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Boesenbergia rotunda is a herb in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Its rhizomes are often shaped like a bunch of fingers, hence its common English name fingerroot. It is used in Thai cuisine, by the name krachai, and is also commonly called Chinese ginger, although it is not in the same genus as true ginger (Zingiber officinale).

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Fingerroot is a medicinal and culinary herb, with bright yellow, finger-shaped rhizomes.

Boesenbergia rotunda is a herb in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). It is used in Thai cuisine, by the name krachai, and is also commonly called Chinese ginger, although it is not in the same genus as true ginger (Zingiber officinale).

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Boesenbergia rotunda is native from southern Yunnan Province, China, to west Malesia. It grows in dense forest and is common in its natural range. It is widely cultivated throughout south-east Asia, in small-scale subsistence farming systems, and has become naturalised in some countries. Species in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) usually grow in damp shaded lowland areas or on hill slopes, as scattered plants or thickets.

Description

Overview:  Fingerroot is a small, erect herb, up to 50 cm tall. The rhizomes are bright yellow and strongly aromatic, and they resemble fingers growing from a central point. There are usually 3-4 leaves up to 12 cm wide and 50 cm long, which are undivided, ovate-oblong in shape.

Flowers: The flowers are tubular, pink and aromatic and produced in terminal inflorescences.

Threats and conservation

Boesenbergia rotunda is common in its natural range, and no major threats are known.

Conservation assessments carried out by Kew

Boesenbergia rotunda is being monitored as part of the Sampled Red List Index Project, which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world's plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.

Uses Food and drink

Fingerroot is used as a flavouring and eaten as a vegetable. It is cultivated for its rhizomes and roots in Indonesia, Malaysia, Indochina and India where they are used as a spicy flavouring in food and pickles. The rhizomes are also cooked as a vegetable or eaten raw when young. Young shoots are also edible, and leaves are used together with those from the teak tree ( Tectona grandis ) to wrap fermented soya bean cake (tempeh) - a traditional Indonesian food.

Traditional medicine

In traditional medicine, rhizomes and roots are used in post-partum tonic mixtures (such as the popular Indonesian tonic, 'jamu'), as a stomachic (to improve appetite and digestion) and carminative (to aid digestion and reduce gas) and as a remedy for coughs and mouth ulcers. Crushed rhizomes and roots are also applied externally to treat rheumatism. Scientific research is underway to investigate their possible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anticancer properties.

Ornamental

Fingerroot is cultivated as an ornamental.

Cultivation

Fingerroot is propagated from rhizome cuttings. Growth is fast when cultivated in well-drained loam, rich in organic matter, but plants will also grow in sandy soils. When grown for rhizomes and roots for use as a spice, the plants' life cycle is usually about five months. Plants can produce young shoots for use as a vegetable, and rhizomes and roots for medicinal use for several years.

This species at Kew

Boesenbergia rotunda can be seen growing in the Palm House and Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew.

Pressed and dried, and alcohol-preserved specimens of Boesenbergia species are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these, including images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Kew's Economic Botany Collection includes specimens of the rhizomes and leaves of Boesenbergia rotunda , which are available to researchers by appointment.

Distribution
China
Ecology
Mixed deciduous and evergreen forest; and on limestone hills.
Conservation
Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

None known.

[KSP]
Use
Edible rhizomes, roots and young shoots, medicine, ornamental.

Native to:

Andaman Is., Assam, Cambodia, China South-Central, Jawa, Lesser Sunda Is., Malaya, Myanmar, Sumatera, Thailand, Vietnam

Introduced into:

Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka

English
Fingerroot

Boesenbergia rotunda (L.) Mansf. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jan 1, 1986 Kerr, A.F.G. [332], Thailand K000481192
Jan 1, 1986 Kerr, A.F.G. [214], Thailand K000481197
Jan 1, 1986 Kurz, W.S. [s.n.], India K000481252
Jan 1, 1986 Put [4108], Thailand K000481190
Jan 1, 1986 Beusekom, C.F. van [3884], Thailand K000481194
Jan 1, 1986 s.coll. [3702], Sri Lanka K000481254
Scott [s.n.] K000481250
Lynch, M. [s.n.] K000481251
Kerr, A.F.G. [6149], Thailand K000481196
Herbert, W. [5745], Myanmar K000481253
Herbert, W. [5747], Myanmar K000481249
s.coll. [Cat. no. 6586] Kaempferia pandurata K001124254

First published in Kulturpflanze 6: 239 (1958)

Accepted by

  • Girmansyah, D. & al. (eds.) (2013). Flora of Bali an annotated checklist: 1-158. Herbarium Bogorensis, Indonesia.
  • Govaerts, R. (1996). World Checklist of Seed Plants 2(1, 2): 1-492. MIM, Deurne.
  • Larsen, K. (1996). A prelimanary checklist of the Zingiberaceae of Thailand Thai Forest Bulletin (Botany) 24: 35-49.
  • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Amy Yap Li Ching, Tang Sook Wah, Mohd Aspollah Sukari, Gwendoline Ee Cheng Lian, Mawardi Rahmani & Kaida Khalid (2007). Characterization of flavonoid derivatives from Boesenbergia rotunda (L.). Malaysian Journal of Analytical Sciences 1: 154-159.
  • Contu, S. (2009). Boesenbergia rotunda. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Delin Wu & Larsen, K. (2010). Zingiberaceae. In: Flora of China.
  • Ibrahim, H. & Nugroho, A. (1999). Boesenbergia rotunda (L.) Mansf. In: Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 13. Spices, eds C. C. de Guzman & J. S. Siemonsma, pp. 83-85. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands.
  • Ling Jing Jing, Mohamed, M., Rahmat, A. & Abu Bakar, M. F. (2010). Phytochemicals, antioxidant properties and anticancer investigations of the different parts of several gingers [sic] species ( Boesenbergia rotunda, Boesenbergia pulchella var [sic] attenuata and Boesenbergia armeniaca). Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 4: 27-32.
  • World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Dy Phon, P. (2000). Dictionnaire des plantes utilisées au Cambodge: 1-915. Chez l'auteur, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
  • Girmansyah, D. & al. (eds.) (2013). Flora of Bali an annotated checklist: 1-158. Herbarium Bogorensis, Indonesia.
  • Larsen, K. (1996). A prelimanary checklist of the Zingiberaceae of Thailand Thai Forest Bulletin (Botany) 24: 35-49.
  • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0