Need I.D.

cannafreak(z7 NY)November 4, 2004

I purchase a plant from ebay from someone claiming it was a Elletaria Cardmom. I have found out that it is not. I posted a picture of the plant in the gallery and would appreciate it if someone could ID.



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Looks like what I have and also like the picture below.
So It is correct.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 10:18AM
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TimChapman(Z8 Louisiana)

Its probably Alpinia nutans or one of the other Alpinia that have been sold as Elettaria for many years. VERY few people have the true Elettaria in the US, VERY few. It is in cultivation now but I don't know if anybody is selling the real deal yet. The Elettaria gets about 5 feet tall at blooming height (blooms from the ground) while the Alpinia that is commonly sold as this only gets about 2 feet or so. The posted picture is not the Elettaria, but looks just like the Alpinia nutans. I have a few photos of Elettaria in bloom now, I'll try to post those soon. This Alpinia is probably the most mislabeled of all gingers in the trade. It wouldn't be as big a problem if people knew they were just getting a foliage plant, but when they expect blooms, as well as spice from the seeds then its a big problem.

Tim Chapman

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 3:15PM
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Why do you think getting Elettaria is so rare in the US? It makes sense for some obscure species, but (as you already know) it is one of the biggest spice crops in India and is grown by the millions there (there is even a book dedicated to its culture). Is it just that a few alpinias got mislabeled early on and no one bothered to do anything about it since? If I had realized it was such a big deal to get here I would have brought some into the country years ago.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 4:45PM
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TimChapman(Z8 Louisiana)

The main problem I think is just that so much of the Alpinia is spread around by that name and most people don't realize that its not cardamom. They never or almost never bloom it since that Alpinia is such a rare bloomer. A few collectors that I know had tried having rhizomes sent in a few times and said it never survived. Seeds from local shops and such usually don't germinate. The mislabeled plants are very old timey hand-me-down plants too, ie extremely widespread in the trade and with gardeners. A friend of mine in Florida did grow his from seeds but I can't recall if he bought these locally or had them mailed to him. I know Bryan Brunner has a nice clump of it growing in P.R. though I can't remember where he got it (I've got an excuse though since I was recovering from motion sickness that day).

I don't see the real Elettaria every becoming popular though, unless it proves exceptionally hardy. Its just my opinion but people want to grow the spice gingers for spice, and unlike A. galanga or Z. officinale you'd have to put in a lot more effort to get a lot less of a crop (if any).

When was the book published that you mentioned? If have a few on Z. officinale from India, including a relatively new one (2004) that is more on the medicinal side than cultivation info etc. I'd like to get one of the cardamom books to add to the collection. I'm sure if I asked about wholesale I'd get the same hassel as with the others (A quote that is 4 times the Indian RETAIL price not including shipping). I almost bought several copies of the Zingiberaceae of Sikkim but fortunately I bought myself a copy through a retail outlet while dealing with the publisher. After seeing how bad it was I'm glad I didn't get stuck with a bunch of those!! (photos include a beautiful red bract Hedychium species like H. bordelonianum... oh wait, it was a mislabled Cautleya... and a pendant Hedychium... oh wait, the photo plate was printed upside down. you get the picture).

Tim Chapman

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 5:39PM
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So are any of the photos on the website of the Elettaria Cardamon? There are pictures from several botanical gardens. Are these wrong also.?
And how do you tell the difference besides the height. Mine are more than 3 ft tall. It smells spicy when I touch the leaves.
I don't really care if I have the true cardamon or not but would like to know what I do have.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 11:07PM
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Here is the book I mentioned. I didn't spend much time looking through it because I was trying to find references to the genus Elettaria as a whole. But it turns out that despite the name of the book, it is only about E. cardamomum. As best I can tell it is written for growers of Cardamom, not for horticulturists. Basically it is a collection of scientific papers (kind of like the Zingiberaceae symposium books if you have ever seen those).

Cardamom : the genus Elettaria / edited by P.N. Ravindran and K.J. Madhusoodanan. London ; New York : Taylor and Francis, 2002.

I'm glad that you didn't buy the Zingiberaceae of Sikkim book. I agree it is awful. Even Indian botanists largely ignore that book. I noticed the upside down Hedychium. The problems with Globba are equally bad. The photo of Cautleya gracilis is Globba macroclada, the figure of G. racemosa is also G. macroclada, and worst of all the Globba labeled "Globbba clarkei" is actually G. andersonii. Why is that so bad...because G. andersonii is one of the absolute rarest Globba species. There are no herbarium records more recent than 1915, it is taxonomically one of the most unique species, and an expert on Indian gingers was in the area where it is from just a few months ago and couldn't find it. I'd give anything for that plant and this guy takes a blurry photo of it and doesn't ever realize what he found! There is no evidence that he made a specimen either. As you can see that book distresses me some. :)


    Bookmark   November 5, 2004 at 10:42AM
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TimChapman(Z8 Louisiana)


..then you definitely understand my relief at not buying a 100 copies!! I actually had worked the price down to a reasonable per copy deal (if it were a decent work) but the shipping quotes floored me.. then I got my single copy.

The Ginger book (z. officinale that is) is part articles, and then a bibliography of sorts on whats been published regarding the medicinal aspects.

If you e-mail some specifics on the Globba andersonii I'll see if it can be found. ...have a friend that visits Sikkim often over there and although Globba aren't of interest they could at least keep an eye out for it.

Tim C.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2004 at 2:19PM
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