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  Curcuma longa L.
  Family Name : Zingiberaceae

  Synonyms : Curcuma domestica

  Common Names : Kunyit, Turmeric

  Chinese Name : 黄姜

  • Record Info
    • Featured in '1001 Garden Plants in Singapore' Book (2ed) :
  • Life Stage & Characteristics
    • Plant Division :
      Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Monocotyledon)
      Plant Growth Form :
      Shrub (Herbaceous)
      Lifespan (in Singapore) :
      Mode of Nutrition :
  • Biogeography
    • Native Distribution :
      South and Southeast Asia
      Preferred Climate Zone :
      Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
  • Description & Ethnobotany
    • Plant Morphology :
      Growth Form: A robust, perennial herbaceous plant that grows up to 1m tall with several leafy stems rising in a cluster from thick rhizomes and can slowly spread to form large clumps. 
      Foliage: Leafy shoots bear up to ten alternate distichous (arranged in two rows, one on each side of the stem) leaves. Leaves dark green above with a green midrib, very light green below, densely studded with pellucid dots. Leaf blades are thin, elliptic to oblong-lanceolate, up to 70 cm in length. Leaf petiole up to 10 cm long, broadly furrowed with narrow erect wings along the margins.
      Stems: The rhizome is fleshy with an ellipsoidal primary tuber at the base of each aerial stem, ringed with the bases of old scale leaves. When mature, it bears numerous straight or slightly curved cylindrical lateral rhizomes, called fingers, which are in turn repeatedly branched at approximate right angles, thus forming dense clumps. Bright orange in colour, both inside and outside, young tips white, a spicy smell is given off when the rhizome is bruised. When cut, the yellow sap stains fingers and cloth indelibly.
      Flowers: Flowers tubular, white to yellow-white, opening one at a time and borne on erect spike-like inflorescences that are terminal on a central leafy shoot, appearing between leaf sheaths. Lower bracts pale green with white longitudinal streaks or white margins, upper ones white, sometimes pink-tipped. Bracteoles (small bract, especially on the pedicel of a flower) numerous, spirally-arranged and densely hairy, forming pockets, each with flowers inside.
      Fruits: Fruits are never produced in C. longa.
      [Others]: Described by Marco Polo as a vegetable with the properties of saffron, yet not saffron, Curcuma longa has been widely cultivated for use in food, medicine and as a dye since 600 BC. Native to South and Southeast Asia and a member of the ginger family, C. longa is today a very important spice in Asia.
      Habitat :
      C. longa is not known in the wild, although it has become naturalized in some places, such as in teak forests in East Java. Presently cultivated widely in the tropics, mainly for its rhizome, large-scale cultivation is found largely in India and Southeast Asia.
      Cultivation :
      C. longa thrives on well-drained fertile loamy soils, preferring lots of water but unable to withstand waterlogging. Full sun encourages the yield of the plant, while light shade is beneficial but heavy shade will reduce the yield. The plant also does not like draughty conditions. Vegetative propagation is carried out using rhizomes, with evidence showing that larger daughter rhizomes (fingers) germinate better and produce larger yields than mother rhizomes. Keep germinating rhizomes damp and warm, in a slightly shaded location. Fertilizing may be done weekly using a general purpose liquid fertilizer. Pests of C. longa include shoot borers, leaf-eating insects, suck insects and nematodes. Red spider mites have also been known to be an occasional problem in older plants. Leaf spot or leaf blotch and rhizome rot are important diseases of the plant, caused by fungi.
      Etymology :
      The genus name Curcuma is derived from the Arabic “kurkum” or “kunkuma” for turmeric or its saffron-like colour. The specific epithet longa has its origin in Greek, meaning long, possibly referring to the long leaves of the plant.
      Ethnobotanical Uses :
      Edible Plant Parts (Edible Leaves)
      Food (Herb & Spice: The rhizome of C. longa contains a pigment, called curcumin, which gives the rhizome its yellow-orange colour. Widely used in Asian dishes, such as a spice and dye in curry powder and other food, the ground rhizome is also used as a colouring agent in processed food and sauces and is a cheaper substitute for saffron. Harvested rhizomes are boiled and sun-dried for about a week before use, but may also be used fresh. Leaves are used to wrap around fish for flavouring during cooking. Young shoots and rhizome tips are known to be eaten raw as a spicy vegetable.)
      Edible Plant Parts (Edible Leaves), Medicinal (Rhizomes have numerous uses in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as stomach aches, common cold and skin infections. Recent research has also revealed activity against diseases, including cancer and AIDS.), Cultural / Religious (In Indian culture, turmeric paste is made into small idols of Lord Ganesha for devotional prayers during festivals and other auspicious moments. In certain parts of India, a piece of turmeric rhizome is worn as amulet to protect against evil spirits. )
      [Others]: Rhizomes are used in Asia as a cosmetic to beautify the face and body and also as a cloth dye. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the plant may be used in gardens to deter ants, the exact reason unknown.
  • Landscaping Features
    • Desirable Plant Features :
      Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Foliage
      Plant & Rootzone Preference/Tolerance :
      Well-Drained Soils, Fertile Loamy Soils
      Landscape Uses :
      Flowerbed / Border
      Usage Hazards / Cons :
      [Remarks] (Yellow sap from rhizome caused stains on skin and cloths that are impossible or almost impossible to remove.)
  • Fauna, Pollination & Dispersal
    • Associated Fauna :
      Caterpillar Food Plant
  • Plant Care & Propagation
    • Light Preference :
      Full Sun, Semi-Shade
      Water Preference :
      Lots of Water
      Propagation Method :
      Storage Organ
  • Foliar
    • Foliage Retention :
      Mature Foliage Colour(s) :
      Mature Foliage Texture(s) :
      Foliar Arrangement Along Stem :
      Foliar Shape(s) :
      Non-Palm Foliage (Lanceolate; Elliptical; Oblong)
      Foliar Apex / Tip :
      Acute, Caudate
      Foliar Base :
      Cuneate, Rounded / Obtuse
      Leaf Area Index (LAI) * for Green Plot Ratio :
      3.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Monocot)
  • Non-Foliar & Storage
    • Stem Type & Modification :
  • Floral (Angiosperm)
    • Flower Colour(s) :
      White, Yellow / Golden
      Flower Grouping :
      Cluster / Inflorescence
      Flower Location :
      Inflorescence Type :
The information given on this website has been compiled from reference works on medicinal plants and/or pron only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Reliance on this information is strictly at your own risk. You should always consult your physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.

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