The genus Zingiber of the family Zingiberaceae is distributed in tropical and subtropical Asia and Far East Asia and consists of about 150 species. Zingiberaceae is of considerable importance as a "spice family." Besides ginger this family includes turmeric, cardamom, large cardamom, grain of paradise, and several others having economic and medicinal importance. Zingiberaceae was earlier divided into the subfamilies Costoideae and Zin-giberoideae, which were later given independent family status as Costaceae and Zingiberaceae. Three tribes were recognized in the subfamily Zingiberoideae by workers such as Peterson (1889) and Schumann (1904); and the genus Zingiber was included in the tribe Zingibereae along with Alpinia, Amomum, and others. This tribe is characterized by the absence of lateral staminodes or staminodes that are united to the labellum, in comparison with tribe Hedychieae, in which the lateral staminodes are well developed. Later Holttum (1950) removed Zingiber from Zingibereae and renamed it as Alpinieae; his argument was that Zingiber is closer to the genera under the Hedychieae as their lateral staminodes appear as lobes at the base of the labellum, whereas in Alpinia these staminodes are well developed. Many later workers accepted the opinion of Holttum. Burtt and Smith, however, felt that the contention of Holttum is nomenclaturally incorrect and proposed that Zingiber should be in an independent tribe (Burtt and Smith, 1983).
The first documentation of ginger was by Van Rheede (1692) in his Hortus Indicus Malabaricus (Vol. 11), the first written account of the plants of India. Van Rheede described the cultivated ginger (Z. officinale) under the local name inschi (inchi). The Indian species was first botanically described by Roxburg (1810), who reported 11 species, and placed them in two sections based on the nature of the spike: Section 1. spikes radical and Section 2. spikes terminal.
Baker (1882) has carried out an exhaustive survey of the Zingiberaceae of Indian Peninsula for The Flora of British India (J.D. Hooker). In this he recognized four sections:
1. Cryptanthemum Horan—Spikes are produced directly from the rhizome and are very short and dense; peduncle very short (11 species)
2. Lampuzium Horan—Spikes produced from the rhizome on more or less elongated peduncles with sheathing scariose bracts (10 species)
3. Pleurantheis Benth—Spike peduncle arising from the side of the leafy stem (1 species)
4. Dymczewiczia (Horan) Benth—Spikes terminal on the leafy stem (2 species)
This subgeneric classification was accepted by later workers including Schumann (1904) in his revision of Zingiberaceae.
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Boehmer and Ludwig, Def.Gen.Pl.89,1760, nom.cons; Benth.&Hook.f.Gen.Pl.
3,646,1883; Baker in Hook.f.Fl.Br.India,7,243,1892; Schum.in Pflan-zen.Zng.165,1904. Type species: Z. officinale.
Holttum (1950) provided the following description for the genus.
Rhizomes as or near surface of the ground, bearing leaf shoots close together. Leaf shoots short to moderately tall, often with many leaves. Leaves thin in texture, never very large (rarely to 50 cm long), sessile or with quite short petioles, the ligule short to long deeply bilobed or entire. Inflorescence on a separate shoot without normal leaves (rarely at the apex of the shoot); scape usually erect, short or long, clothed with two-ranked sheaths that are sometimes colored red; spike short or long, slender or thick, cylindrical, ovoid, or tapering to a narrow apex, elongating gradually. Bracts fairly large, usually brightly colored, red or yellow, usually thinly fleshy, closely imbricating or with apices free, margins plane or inflexed. One flower in the axil of each bract; flowers fragile or short lived. Bracteoles one to each flower, facing the bract, thin and narrower than bract, usually persisting and enclosing the fruit, split to the base, never tubular.
Calyx thin, tubular spathaceous usually shorter than the bracteole, but sometimes longer. Corolla tube slender, usually about as long as the bract; dorsal lobe usually broader than the others, erect, narrowed to the tip, and hardly hooded; edges inflexed, lateral lobes usually below the tip and on either side of it, sometimes joined partly together by their adjacent sides and to the tip; color usually white or cream. Labellum deeply three-lobed (the side lobes representing staminodes), or rarely the side lobes hardly free from the mid lobe, side lobes erect on either side of the stamen, mid lobe shorter than or not greatly longer than the lateral corolla lobes, its apex usually retuse or cleft; color cream to white or more or less deeply suffused with crimson or purple. Filament of stamen short and broad, anther rather long, narrow; connective prolonged into a slender curved beak-like appendage as long as the pollen sac, with inflexed edges, containing the upper part of the style. Stigma protruding just below the apex of the appendage, not thickened, with a circular apical aperture surrounded by stiff hairs. Stylodes usually slender and free, not surrounding the base of the style. Ovary glabrous or hairy, trilocular with several ovules in each loculus. Fruit with a fleshy wall when fresh, more or less leathery when dry, smooth, or hairy, enclosed by the persistent bract or bracteole, dehiscent loculicidally within the persistent bracts. Seed ellipsoid, black or dark brown, covered by a thin saccate white aril with irregularly lacerate edges.
