Hedychium gardnerianum Sheppard ex J. B. Ker Gawler, Bot. Reg. 9: t. 774 (1823).

Accepted name

Hedychium gardnerianum Sheppard ex J. B. Ker Gawler, Bot. Reg. 9: t. 774 (1823).


Hedychium speciosum N. Wallich, Flora indica 1: 13 (1820).

References Wallich 1853
Comments Ker Gawler's note on Hedychium gardnerianum in the Botanical Register is at http://www.botanicus.org/page/132000 et seq.

The "Sheppard" mentioned by Ker Gawler is probably John Shepherd (17641836) who was the first Curator of the Liverpool Botanic Garden and helped plan its layout and character with William Roscoe.  Shepherd is cited in the context of mention of the name Hedychium gardnerianum "in hort. liverpool".  This does not refer to "A catalogue of plants in the botanic garden at Liverpool" published in Liverpool by The Proprietors (subscribers to the Botanic Gardens) in 1808 inferred to have been authored by John Shepherd and which lists only Hedychium cornarium.

In W. J. Hooker's Journal of Botany 5: 370 (1853), Nathaniel Wallich writes that "The magnificent series of specimens, even as to colour, preserved by Drs. Hooker and Thomson, with the fine drawing of the flower and the excellent figure in Roscoe's work, prove that my H. speciosum and my H. gardnerianum are identically one and the same species.  I retain the latter name, being that of a very valued and honoured friend, who, himself ardently attached to flowers and gardening, has done a great deal of service to the cause of botany in its most extended sense" (see http://www.botanicus.org/page/784350 et seq.).  The Hon. Edward Gardner represented the Hon. East India Company at the court of Kathmandu.  Wallich's Hedychium speciosum dates from 1820 in Roxburgh's Flora indica which can be seen at http://www.botanicus.org/page/787291et seq.  An illustration of Hedychium speciosum in Wallich's Plantae Asiaticae rariores of 1832 is at http://www.botanicus.org/page/452319.  It can probably be assumed that Sheppard in hort. liverpool post dates Wallich 1820 but with only three years in it this should be confirmed since according to the rules of priority, Hedychium speciosum takes precedence over Hedychium gardnerianum.  However, it would also need to be established that this did not represent a disadvantageous nomenclatural change and require the conservation of Hedychium gardnerianum against Hedychium speciosum.

Hedychium gardnerianum
is the fabled "kahili" of Hawai'i, named for the resemblance of the inflorescence to Hawaiian kahili or royal standards made from bird's feathers. But it's not a Hawaiian plant; the Hawaiians have simply adopted it. The true home of Hedychium gardnerianum is the foothills of the Himalaya from Nepal east to the Khasia Hills of Assam at up to 2,000 m. One cannot blame the Hawaiians for appropriating the plant but they may be regretting it since it is now running wild in their threatened forests, choking the native vegetation. Where it doesn't run wild Hedychium gardnerianum is a stunning ornamental bearing a large, vividly coloured inflorescence with a gorgeous scent. Nathaniel Wallich called it "the queen of the genus". In Nepal as in Hawai'i the plant is used ceremonially. It is an important element of the Indrajatra festival in early autumn when the living god Kumari and other deities are decorated with garlands and crowns made from its flowers. Another link with Nepal is that the species was named for the Hon. Edward Gardner who represented the Hon. East India Company at the court of Kathmandu.

In 1993 Hedychium gardnerianum was awarded an AGM by the RHS and given the hardiness rating H1 min. 2C. This indicates that the RHS suggest that the plant always requires the protection of a glasshouse and a minimum winter temperature of 2C. I think that Hedychium gardnerianum is somewhat hardier than this implies but no doubt it flowers more reliably under glass. There is interesting variation in Hedychium gardnerianum available in the UK.


home     top     next

last updated 01/10/2008