The family Zingiberaceae, with the majority of the over 1,200 species and 53 genera originating in tropical Asia, is an important global resource for food, herbs and spices, flavouring agents, food colours, pharmaceuticals, cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals, ornamentals and cut-flowers. They are also important components in many tropical forest ecosystems, and play an important role in the understorey as a food source for animals. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which lie within the Indochinese megabiodiversity “hotspot”, are genetic hosts of biological resources with a good representation of Zingiberaceae.
History of exploration of gingers in Indochina
The first account of gingers in Indochina is in Loureiro’s Flora cochinchinensis (1790) where 13 species in three genera are treated. Merrill wrote a commentary on this Flora which clarifies some of the nomenclatural difficulties (Merrill, 1935) yet some names remain to be typified, in particular, the widespread and economically important Amomum villosum Lour. Gagnepain’s revision in Lecomte’s “Flore Générale de l’Indochine” (Tome VI, fascicule 1, 1908) provided the first substantial account of the family throughout Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (and also parts of Thailand) with 23 genera and 115 species, including 69 species and varieties described by Gagnepain himself. Nearly 90 years later, the Zingiberaceae were compiled by Ho P.H. in Cay Co Viet Nam (1992 and 2000) with 24 genera and about the same number (114) of species, though many accepted species names had changed and synonyms had been revised. The Zingiberaceae Resource Centre database at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh currently records 17 genera, 134 species and 8 varieties for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Type specimens are known for most of these names but are still to be located for at least 40 of them. Some names are represented by syntypes so lectotypification will be required; in other cases, the types have been lost and neotypes will be needed.
Current work on the taxonomy of Zingiberaceae includes a revision of Globba for the Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam by M.F. Newman (due for publication in 2007/8) and a revision of Amomum for the Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam by Vichith Lamxay (due for publication in 2009/10).
Classifications of the family, first proposed in 1889 and refined by others since that time, recognize four tribes (Globbeae, Hedychieae, Alpinieae, and Zingibereae) based on morphological features. Most of the characters that are used to define the tribes are inconsistent and variable. A consensus has not been reached on the actual number of genera in the family. New phylogenetic analyses have been used to propose a new classification of the Zingiberaceae that recognizes four subfamilies and six tribes: Siphonochiloideae (Siphonochileae), Tamijioideae (Tamijieae), Alpinioideae (Alpinieae, Riedelieae), and Zingiberoideae (Zingibereae, Globbeae) (Kress et al. 2002).
Morphological features related to the taxonomic status of various genera are still needed to elucidate the higher-level relationships within the zingiberacean flora of tropical Asia. Many wild species remained undescribed and, to a large extent, undocumented. Increased field collections of Zingiberaceae taxa are critical to fully understanding this complex group. The Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia, well-known for their cardamom resources, are still under-explored and expected to host a very rich zingiberacean flora. Recently one new species, Caulokaempferia burttii, was described from Champasak province in southern Laos by K. Larsen & T. Jenjittikul (2003) and, in Vietnam, a new genus was described only 12 years ago (Newman, 1995).
Conducting taxonomic revisions of this family in Indochina will be challenging. Indeed: (1) the flora is still poorly collected (unknown in many areas), (2) many existing herbarium collections have not been identified, (3) where collections are identified to species level, over 60% of the species described are known from only one or two collections.
Table 1. Approximate number of genera and species of Zingiberaceae in the world
Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
Zingiberaceae is one of the dominant families of understorey plants in tropical rain forests in Southeast Asia. Some species of Zingiberaceae (and Costaceae) have long been verbally reported as indicators of forest conditions whether disturbed or undisturbed, but they have never been formally and quantitatively studied.
Nishimura and Suzuki (2000) examined the spatial distribution of several ginger species in relation to edaphic conditions in a tropical submontane forest in Indonesia, and they discovered that spatial segregation among ginger species, probably caused by interspecific differences in suitable edaphic conditions such as mesic-xeric conditions, is important for the maintenance of species diversity. These kinds of ecological studies elucidate the species maintenance of ginger.
Light deficiency is pronounced in the understorey, especially in tropical rain forests which have developed canopy stratification (Yoda, 1974). Efficient light capture is important for the growth and survival of understorey plants. Therefore, the crown architecture of understorey ginger species reflects selection pressure to increase light capturing efficiency (e.g., Valladares et al., 2002). The crown architecture of ginger species is simple. Stems of ginger species exist under the ground, and an aboveground shoot consists of one pseudostem and many leaves distributed along the pseudostem. Crown architecture of the aboveground shoot can be described by the internode length, the number and size of leaves, the angles of pseudostem and leaves. Therefore, these traits should be investigated to examine how ginger species develop their crowns in order to increase light capture.
