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Thursday, 8-Jun-2006 09:48 Email | Share | Bookmark
Bunga Kantan / Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior )

Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan)
Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan)
Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan)
Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan)
Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan)

Bunga Kantan
Torch Ginger
Etlingera elatior

Lokasi : Tepi Jalan, Gopeng, Perak

The torch ginger or wax flower (Etlingera elatior (Jack) R.M. Smith) is believed native to Sulawesi (Celebes) and Jawa, Indonesia (Java). The plant is now grown in many tropical locations both for the extravagant 'flowers' and for food. In Malaysia, it is called kantan. The peduncles (stems) of the inflorescence are chopped and added to laksa pots (various curries or soups made with rice noodles).

The spectacular inflorescence rises from the rhizome to a height of 60 centimeters (24 inches) to more than a meter (40 inches). The individual flowers will appear from between the pinecone-like scales above the waxy bracts. The leaves grow in ranks from separate stalks along the rhizome. The leafy stalks are evergreen and get 4.5 to 6 meters (15 to 20 feet) tall. Note that in the photograph, the inflorescence is just starting to expand and the leaves are dried having been subjected to cold temperatures and winds.

Torch ginger has had numerous generic designations through the years: Alpinia, Phaeomoria, Nicolaia, and Elettaria. The taxonomy was tangled and confusing. And it was believed the genus contained only a handful of species.

In the 1980s, Rosemary Margaret Smith of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh tackled the gingers and determined this plant belonged to Etlingera, a genus first described in 1792 by Paul Dietrich Giseke. Since then, Axel Dalberg Poulsen of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands has dedicated his studies to these glorious plants. He has discovered there are at least 70 species, many not yet described, spread from India to the Pacific Islands.

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