The main distinguishing features of the genus are: (1) long, curved anther-appendage embracing the style, (2) the three-lobed lip (the side lobes are staminodes, which are relatively broad and fused more or less to the mid lobe or lip proper), and (3) the relatively large bracts, each with a single flower and a nontubular bracteole, more or less imbricating on a lengthening inflorescence (Z. clarkei from Sikkim is an exception that has two to four flowers to each bract). The bracts are often but not always colored; in some species, they change color as they grow older. The color of the lip is an important distinguishing character.
The genus contains 150 species: 34 species have been reported from China (Shu, 2003) and 24 species from India (Baker, 1882). The main centers of diversity are South China; Malaysia; Northeast India, Myanmar region, and the Java—Sumatra region of Indonesia; Shu (2003) has recently revised the Chinese species. The only species extensively used as flavoring for food is the true ginger, Z. officinale. Some species like Z. zerumbet and
Z. cassumunnar are well known for their uses in native medicine. Z. mioga is used as a spice and its flower buds are in great demand in Japan as a vegetable.
Roscoe, New arrangements of the plants of the monandrian class usually called "Scita-minea," Trans. Linn. Soc. 8:348, 1807; Valeton, Bull. Buitenz, 2nd Ser., xxvii, 128, 1818; Fluckiger and Hanbury, Pharmacographia, 574, 1874; Engler, Pflanzenw.Ost.-Afrikes and Nachbargebiete, B. Natzpflanzen,.264,1895; Schumann, Zingiberaceae, in Das Pflanzenrich, 4,46,170,1904.
Inschi, Rheede, Hort. Malabaricus, 11,23-25, 1692.
Rhizome entirely pale yellow within or with a red external layer. Leafy stems to about 50 cm tall, 5 mm diameter, glabrous except for short hairs near base of each leaf blade; leaf blades commonly about 17 by 1.8 cm; rather dark green, narrowed evenly to slender tip; ligule broad, thin, glabrous, to 5 mm tall, slightly bilobed. Scape slender, to 12 cm tall, the upper sheaths with or without short leafy tips; inflorescence approximately 4.5 cm long and 15 mm diameter; bracts approximately 2.5 by 1.8 cm; green with pale submarginal band and narrow translucent margin; margins incurved, lower bracts with slender white tip. Bracteoles as long as bract; calyx with ovary 12 mm long; corolla tube 2.5 cm long, lobes yellowish, dorsal lobe 18 by 8 mm (flattened), curving over the anther and narrowed to the tip, laterals narrower. Lip (mid lobe) nearly circular, approximately 12 mm long, and wide, dull purple with cream blotches and base, sidelobes about 6 by 4 mm; free almost to the base, colored at mid lobe; anther cream, 9 mm long, appendage dark purple, curved, 7 mm long (Holttum, 1950). The species is sterile and does not set seeds (Figure 2.1, Figure 2.2, and Figure 2.3).
Taxonomical notes: Roscoe (1807) described Z. officinale from a plant in the Botanic Garden at Liverpool as "Bracteis ovato-lanceolatis, laciniis corolla revolutis, nectario trilobato" and referred to Amomum zingiber Willd. Sp.Pl 1:p6. Willdenow (1797) extended Linnaeus description "Amomum scapo nude, spica ovata" with "squamis ovatis, foliis lanceolatisbadapicem margine ciliates" Linnaeus's (1753) Amomum zingiber is the basionym for the species. The genus Amomum of Linnaeus is a nomenclatural synonym of the conserved generic name, Zingiber Boehm (Burt and Smith, 1968). The specific epithet zingiber could not be used in the genus Zingiber. Thus, Z. officinale was adopted as the correct name for ginger. The specimens available in most herbaria are without flowers, and it is assumed that Linnaeus based his description on the account and figure given by Rheede in Hortus Malabaricus. The figure given by Rheede (Vol., 11, plate 12, 1692) is the designated lectotype of the species Z. officinale Rosc. (Jansen, 1981).
The species epithet officinale was derived from Latin, meaning "work shop," which in early Latin was used to mean pharmacy, thereby implying that it had a medicinal use.
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