This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Arabic name). Zingiberacae. Curious and showy warmhouse herbaceous plants with great spikes of large concave or hooded bracts, from which the flowers scarcely protrude.
Erect herbs, the stem rising to 10 ft. from a thick tuber-iferous rootstock: leaves usually large: flowers in a dense conelike thyrse, borne behind concave or hooded imbrica-cated obtuse often colored bracts; calyx and corolla tubular, the former 2-3-toothed, the latter dilated above and with 5 ovate or oblong lobes; staminodium petal-like, 3-parted, the middle lobe anther-bearing: fruit inclosed by the bracts. The latest monograph, 1904 (by Schumann in Engler's Pflanzenreich, hft. 20), recognizes 42 species, mostly in tropical Asia and some in tropical Africa The fleshy bracts are perhaps the showiest feature of the plant, the topmost ones being colored with gorgeous tropical hues. Rhizomes of some of the species yield East India arrowroot, while others furnish turmeric. The rhizome of C. zedoaria of India is very pungent and has properties similar to ginger. The genus is allied to Alpinia and Amomum.
In spring the tubers should be deprived of last year's mold and repotted in a fresh mixture of light loam, leaf-mold and turfy peat, the pots being well drained, and placed in a warm pit or frame in bottom heat. Water should be given sparingly until after the plant has made some growth. The young roots are soft and succulent, and are likely to rot if the soil remains wet for a long time. After flowering, the leaves soon show signs of decay, and water should be gradually withdrawn. During the resting period the soil should not be allowed to get dust-dry, or the tubers are likely to shrivel. The plants are propagated by dividing the tubers in spring.
Wall. Leaves 1 ft. long, sheathing, ovate, acuminate, the same color on both sides, obliquely penninerved: bracts in a cylindrical spike, the upper part forming a sterile part called a coma, which is a rich violet, with a large, blood-colored spot: flowers yellow, with a pink hood. Burma. B.M. 4435. - This is now referred to C. petiolata, Roxbg., but it seems at least horticulturally distinct, with its rose-pink bracts.
Roxbg. Queen Lily. Figs. 1149,1150. Leaves 6-8 in. long, peculiar in this genus as being more or less rounded or cordate at the base, the stalk 4-5 in. long: flowers spicate, the spikes 5-6 in. long; bracts 20-30, connate at their bases, and wholly including the pale yellow flowers India. B.M. 5821. - The most beautiful and showiest of the curcumas.
Fig. 1149. Curcuma petiolata leaves. (X 1/9)
longa, Linn. Leaves 2-2 1/2 ft., the blade about 1 ft. and narrowed at the base: flowers spicate, autumnal, the spikes
4-6 in. long; bracts pale green, not wholly inclosing the pale yellow flowers India. B.R. 886. - The dried rhizomes of this furnish the well-known turmeric of India, used as a condiment and as a dye. Intro, by the Royal Palm Nurseries.
C. albiflora, Thwaites, differs from some others here described in having its spikes sunk below the leaves, instead of standing high above the leaves, and all the bracts have flowers, while the others have a sterile portion of the spike which is brightly colored. In this species the spike is short and green and the flowers are prominent and white. Ceylon. B.M.5909. - C. australasica, Hook, f., has its upper bracts soft, rosy pink and the flowers pale yellow. Austral. B.M. 5620. - C. Roscoeana, Wall., has a long and splendid spike, with bracts gradually changing from green to the vividest scarlet-orange: flowers pale yellow. Burma. B.M. 4667. - C. rubescens, Roxbg. (C. rubricaulis, Link). Leaves stalked, oblong, with red sheaths, said to be brown in the center: flowers red. E. Indies. - C. zedoaria, Roscoe, has the upper bracts white, tinged with carmine, and handsomely variegated leaves, which, with the green of the lower bracts and the yellow of the flowers makes a striking picture of exotic splendor.