribe of Satpura hills, Maharashtra, India. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 13: 98–115.
Leong-Škorničková, J., Šída, O. & Marhold, K. (2010). Back to types! Towards stability of names in Indian Curcuma L. (Zingiberaceae). Taxon 59: 269–282.
Mangaly, J. K. & Sabu, M. (1993). A taxonomic revision of the south Indian species of Curcuma. Rheeda 3: 139–171.
Patil, H. M. & Bhaskar, V. V. (2005). Medicinal uses of plants by tribal medicine men of Nandurbar district Maharashtra. Natural Product Radiance 5: 125–130.
Raju, V. S., Reddy, C. S. & Ragan, A. (2006). Curcuma L. (Zingiberaceae) in Andhra Pradesh: a preliminary study. Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 30: 773–775.
Reddy, S. et al. (2006). Ethnobotanical observations of some endemic plants of Eastern Ghats, India. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 10: 82–91.
Rommand-Monnier, F. (2009). Curcuma inodora. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Curcuma inodora. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (Accessed 12 March 2012). Available online.
Kew Science Editor: Malin Rivers and Patricia Malcolm
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell
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