Roots of Hedychium and Curcuma show presence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization. There should be a preliminary assessment of the extent of mycorrhizae and their variations in this family for future horticultural purposes.
Resources & economic perspectives
Research on Zingiberaceae offers promising development of natural resources into nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and biopharmaceuticals. Essential oils of Zingiberaceae are highlighted by aromatherapists and cosmetic manufacturers as new oriental fragrances. The essential oil is also reported as an organic insect repellent. Analysis of the chemical constituents of the Zingiberaceae leaves can be conducted in anticipation of a taxonomic application of the outcomes of our study. Antimicrobial activity has been demonstrated for example with extracts from Zingibermontanum. A number of species such as Alpinia purpurata, A. zerumbet, Etlingera elatior and Zingiber zerumbet were found to inhibit the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv. Research efforts should focus to the prospecting of plant species which may have potential against tuberculosis.
As many as 250 species of this family are cultivated as ornamentals throughout the world. Some varieties have fragrant flowers and others have scented and beautifully variegated foliage; they can be domesticated for ornamental purposes. Data on specific floral features and flowering characteristics will be noted in order to determine the most promising cut flower types as well as the potted-colour characteristics identified by the commercial nurseries.
Sixty three (c. 40% of currently known ginger species) species of Zingiberaceae are used by local communities in Indochina as medicines, vegetables, for religious purposes, as food flavourings and spices, in handicrafts, and as ornamentals. The uses of many gingers species in traditional religious activities, such as rice cultivation, ceremonies and offerings, protection, attraction and taboos are also notable.
The resurgence of interest in herbs and the potential lucrative revenues anticipated from the herbal industry have spurred renewed interest in exploiting traditional knowledge and practices into scientific realities: use of local essential oil in product development, especially towards the pharmaceutical, fragrance and cosmetic industries.
Geographical coverage of the project
Further exploration in Southern Indochina (Cambodia, Southern Laos, and the Western Highlands in South Vietnam) is particularly necessary to increase field collection and taxon sampling, as numerous new species are certain to be discovered, thereby allowing for better interpretations of biogeography and evolution of the Zingiberaceae. These areas represent the most poorly explored regions in Asia for plant diversity of all types (Frodin, 2001). It should be noted, however, that one of our broader goals is to contribute to a new revision of the Zingiberaceae for the Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam.
Problems to be addressed
The majority of specimens of Zingiberaceae collected in Indochina are housed at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris (P) making access difficult for Indochinese botanists. Accurately named specimens are needed in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam so that botanists and others can name gingers correctly.
Many old specimens date from a time when the structures of the inflorescence and flower were poorly understood and the method of making good herbarium specimens had not been developed so the characters needed for scientific study are often absent from the specimens. Burtt and Smith published a method for making a good herbarium specimen which includes making spirit collections of flowers and detailed field notes (Burtt & Smith, 1976). By following this method, much more useful specimens will be made.
For historical reasons the density of specimens collected in Vietnam is much greater than in Cambodia or Laos. Our knowledge of the Zingiberaceae flora of Laos, in particular, is scanty.
In many cases, there are so few collections it is impossible to say how many taxa are involved. The amount of variation cannot be assessed without more collecting.
State the project’s main objectives and the scientific questions addressed
The main goal of the research is to enhance scientific knowledge about the Zingiberacean species naturally occurring in the Indochina region (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam). Various aspects related to the botany of the family Zingiberaceae in Indochina will be investigated, including taxonomy, reproduction biology, ecology, species diversity, ethnobotany and conservation.
Research objectives To improve the quality of specimen collection and to increase the numbers of collections, leading to a new revision of the Zingiberaceae in Southern Indochina.
To establish a database of the collection of ginger species from Cambodia, Southern Laos, and South Vietnam; the purposes of the database are:
to facilitate the mapping of the distribution of gingers in this part of Indochina,
to identify potential for use in herbarium management,
to contribute to the “Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam” edited by the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle.
To study the morphological characters, especially those observed in living plants
To study the reproductive biology
To document the use of ginger species by the indigenous people in order to devise an appropriate Ginger Conservation Programme for the local communities
To establish living collections at University of Natural Sciences campus (Vietnam) for horticultural experiments, eco-physiological studies and for education and training.
Give a brief description of the project (about one half page in Times new roman 12, simple interline) The family Zingiberaceae, with the majority of the over 1,200 species and 53 genera originating in tropical Asia, provides valuable plant resources for human and is also an important component in many tropical forest ecosystems. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which lie within the Indochinese megabiodiversity “hotspot”, have a good representation of Zingiberaceae. This research project proposes a comprehensive botanical study of the family Zingiberaceae in the Indochina region. The main goals of the study are:
to revise and update the Zingiberaceae flora of the Indochina region and contribute to the review of the “Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam” edited by the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris,
to study biological, ecological and ethobonaical characteristics of Zingberaceae species of the Indochina region, and
to establish a botanical dtabase and a living collection of Zingiberaceae species for the Indochina region.
