Hedychium maximum W. Roscoe, Monandrian Plants of the Order Scitamineae: t. 52 (1824).
Hedychium maximum W. Roscoe, Monandrian Plants of the Order Scitamineae: t. 52 (1824). [det. T. Wood]
Synonyms Distribution Description References Comments According to Tom Wood, this yellow-flowered species, readily available in the UK, is the same species as that illustrated by Roscoe in his Monandrian Plants. This is somewhat difficult to believe as a comparison of Roscoe's illustration with a photo of Keith Rushforth's collection of Hedychium maximum indicates. The third illustration is John Lindley's rendering of Hedychium maximum from The Botanical register (http://www.botanicus.org/page/132774 et seq.)
Roscoe Rushforth (KR 1859) Lindley
Within the genus Hedychium the epithet "maximum" has been, and still is, applied to two quite different plants.
The first use of the name Hedychium maximum in the literature is by William Roscoe in his Monandrian Plants of the Order Scitamineae: t. 52 (1825). Roscoe's illustration is here and the accompanying text is here.
Nathaniel Wallich (in Hooker's Journal of Botany 5: 325 (1853) at http://www.botanicus.org/page/784306) treated Roscoe's plant as a variety of Hedychium coronarium and that is indeed what Roscoe's plant looks like. Hedychium coronarium var. maximum (Roscoe) J. G. Baker (in J. D. Hooker, Fl. Brit. India 6: 226 (1894) at http://www.botanicus.org/page/355795) sometimes called Hedychium maximum in horticulture, has essentially white flowers with a pale yellow flame in the centre of the labellum and is, some say, a robust form of Hedychium coronarium.
The second plant that is more commonly grown as Hedychium maximum at least in the UK and to which I refer on this page is a large or very large yellow flowered plant quite distinct from Hedychium coronarium. The plant seems also to be quite distinct from Roscoe's type but it is Hedychium maximum Roscoe according to Tom Wood. I have grown three accessions of this plant and seen others which are indistinguishable. To add to the confusion, in some collections (e.g. at RBGE) this plant is labelled as H. coronarium var. urophyllum or Hedychium urophyllum but that is a different plant again (go here).
The next image shows a flower of Hedychium maximum Roscoe (from the type illustration) compared with a flower of KR 1859; the images are not to the same scale. Although these are the same species according to Tom Wood the difference between the flowers is striking. However, "the nomenclatural type is not necessarily the most typical or representative element of a taxon" (ICBN (Tokyo Code), Electronic version; art. 7.2).
Two of the accessions I have grown are as follows:
KR 1859 - This was collected by an expedition to Vietnam led by Keith Rushforth in 1992 and was originally identified as Hedychium forrestii var. latebracteatum. When Hedychium specialist Tom Wood saw the plant in the National Plant CollectionŽ of Hedychium he identified it as Hedychium maximum Roscoe.
HWJ 684 (or 99684 not 604 or 99604 which is Hedychium urophyllum) - This was also collected in Vietnam in 1999 by a Heronswood - Crűg Farm expedition and, again, initially identified as Hedychium aff. forrestii v. latebracteatum. Bleddyn Wynn-Jones reports that in northern Vietnam "Hedychium maximum" grows so thickly where forests have been felled that it interferes with reafforestation. Images of "Hedychium maximum" in Vietnam are here.
As its name suggests, Hedychium maximum is a very large, robust plant with big dark-green leaves and reaching 2.5 m. In late summer the plant bears cone-like inflorescences of very large, yellow, fragrant flowers with pinkish-orange stamens. Although it is reportedly hardy, Hedychium maximum flowers too late to be a reliable plant outdoors in the UK and is consequently a plant only for the larger greenhouse or conservatory.
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last updated 13/10/2008