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The Dove tail is in blossom

August 27, 2012

The ‘dove tail’ or Xiphidium caeruleum (Haemodoraceae) is a popular green in shady and moist areas in the Chiang Mai gardens. It blooms for a long time in the rainy season and its Iris-like leaves and white blossom lightens up your dark corners.

The ‘dove tail’ was described from Guyana (South America) by the French botanist Jean Baptiste Christophore Fusée Aublet in 1775. He established a botanical garden in Mauritius in 1752 on behalf of the French East India company and then he worked in Guyana from 1762. He died in the same year as Linnaeus (1778).

The family Haemodoraceae or ‘bloodworts’ is very exotic to us Europeans, but there are some 90 species in North and South America, South Africa, New Guinea and Australia (such as the kangaroo paws Anigozanthos). Their roots contain red pigments (phenylphenalenone) not found in any other organism.

It is probably a fairly recent introduction to the Thai gardens since Smitinand (2001) does not mention it, and Ketsanee had never seen it before we got it. It can spread easily within its preferred habitat (such as within a Dokmai Garden nursery) but I have never seen it naturalized. Please let us know if anyone has.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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