The research area concentrates on the southern Indochina region (southern Laos, Cambodia and south Vienam) where Zingiberaceae has not been well studied. The proposed research project involves three universities in Indochina and two research institutions in Europe.
describe precisely the methods which will be used to conduct the various activities (about one page in Times new roman 12, simple interline) 1) Intensive field work will be conducted to collect fresh materials and record field data relating to biology, taxonomy and ecology, following the collecting method of Burtt and Smith. Field investigations will focus on the following areas
In Cambodia: the Cardamom and Elephant mountains
In Laos: Champasak and Attapeu provinces
In Vietnam: the central highland and its transition to the lowland, focusing on protected areas such as Yok Don, Chu Mom Ray, Chu Yang Sin, Lo Go Xa Mat and Cat Tien national parks, the That Son mountains and the limestone outcrops in the An Giang - Ha Tien region.
2) Examine the available herbarium materials from major Indochinese herbaria.
3) Study the biological and ecological characteristics of Zingiberaceae species, including morphological characters, reproductive biology, pollination ecology and seed dispersal, distribution of the species and habitats. These studies are based mostly on field observation.
4) Document the use of ginger species by the indigenous people in order to devise an appropriate Ginger Conservation Programme for the local communities; field surveys involve botanical collections and interviews of the local names and traditional uses of the plants.
5) Establish a database of the collection of ginger species from Cambodia, Southern Laos, and South Vietnam; the purpose of the database is to
facilitate mapping of the distributions of gingers in this part of Indochina,
identify potential for use in herbarium management,
contribute to the “Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam” edited by the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle.
This database will be begun by a download from the Zingiberaceae Resource Centre database in Edinburgh.
6) Establish living collections of gingers at University of Natural Sciences campus for horticultural experiments, eco-physiological studies and for education and training.
5. Activities Give a structured and detailed description of the project’s organisation and activities (maximum 6 pages in Times new roman 12, simple interline). Describe the roles of the partner institutions. Main research activies and tentative schedule: First year, January–December 2008:
Literature review, herbarium search
Training on the botany of Zingiberaceae and field methods at University of Natural Sciences, HCMC, Vietnam. All participants who expect to go into the field to collect Zingiberaceae will assemble at UNS for 2 days instruction in collection methods given by Mark Newman (E).
Field excursions will take place in the early rainy season when most of the Zingiberaceae flower. This is usually between May–July. Each excursion will last about 14 days, the remaining 6 days of the time allowance being used in organizing the trip and preparing the specimens for export at the end of the trip. It takes 2–3 days to dry specimens of Zingiberaceae and, in addition, the spirit material must be labelled carefully. The European participants will only have time to go to the forest in one country each year.
First field excursion to two national parks in southern Vietnam (Cat Tien and Lo Go Xa Mat)
Field excursion in the Cardamom Mountain, Cambodia
Field excursion in southern Laos. Personnel: Vichith Lamxay, Mark Newman
Data analysis, specimen preparation, despatch of duplicate sets of specimens to E & P
Preparation of the ‘Ginger Garden’ at UNS
Second year, January–December 2009:
Field excursion in southern Laos
Field excursion in the Cardamom Mountain, Cambodia
Field excursion in the Central Highland of Vietnam (Yok Don, Chu Yang Sin, Chu Mom Ray national parks). Personnel: Mark Newman
Field excursion in the Mekong Delta region (That Son mountains and Kien Luong limestones)
Data analysis, specimen preparation
Seminars and special lectures delivered at participating universities regarding the botany of Zingiberaceae and about the research results.
Obtaining permission for foreign researchers to collect specimens in Vietnam and export them to Paris and Edinburgh
Estabishing and maintaining the living collection of Zingiberaceae at the ‘Ginger Garden’ located at UNS campus in Ho Chi Minh City.
