Report from my Garden - Black Plai flowering - 10-13-2019
October 13, 2019
By: Andy Firk

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GINGERS FOR FLORIDA – THE RARE BLACK PLAI: There is a close relative of true Ginger and Awapuhi shampoo ginger named Black Plai, Zingiber ottensii, that I had posted about months ago. It’s also known as Plai Dam or Krachai Pa in its native Thailand. I don’t know anyone in the continental US that grows it. There must be some folks that do, and I would love to connect with them. I tracked down a grower in Thailand who sent me rhizomes but they arrived shriveled and dry and did not sprout even with tender loving care. After this, I found that a friend in Hawaii had a few that he could send and those two plants have thrived. This week one flowered for the first time. I have attached a photo of the one that did here at Bamboo Grove. It looks similar to Zingiber macrodenium, which is known as Chocolate Ball.
The website “Ethnobotany of the Hmong” tells us that the rhizome “is soaked in hot water and drank to treat stomachache.” They also use it to treat stomachache, diarrhea, flatulence, and as a tonic.
A traditional ancient Thai balm is made from fresh rhizomes of Black Plai and is used to treat aching “muscles, knees and elbow joints” and it “relieves tension of tendons, reduces stiffness symptoms and cramps, helps after sprains or other injuries all around the body, helps against itching and after insect bites. It also is useful for treatment of dizziness and vertigo, migraine, and common headache.”
I know that it looks similar to the commonly grown shampoo ginger, Zingiber zerumbet, but take my word for it, you most likely have never seen this very rare species, even if you think that you have. The rhizome flesh of shampoo ginger is whitish-cream while the flesh of this Black Plai is purplish.