Torch Ginger
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Torch Ginger
ntroduced Photo: Thingnam Girija
Common name: Torch Ginger, Ginger Flower, Red Ginger Lily, Torch Lily, Wild Ginger, Combrang, Bunga Siantan, Philippine Wax Flower, Xiang Bao Jiaing, Indonesian Tall Ginger
Botanical name: Etlingera elatior    Family: Zingiberaceae (Ginger family)
Synonyms: Alpinia elatior, Nicolaia elatior, Phaeomeria magnifica, Phaeomeria speciosa

Torch ginger, growing in large clumps 3-6 m high, is believed native to Indonesia. The plant is now grown in many tropical locations both for the extravagant 'flowers' and for food. The spectacular inflorescence rises from the rhizome to a height of 2 ft to more than 3 ft. 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 15-20 ft tall. Leaves are up to 85 x 18 cm. Fruiting head greenish or reddish, spherical, about 2.5 cm in diameter. Seeds are many, black. The stalks of the inflorescence are chopped and added to laksa pots (various curries or soups made with rice noodles). 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.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed at International Flower Expo-2006, Delhi.
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