Participating scientists from UNS:
Tran Triet, PhD: plant ecologist, responsible for project coordination and ecological analysis
Le Cong Kiet, PhD: ethnobotanist, plant taxonomist, responsible for ethnobotanical and taxonomical analyses
Nguyen Du Sanh, PhD: Plant physiologist, responsible for the ginger living collection
Bui Van Le, PhD: Plant molecular genetics, responsible for the ginger living collection
Hoang Viet, PhD candidate, plant genetics and taxonomy
Nguyen Tran Quoc Trung, research assistant, responsible for database development
Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia (RUPP)
Partcipating in field excursions and specimen preparation and data analysis
Coordinating field excursions in Cambodia sites
Obtaining permission for foreign researchers to collect specimens in Cambodia and export them to Paris and Edinburgh
Participating scientists from RUPP:
Yok Lin, PhD: Plant taxonomist, responsible for coordinating field excursion in Cambodia
Two other researchers/graduate students from RUPP will also join field excursions in Cambodia
National University of Laos, Lao PDR (NUOL)
Partcipating in field excursions and specimen preparation and data analysis
Coordinating field excursions in Laos sites
Obtaining permission for foreign researchers to collect specimens in Laos and export them to Paris and Edinburgh
Participating scientists from NUOL:
Lammai Phiphakkhavong: responsible for coordinating field excursions in Laos.
Vichith Lamxay, PhD candidate: Plant taxonomist, responsible for field work, species identification, data analysis.
Another researcher/graduate student from NUOL may also join field excursions in Laos.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh RBGE
Training on research methodology
Partcipating in field excursions and data analysis
Advising on publication of research results
Participating scientists from RBGE:
Mark Newman, PhD: Plant taxonomist, responsible for method training, species identification, publication advice.
Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris
Incorporating the results of the project to the editing of “Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam”
Advising on publication of research results
Participating scientists from Museum:
Hul Sovanmoly, PhD: Plant taxonomist, responsible for herbarium/museum relation, publication advice.
6. Expected results
Outputs arising from this work or work running alongside this project
A revision of Globba in the Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Viêtnam. Mark Newman
A revision of Amomum in the Flore du Cambodge, du Laos et du Viêtnam. Vichith Lamxay & Mark Newman
A data base of names of taxa in the Zingiberaceae and details of all Indochinese specimens held in the main Indochinese herbaria plus Edinburgh and Paris.
Collections of herbarium specimens of Zingiberaceae of the southern Indochina region. Each collection held in a herbarium in its country of origin with duplicates at Edinburgh and Paris.
Living collections of representative Zingiberaceae species for public display, research and educational purposes. Some of these collections duplicated at Edinburgh.
Descripions of any new Zingiberaceae taxa encountered during the project
An updated checklist of the Zingiberaceae species of Lao PDR (compare to Newman et al., 2007)
An updated checklist of the Zingiberaceae species of Vietnam (compare to Ho, 2000)
A checklist of the Zingiberaceae of Cambodia
Technical reports that document the results of the project with respect to biological, ecological and ethnobotanical aspects of the Zingiberaceae of southern Indochina region
7. Measurable indicators of success In terms of scientific articles (cite the journals considered), books and monographies, of data bases (for these, precise the method of consultation, the types of exploitation and the steps considered for their long term maintenance/evolution)
Number of specimens collected (state the herbarium(a) considered for their storage)
Scientific articles published in botany-related journals, such as Adansonia, Edinburgh Journal of Botany.
The Zingiberaceae Database will be distributed to participating institutions and other universities and research institutes in digital format. A selected participating institution will be responsible for maintaining and updating the database. A data base system called BRAHMS already exists at NUoL and at RUPP. The copy at NUoL is used for maintaining the National Species Data Base. It may be most efficient to install this program at UNS and to train the staff there in its use. BRAHMS is obtainable free of charge (http://herbaria.plants.ox.ac.uk/BOL/home/default.aspx?reset=-1) This would also give the participating institutions the possibility of exchanging data through the Southeast Asian Botanical Collections Network which already includes Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
For each Zingiberaeae species recorded in the field, at least five specimens will be made so that each participating institution can have one. Some additional specimens will be prepared for depositing at major herbaria.
The 1,000-ha ‘Ginger Garden’ located at UNS (Vietnam) will keep a living collection of about 30 to 50 species. More species can be added to this living collection as desired.
At least one PhD and one Master student will be trained within the project.
Seminars will be delivered at participating universities regarding the botany of Zingiberaceae and about research results.
The results of the project will be presented at the 5th International Symposium on the family Zingiberaceae, to be held at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in the summer of 2009.
expenses and budget (field missions) Names of participants involved in field missions
Means of transport
Distance from institution to field (km)
Number of days in the field
Tran Quoc Trung
(Suppress unused lines, or add as many as needed)
expenses and budget (continued) State in the table below for each partner and expense category (see the list of eligible expenses here below) the total amount, and the amount requested from Sud Expert Plantes. Give at the bottom of the table the overall amounts for all partners and all expenses.
Partner / expense category
Total amount (€)
Contribution by Sud Expert Plantes (€)
Consumables (lump sum, including shipping specimens to herbaria)