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

Gingersrus Database Taxon ID 4065

Costus chartaceus

OLD NAME: Costus chartaceus

NEW NAME: Costus chartaceus


FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME: Costus chartaceus Maas

STATUS : accepted

CONTINENT: Neotropical

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Costus chartaceus is an accepted neo-tropical Costus species described by Paul Maas in 1972 as a new species. The holotype was collected in 1942 by the famous R. E. Schultes No. 3540 in Colombia, Putumayo, Rio San Miguel o Sucumbios, "Conejo y los alredadores, en fruente de la Quebrada Conejo", at 300 m. I have not seen it in habitat - only the cultivated plants. Maas describes the species as having chartaceus (papery) bracts instead of the more common coriaceous (leathery) bracts. It is also characterized by having strongly prominent veins on both sides of the leaves. The reported distribution in Maas' monograph is southwestern Colombia, being very common in Caqueta, but Dr. Maas has determined several collections from Colombia in Amazonas and Putumayo, and also in Ecuador - Napo and Pastaza. Costus chartaceus grows in areas with high annual total rainfall and no distinct dry season and it can flower year round.

The plant in the photos shown here is the one common in cultivation that been identified as C. chartaceus. It is consistent with the photos from Lyon Arboretum of a plant from Alan Carle (Lyon No. 2003.0181) which is listed as being C. chartaceus, no origin locality given. The sizes of the bracts, bracteoles, calyx, corolla, stamen and labellum of this cultivated plant are consistent with Maas' description, and it also has prominent veins on the leaves as described by Maas. I believe the origin of this cultivated plant is the Smithsonian accession 1990-016, collected by John Kress No. 90-3124 from Caquetá in Colombia.

This species looks nearly identical to the species Costus sprucei (also described by Paul Maas in 1972) from the Santarem region in eastern Brazil, and there is some question as to whether or not they are truly separate species. Some of the collections that Dr. Maas has included in C. chartaceus have yellow flowers, and look quite different from the plants I have seen on or the cultivated form which all have had flowers with a pink corolla and red-tipped labellum. There is a photo of this species on the PDF file at that is identified there as Costus chartaceus. It has yellow tubular flowers and does not resemble the plant that is common in cultivation.

DNA has been extracted from a sample from my cultivated plant R2708 for the molecular phylogeny at Cornell University but has not yet been included in the latest compilation of a phylogeny tree. The similar looking C. sprucei from Santarem, Brazil has also been sampled and it was found to be in a well defined clade of an early evolutionary lineage. It will be important to determine whether or not C. chartaceus is in a separate clade.

Based on information at the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) this species is in ex situ cultivation at 5 botanical gardens world wide. I have found this species to be somewhat difficult to grow in my garden and greenhouses at Le Jardín Ombrage. R2708 is the cultivated plant commonly sold in US horticulture. It was tested for winter hardiness by Tom Wood near Gainesville, Florida - zone 8b-9, did not survive.

ACCESSIONS:Click links (if any) to see details of individual collections. R2708- R3053-

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Photos (if available) of Taxon ID 4065
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Costus chartaceus, photo from Skinner R2708, cultivated plant from USBRG - Click to see full sized image
Photo# 175 Accession# R2708
Costus chartaceus, photo from Skinner R2708, cultivated plant from USBRG