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92. Elettaria Major, Smith—The Greater or Ceylon Elettaria.

Fig. 264. Elettaria major. Alpinia Granum Paradisi, Moon.
(Fructus; Ceylon Cardamom, offic.)

History.—The fruit of this plant was known to Clusius, [Exoticorum, lib. i. pp. 186 and 187.] who has noticed and figured it under the name of the Cardamomum majus vulgare. [For further details respecting the history of this cardamom, the reader is referred to a paper by the author, in the Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. ii. p. 384, 1842.]

Botany.—The flower has not yet been described, but the other parts of the plant are so similar to the corresponding parts of Elettaria Cardamomum, that I have felt no difficulty in referring this plant to the genus Elettaria. Sir James Edward Smith, [Rees's Cyclopaedia, vol. xxxix. art. Elettaria.] who was acquainted with the fruit only, observes, "we are persuaded they must belong to the same genus as the Malabar Cardamom."

Gen. Char.—See Elettaria Cardamomum, p. 1142.

Sp. Char.Capsule lanceolate oblong, acutely triangular, with flat sides. Calyx three-lobed (Smith).

Rhizome with numerous fibres. Stem erect, smooth, enveloped by leaf sheaths. Leaves sessile on their sheaths, silky beneath, acuminate; the shorter ones lanceolate, the larger ones oblong-lanceolate; breadth 2 to 3 inches, length not exceeding 15 ½ inches. Sheaths about half the length of the leaves, with a roundish ligula. Scape from the upper part of the rhizome, flexuose, jointed, 9 inches long, branched; the branches alternate, one from each joint of the scape, sub-erect, half an inch long, supporting two or three pedicels of about 3-10ths of an inch. Bracts solitary, sheathing at each joint of the scape, withered; partial ones, solitary, ovate, acute. Flowers not present. Capsules one or two on each branch of the scape, with the permanent calyx attached to them; their characters are described in the text.

The plant from which the above description has been drawn formed part of a collection made for me in Ceylon, by my much lamented friend and pupil, the late Mr. Frederick Saner, Assistant-Surgeon in Her Majesty's 61st regiment. He received it from Mr. Lear, Acting Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Ceylon, whose letter, describing it as " Alpinia [Amomum] Granum paradisi," I have in my possession. I presume, therefore, that it is the plant which Mr. Moon, [A Catalogue of the Indigenous and Exotic Plants growing in Ceylon, Colombo, 1824.] the former Superintendent of the Gardens, has described under the same name. The following facts favour this conclusion:—

1. Mr. Moon states that its Singalese name is En-sal, a term which both Hermann [Musaeum Zeylanicum, p. 66, Ed. 2nda, Lugd. Bat. 1726.] and Burmann [Thesaurus Zeylanicus, p. 54, Ametelaed. 1737.] gave as the native name for cardamon.

2. Mr. Moon states that it is cultivated at Candy. If the real grain of paradise plant were cultivated in Ceylon, it would be somewhat remarkable that its seeds are never exported. Now, I have carefully examined the list of exports from that island for several years, but the word grain of paradise never once occurs; and all the seeds imported into England under that name, I find, by the Custom-House returns, come from the western coast of Africa. On the other hand, the Ceylon cardamom comes, as its name indicates, from that island.

It is probable, I think, that the plant which yields the grains of paradise of European commerce does not grow in the East; and that writers who have staled otherwise have confounded it with the plant yielding Ceylon cardamom. But the term "grains of paradise" is so truly oriental in its character, that I suspect it was first applied to Ceylon cardamoms—a supposition rendered probable by the much more agreeable flavour of the latter seeds, as well as by the observation of Dale, [Pharmacologia, p. 233, 3tia ed. Lond. 1737.] that grains of paradise were often substituted for the Ceylon cardamom. [It would appear, however, that the term Grain of Paradise is also applied, in Ceylon, to Alpinia Allughas. (See Burmann's Thesaurus, p. 54; and Sir J. E. Smith, in Rees's Cyclopadia, vol. xxxix. art. Alpinia.)]

Hab.—Cultivated at Candy.

Fig. 265. Ceylon Cardamoms. Commerce.—Bertolacci [Agricultural, Commercial, and Financial Interests of Ceylon, p. 157, 1817.] says that the Ceylon cardamom is collected chiefly in the Candian territory, and that he was informed it is not indigenous, but was introduced by the Dutch. The quantity exported from 1806 to 1813 inclusive varied from 4 ½ to 18 candies annually. Percival [Account of Ceylon, 1805.] states that cardamoms grow in the south-east part of Ceylon, particularly in the neighbourhood of Matura. I am informed that occasionally Ceylon cardamoms come from Quillon.

Description.—The Ceylon cardamom, or, as it is sometimes termed in English commerce, the wild cardamom (cardamomum zeylanicum; cardamomum medium, Matth, and Geoffr.; cardamomum majus, Bont. and Dale; cardamomum majus vulgare, Clusius; cardamomum majus officinarum, C. Bauhin; cardamomum longum, Th. Martius and Geiger; grande cardamome, Guib.), is a lanceolate-oblong capsule, acutely triangular, more or less curved with flat and ribbed sides, about an inch and a half long and one-third of an inch broad. At one extremity we frequently find the long, cylindrical, permanent, three-lobed calyx; at the other, the fruit-stalk, which is sometimes branched. The pericarp is coriaceous, tough, brownish or yellowish ash-coloured, three-celled. The seeds are angular, rugged, have a yellowish-red tinge, a fragrant and aromatic but peculiar odour, and a spicy flavour. The long diameter of the vitellus is parallel to that of the embryo. Th. Martius [Pharmakognosie.] says that 100 parts of these fruits yield 71 parts of seeds, and 29 parts of pericarpial coats.

Composition, Effects, and Uses.—Ceylon cardamoms have not been analyzed. Their constituents, as well as their effects and uses, are doubtless analogous to those of the Malabar cardamom. Their commercial value is about one-third that of the latter. They are chiefly used on the Continent.


The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.



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