Plai (Zingiber cassumunar Roxb. 1810)


It was a very big task for us to identify this strange looking, tropical ginger plant as Plai (Zingiber cassumunar Roxb. 1810).

The story started a few days ago, as we found that ginger flower bracts, which we never saw before, at our local Thai market. What`s that, I asked the old woman, who sold this strange vegetables. Boo Loei, she answered, we like to eat this flower bracts steamed with Thai chili dipping sauces (nam prik). I thought it will be an easy go, as I got the Thai name already, but it should be the beginning of a big headache programm. We didn`t get a proper result in the Thai internet, everything pointed to Shampoo Ginger (Zingiber zerumbet), but this was definitely not a Shampoo ginger. It was exasperating and so I decided to buy a few bottles of beer. I was clever enough to take one stem of the strange ginger with me, to ask my beverage seller for help.

Fortunatly the father of the owner was there, an about 70 year old Thai. I showed the flower bract to him. Do You know this plant ? Oh, this one is very tasty and healthy, I plant them in my garden as well. Wait a moment, I can`t remember the name. A big discussion started in the beverage shop. Finally more than 5 people been involved and one of the guys said, that plant is called Plai in Central Thai language, in Northern language we call it Boo Lai and Isaan (North-East Thailand) people call it Wan Fai. I was impressed by their helpfulness and asked the old man to write down the name in Thai letters for me. Back home, it was an easy go to identify the tropical ginger plant, native to Thailand, as Zingiber cassumunar. Plai is used in natural medicine for the production of essential oils, which have powerful analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and are very effective against colds and flu. Plai oil is also used for massage. Like most plants of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), Plai (Zingiber cassumunar) is dormant during the cold season and comes back to life at the beginning of the tropical hot season in May.

Flower Photography © Orchids
Image: Zingiber cassumunar Roxb. 1810

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