This page contains photos and description of a species, form or cultivar of Costaceae.

Gingersrus Database Taxon ID 3607

Costus scaber


OLD NAME: Costus scaber

NEW NAME: Costus scaber

NAME CHANGE NOTES:

FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME: Costus scaber Ruiz & Pavon

STATUS : accepted

CONTINENT: Neotropical

FIELD OBSERVATIONS:(If field observations are available, you can click on the link to open in a new window.)
FIELD OBSERVATIONS

PHOTOS:(If photos are available, you can click on the link to open in a new window.)
GOOGLE PHOTO ALBUM

SYNONYMS:
- Costus anachiri Jacq. (1809) - Costus quintus Roem. & Schult. (1817) - Costus spicatus Sw. ß anthocono purpurascente... Horan. (1862) - Costus cylindricus Jacq. var. ß anachiri ( Jacq.) Petersen in Mart. (1890) - Costus ciliatus Miq. (1844) - Costus scaberulus Rich. ex L.F.Gagnep. (1902) - Costus nutans K.Schum. in Engl. (1904) - Costus puchucupango J.F.Macbr. (1931) - Costus tatei Rusby (1934) - Costus cylindricus auct. non Jacq.: Roscoe (1828) - Costus spicatus auct. non Jacq.: Standl. (1928) - Costus igneus auct. non N.E.Br.: K.Goebel (1931)

BOTANICAL NOTES:
Costus scaber is an accepted neotropical Costus species first described in 1798 by Hippolyto Ruiz et Josepho Pavon [original spelling of their names] in Volume I of the Flora Peruviana et Chilensis (page 2-3). In this original description (in Latin) Ruiz mentioned one of the most important distinctions for this species, "calyce brevior" or short calyx which is one of the best ways to distinguish Costus scaber from similar species across its very wide range. The name scaber in Latin means "rough or gritty to the touch on account of numerous minute projections" and the only part of Ruiz' description where this is mentioned is in the sheaths being "retrorsum scabri" or backwards scabrous. The bracts he described as being "rubicundum" (red, ruddy) and "ovatus" (ovate). The flowers were described as having a deep yellow corolla.

The Ruiz type specimen for Costus scaber has become confused as has the type for Costus laevis. In the herbaria at Madrid and Barcelona where Ruiz' collections are maintained there are two different species labeled as Costus scaber just as there are two different species labeled as Costus laevis. The images below on this page show a specimen that correctly represents this species, but the two of the links are of a specimen that is a false representation of Costus scaber and probably is actually the plant formerly known as Costus tarmicus. That specimen shows a plant with appendaged bracts but the description by Ruiz & Pavon was of non-appendaged bracts. The illustrations of Costus scaber at Madrid for the Ruiz expeditions to Peru also make it clear that Ruiz intended this species as the one with non-appendaged bracts. Paul Maas has decided to designate as the lectotype for Costus scaber a specimen at herbarium BM (Barcelona) that is a fragment of the inflorescence.

In 2016 I traveled to the type locality in Huanuco, Peru where Ruiz collected this species as well as Costus laevis and Dimerocostus argenteus. Along the Rio Derrepente near the area where Ruiz stayed at Cuchero I found Costus scaber perfectly matching the Ruiz original description. I recorded several other field observations of this species in Huanuco and all were consistent with but slight variation in the color of the corolla. My field observations of Costus scaber from the type locality in Huanuco, Peru can be found at THIS LINK.

Costus scaber is described as a plant that grows anywhere from 0.5 meters to 3 meters tall, with variable hairiness and truncate ligules 2-12 mm long. The terminal inflorescence is made up of orange-red to red non-appendaged bracts and tubular flowers orange to yellow. An aid in identification is the minute single row of hairs (requiring a lens for my eyes) along the upper midrib of the leaves. This is not determinative in and of itself because there are other species with the same character, but Costus scaber should always have this line of hairs. Another character, not included in Dr. Maas' description, but consistent in my own observation of this species is that the flower protrudes from the bracts at about a 60 degree angle. Also, as noted above, the calyx length is a good trait to check as the calyx is quite short in Costus scaber - usually about the same length as its width.

There are several other accepted species that are superficially similar to Costus scaber, and it can be difficult to distinguish some of them. Dr. Maas in his 1972 monograph has attempted to break these down by various characters such as the length of the calyx and bracteole and I have reproduced the information in tabular forms that can be found at:

Costus scaber is widespread and variable in form resulting in many species names that were put into synonymy with C. scaber by Paul Maas in his 1972 monograph. Costus scaber is the most widely disbursed species of Costus, and is found throughout the new world tropics. The distribution is from Mexico to Brazil and all points in between including the island Hispanola. It flowers year round. I have set up separate web pages to divide up some of the many photos I have of this species as follows:
  • Central American forms at PID 7452
  • C. flammulus form at PID 7859
  • South American forms at PID 7466
  • Cultivated "Indian Head" form that is common in cultivation and sometimes confused with Costus spicatus at PID 7574

    HORTICULTURAL NOTES:
    The most common form of Costus scaber found in cultivation is the so-called Indian Head Ginger. Based on information at the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) this species is in ex situ cultivation at 35 botanical gardens world wide. I have found this species to be relatively easy to grow in my garden and greenhouses at Le Jardín Ombrage. The commonly cultivated form is winter hardy here even with hard freezes some winters.

    ACCESSIONS:Click links (if any) to see details of individual collections. R3054- R3058- R3059- R3076- R3081- R3117- R3120- R3215- R3217- R3220- R3254- R3384- R3386- R3418- R3485-


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Photos (if available) of Taxon ID 3607
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Costus scaber type specimen - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 524 Accession# R0
Costus scaber type specimen


Costus scaber type specimen - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 525 Accession# R0
Costus scaber type specimen


Costus scaber type specimen - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 526 Accession# R0
Costus scaber type specimen


Costus scaber type specimen - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 527 Accession# R0
Costus scaber type specimen


Costus scaber, showing flower shape and calyx size , photo from Skinner R3384 from type locality in Huanuco, Peru - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 299 Accession# R3384
Costus scaber, showing flower shape and calyx size , photo from Skinner R3384 from type locality in Huanuco, Peru


Costus scaber, photo from Skinner R3384 from type locality in Huanuco, Peru - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 300 Accession# R3384
Costus scaber, photo from Skinner R3384 from type locality in Huanuco, Peru