Haniffia cyanescens
by Dr. Sam Yen Yen
Haniffia cyanescens
by Dr. Sam Yen Yen

Haniffia cyanescens var. cyanescens is a small ginger endemic to Peninsular Malaysia. This species is known only from the ridges and hill slopes of the forests in Bukit Tangga, Negeri Sembilan. Here, the plants grow to between 50 and 80 cm tall in leafy clumps. It is easy to recognise the plant, but only when it is flowering. Otherwise, it might be mistaken for one of the more common gingers, such as Zingiber or Amomum. The inflorescences, which emerge from the ground, are sometimes partly hidden by leaf litter. The flowers are the most striking part of the plant because of their colour: mostly white, contrasted with a dark blue-violet labellum. Another interesting feature of the plant is the purple rhizome; this is unusual and quite distinct from the brownish coloured rhizomes of most indigenous gingers.

The genus Haniffia is a very small and rare ginger group. So far, only two species have been named: H. cyanescens and H. albiflora. H. albiflora is recorded from Southern Thailand, while another variety, H. cyanescens var. penangiana, was discovered at two locations: Gunung Bintang in Kedah, and in Penang.

Because of their rarity, little is known about their reproductive biology and the long-term sustainability of the few wild populations that have been recorded. It is imperative therefore that the highly restricted habitat of these plants is protected to ensure the survival of this unique group of gingers.

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