BPotD work-learn student Tamara Bonnemaison authors today entry:
Thank you to 3Point141@Flickr for this excellent photo of Etlingera corneri taken at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Florida, U.S.A. This image is one of a series of impressive ginger photos taken by 3Point141@Flickr; visit the ginger album to view the rest.
Etlingera corneri, also known as ka lo or rose of Siam, is a member of the ginger family that is native to southern Thailand and the northern region of the Malay Peninsula. There are about 70 members in Etlingera, and Etlingera corneri was only described in 2000 after John Mood and Halijah Ibrahim found that Etlingera venusta had been used to refer to two different species. The naming of rose of Siam has not been without controversy; C.K. Lim was studying this species at the same time as Mood and Ibrahim submitted their article to the Nordic Journal of Botany. Lim rapidly established a new journal and fast-tracked a publication in the attempt to be the first to describe what he called Etlingera terengganuensis. A subsequent article in the Nordic Journal of Botany, written by Kai Larsen (2000) defended Etlingera corneri as the correct name, which is the name that I have chosen to honour in this article.
Another Etlingera, the popular torch ginger or Etlingera elatior, was featured on Botany Photo of the Day in 2007. Torch ginger is cultivated in tropical climates as a garden ornamental, for use in flower arrangements, and as a food plant. Although not well known, rose of Siam is also a good candidate for many of the same uses. This species is said to produce more blooms than the other taxa of Etlingera, and the glossy red flowers are large, showy, and long-lasting. Like all members of the Zingiberaceae, rose of Siam has cells that contain essential oils, rendering the inner sheathes of the shoots tasty on their own or as a flavourful condiment.
After seeing the photo that accompanies this write-up, I was surprised to learn that rose of Siam is a perennial herb that grows to 3 or 4 meters. The photo shows the shorter, leafless stems that bear the inflorescence, and just barely shows the leaf-bearing stems which are found growing high above. The showy parts of the inflorescence are composed of two rows of sterile bracts that are rounded or truncate (Etlingera venusta has bracts that are tapered to a point) and that persist past infructescence, a quality that makes rose of Siam potentially even more desirable as a cut flower than torch ginger, whose bracts decay more quickly.