Monday, April 16, 2007
Swedish friend and colleague, Haken Franden, asked me to identify the plant I used in the botanical listing for native plants. It's ginger from the genus Costus but I don't know the species yet. I'm told that this type of ginger used be be in the genus Zingiber, just in case you're using older reference literature. The only local name I know is João Mole, which translates into "Soft Johnnie", or "Soft John". Hum, wonder what that means? The root (rhizome) of ginger is used around the world as a spice and medicine. To my knowledge, this one isn't a true ginger used for our popular ginger ale or ginger cookies. On my tour of the Bosque trails, I point out the yellow vertical slits on the bracts. They are what the botanists call "extra-floral nectaries". They produce small quantities of sweet nectar, which is consumed by certain species of ants. In return for the meal, they protect the ginger plant from leaf-cutting insects.