Smithatris W. J. Kress & K. Larsen
Systemic Botany (2001), 26(2): pp. 226-230
Type: Smithatris supraneanae
Medium-size rhizomatous herb with roots bearing spherical tubers. Stem up to 120 cm in height. Leaves 5-7 per shoot, sheaths light green, ligule minute, petiole varying in length from 4 cm in middle leaves to ca. 5 mm in upper leaves, lamina lanceolate, glabrous, thin in cross-section, light green, median nerve strongly marked, sunk on the upper surface, more prominent below, apex acuminate, base attenuate; lower leaves reduced in size. Inflorescence terminal on leafy shoot; peduncle up to ca. 1 m in height, terete, 3-4 mm in diam; inflorescence bracts white, sometimes pink, congested, overlapping, spirally arranged, each bract subtending a single flower, ca. 2.5 cm long, strongly curved outwards and joined at the base forming an open pouch, acute distally. Bracteoles small, 5-6 mm in length, glabrous. Flowers with calyx tubular, white, sparsely puberulous, narrow, 1.5 mm in diam, ca. 2.5 cm long widening below the lobes, lobes yellow, 8-10 mm long, dorsal lobe hooded and larger than the lateral lobes, lateral lobes obtuse; after anthesis the corolla tube curling in a spiral fashion retracting the flower into the bract before deteriorating; lateral staminodes yellow, slightly shorter than the corolla lobes, acute, with dorsal corolla lobe forming hood subtending anther; labellum yellow, deeply divided, each lobe ligulate with broadly rounded emarginate apex becoming strongly recurved at anthesis; stamen yellow, ca. 5 mm in length, anther not versatile, pollen sacs with two acute prolongations at base, connective extending beyond the pollen sacs and stigma to form a rounded crest; stigma white, funnel-shaped; gynopleural nectaries two at base of corolla tube, ca. 2 mm in length with obtuse apex. Pollen white, omniaperturate, spheroidal, unornamented with a thin exine layer and thickened intine layer, ca. 50 µm in diam. Fruit an indehiscent capsule, 10-15 mm in length, ca. 10 mm in diam, wall becoming papery; seeds arillate, brown, 3-4 mm in length. 2N = ca. 38 (From Kress, W.J. and Larsen, K., "Smithatris, a New Genus of Zingiberaceae from Southeast Asia," Systematic Biology (2001), 26(2): p. 226-27)
Smithatris has been reported from Thailand where it is common in the limestone area around Saraburi, north of Bangkok. Distribution of the genus extends into eastern Burma where similar limestone habitats occur.
Phylogeny and Classification:
The genus was first identified in 2001. The possession of prominent lateral staminodes clearly places Smithatris in the tribe Hedychieae of the Zingiberaceae while the "pouched" inflorescence bracts subtending individual flowers ally the genus most closely to Curcuma L. and Hitchenia Wall. within that tribe. The results of a recent investigation of the phylogenetic relationships of the genera of the Zingiberaceae based on molecular DNA sequence data from the matK and ITS regions of the chloroplast and nuclear genomes, respectively (Kress, Prince and Williams, American Journal of Botany (2002), 89(11): pp. 1682-1696) support the placement of Smithatris in a subclade of the Hedychieae that includes species of Curcuma, Hitchenia, and Stahlianthus Kuntze, but clearly differentiates it from each of these genera.
The genus is comprised of two species.
Common Names, Uses and Notes:
Smithatris supraneanae is well known by the local inhabitants around Saraburi and is sold as a cut flower in large quantities in the local market near the renowned temple of the "Phra Putthabat" (the "footprint of Buddha") where it is used in ceremonies during the Buddhist lent. In Bangkok this species is sold in flower markets under the commercial name "Siamese Platinum" and is now also available in the international horticultural trade.
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