Boesenbergia longiflora (Zingiberaceae) and descriptions of five related new taxa

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The history and identity of 

Boesenbergia longiflora 

(Zingiberaceae) and descriptions of five related new taxa

John D. Mood


, Linda M. Prince


, J.F. Veldkamp

and Santanu Dey



Lyon Arboretum, University of Hawaii, 3860 Manoa Road, 

Honolulu, HI 96822, USA


The Field Museum, Department of Botany, 

1400 S Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60605, USA


National Herbarium of The Netherlands, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, 

 P.O. Box 9514, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands


Department of Botany, Nagaland University, Lumami 798627,

 Zunheboto, Nagaland, India

ABSTRACT. The history of 

Boesenbergia  longiflora  (Wall.) Kuntze (Zingiberaceae) is 

reviewed, its identity is discussed and a lectotype designated. Five new, related taxa are 

described and illustrated: B. collinsii Mood & L.M.Prince, B. hamiltonii Mood, S.Dey & 

L.M.Prince, B. kerrii Mood, L.M.Prince & Triboun, B. kingii Mood & L.M.Prince, and B. 

maxwellii  Mood, L.M.Prince & Triboun. A phylogenetic analysis of plastid trnK intron 

(including  matK) and nuclear ITS DNA sequence data indicate these Boesenbergia  species 

form a clade within Boesenbergia.  Results of the molecular data analyses in concert with 

several diagnostic characters, support the recognition of the new taxa. Historical illustrations, 

colour plates, a field key to the species, a comparative table, a listing of the botanical history of 

B. longiflora, and a geographical distributional map are provided. 

Keywords. Burma, Curcumorpha, Gastrochilus, India, Thailand


Boesenbergia  longiflora (Wall.) Kuntze was described in 1829 as Gastrochilus 

longiflora by Nathaniel Wallich based on his collection from Rangoon, Burma [Wallich 

6589A (K-W)]. Boesenbergia was proposed in 1891 when Otto Kuntze observed that 

Gastrochilus Wall. is a homonym of Gastrochilus D.Don (1825; Orchidaceae). In 

1974 it was regarded as belonging to the monotypic genus Curcumorpha A.S.Rao & 

D.M.Verma. This change was countered by Larsen (1997) but is still in use by some 

(Kress et al. 2002, Gao et al. 2004). 

During a botanical survey in the Lampang Province, Thailand in 1998, numerous 

plants which at first were identified as B. longiflora were observed growing on the 

margins of secondary forest. These were easily recognised by their robust stature and 

large, white flowers. Later, another Boesenbergia, reminiscent of B. longiflora, but with 

yellow flowers, was encountered on a limestone outcrop [Mood & Pedersen 1455 (C)]. 


Gardens’  Bulletin Singapore 65(1): 4795. 2013

Its specific identity remained unclear. Several years later, yet another Boesenbergia 

with yellow flowers was collected by Mark Collins (1963-2011) from a limestone 

area in Loei Province, Thailand. Living plants of this field collection (T-3068) were 

later determined to be similar to the earlier Lampang collection. Identification of the 

two collections began with a review of Wallich’s description of 

G. longiflora which 

was  described  as  having  small,  yellow  flowers  with  red  markings  on  the  labellum 

(Fig. 1). This information was very surprising, as it was inconsistent with the current 

perception of 

B. longiflora being a ginger with large, white flowers with pink markings 

on the labellum (Wu & Larsen 2000; Kress et al. 2002; Gao et al. 2004, 2005; Larsen 

& Larsen 2006). This significant discrepancy precipitated a complete review of the 

history of 

B. longiflora (Appendix A).

The historical findings indicated that the true B. longiflora (Wall.) Kuntze was 

very similar to the two aforementioned Thailand collections. The current perception of 

a white-flowered ginger appears to have been fostered by a watercolour published by 

Hooker in 1843 (Fig. 2). Based on a reference by Baker (1890), the plant Hooker used 

for this illustration was  sent to Kew from the Calcutta Botanical Gardens (Wallich 

1840), which was identified with the unpublished name, G. jenkinsii. Although Baker 

(1890) mentioned this error, he described white flowers, as did  Schumann (1904). 

Holttum (1950) also noted the discrepancy between the Hooker illustration and 

Wallich’s, but did not pursue the matter. Rao and Verma (1974) described their C. 

longiflora  as  white-flowered,  but  in  this  case,  it  was  based  on  20  specimens  from 

Assam and Meghalaya, India, the area where Wallich found G. jenkinsii (Voigt 1845). 

Although the historical information improved the taxonomic understanding of 

B. longiflora, several taxa remained unconfirmed or unidentified: Wallich’s G. jenkinsii 

from Assam (Fig. 2); the large white-flowered Boesenbergia common to N. Thailand; 

the specimens cited by Rao and Verma; and finally, the two yellow-flowered Thailand 

collections. In order to properly identify these and other specimens, the present 

research was initiated in 2008 using an integrated taxonomic/phylogenetic approach.

Materials and methods

Taxonomy. Historical references, both text and illustrations (Appendix A) were used to 

provide an understanding of past taxonomic perceptions. Also, over 200 digital images 


B. aff. longiflora obtained from various sources were reviewed and categorised by 

flower morphology and geographic location, providing early clues on diversity and 

phytogeography. Herbarium specimens (75) labelled as 

B. longiflora or C. longiflora 

were examined and photographed at ASSAM, BK, BKF and CAL in 2009. Another 

75 specimens were viewed via digital images from AAU, C, E, K, L, P, SING and 

US.  This  exercise  provided  an  important  finding—the  B.  longiflora complex was 

extremely difficult to sort out and distinguish one taxon from the other in the herbarium.  

Vegetative characters often used to determine the identity of dried specimens in 

other Zingiberaceae were not particularly useful here. Additionally, flowers did not 

preserve well, changed colour upon pressing and became indistinguishable by shape. 


Gard. Bull. Singapore 65(1) 2013

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