Geography and distribution
Zingiber cernuum is native to the Western Ghats of western India, where it has been recorded as common in moist shady places in semi-evergreen forests. It has been reported to occur in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala.
Zingiber cernuum (curved-stem ginger) (Photo: Dinesh Valke)
Overview: Perennial herb, up to about 1–2 m. Leafy stems are bright green and always curved at the tip.
Leaves: Oblong-lanceolate, smooth on both sides.
Flowers: Borne directly from the rootstock, appearing just above the ground. The lip is variegated red and white and the side lobes are variegated red and yellow.
Fruits: Yellowish-white and smooth. Seeds are red and striated (marked with fine, longitudinal grooves) when unripe.
Threats and conservation
Zingiber cernuum is reported to be fairly common in its natural habitat, with a widespread distribution, and is not considered to be threatened at this time. However, most natural forest in the region has been cleared and converted to agriculture and plantations. The remaining habitat is highly fragmented in a region where the human population density is high, and hence ongoing monitoring of this species is desirable.
It is estimated that between 1920 and 1990 forest cover in the Western Ghats declined by 40%, and few large blocks of intact forest remain. Many remaining forest patches that harbour endemic species are being converted to rubber, eucalyptus, coffee, teak, tea, cardamom or coconut plantations.
Conservation assessments carried out by Kew
Zingiber cernuum 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.
This species at Kew
Theodore Cooke wrote in The Flora of the Presidency of Bombay in 1908 of the difficulty of obtaining specimens of curved-stem ginger: ‘The plant unfortunately flowers in July, at which time the whole of the hill-sides are streaming with water, rendering plant-collecting a task of no ordinary difficulty. It is hoped that local botanists will endeavour to procure specimens, describe them when fresh, and send some to the Kew Herbarium.’ Despite his optimism, there are no herbarium specimens of Zingiber cernuum at Kew to-date.
The details, including some images, of pressed and dried specimens of many other Zingiber species can be seen in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.
Various members of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) are grown in the hot, moist section of the Princess of Wales Conservatory.