Cautleya spicata (Sm.) Baker, Fl. Brit. India 6: 209 1890. (Syn: Cautleya petiolata Baker; Cautleya robusta Baker; Roscoea spicata Sm.);
Common name: Spiked Shade Ginger, Chinese Butterfly Ginger, Hardy Shade Ginger

Cautleya spicata is a perennial herbaceous plant in the family Zingiberaceae (the gingers). It is found in the Himalayas through to China (Yunnan).[1] It is cultivated as an ornamental garden plant, hardy to a few degrees of frost.

What appear to be stems in Cautleya species are actually “pseudostems” formed by the tightly wrapped bases or sheaths of the leaves. In C. gracilis, the pseudostems are 30–60 cm (12–24 in) tall. There are 4–7 leaves with a stalk (petiole) 1.5–2 cm (0.6–0.8 in) long between the sheath that forms part of the pseudostem and the blade which is free. The leaf blades are 12–30 cm (5–12 in) long by 1.6–4 cm (0.6–1.6 in) wide. The inflorescence appears in July in the native habitat of the species and takes the form of a dense spike about 7–12 cm (3–5 in) long.[2]
Each flower has a complex structure. A red bract surrounds the sepals, which are largely fused, forming a tubular calyx, split along one side. The calyx is shorter than the bract, being 1.5–2.5 cm (0.6–1.0 in) long. Inside the calyx, the three petals are fused at the base to form a tube about the same length as the calyx. At the end of the tube the petals form three lobes, 2–2.5 cm (0.8–1.0 in) long. Inside the petals are three petal-like structures (staminodes). The two side staminodes are upright, more-or-less the same size as the central petal lobe. The lip or labellum is about 2.5 cm (1.0 in) long, bent downwards and divided into two at the tip.[2]
The single stamen has a two-pronged “spur” at base of the anther, formed by connective tissue. The seed capsule is red when ripe, splitting to reveal the black seeds which have a white aril.[2]

(From Wikipedia on 7.9.14)

Araceae, Arecaceae and Zingiberaceae Fortnight: Zingiberaceae- Cautleya spicata from Dhanolti-GSG (AUG13) : 4 posts by 4 authors. Attachments (1).
Cautleya spicata from Dhanolti, Mussoorie. Photo clicked last week (30.8.14) on a very cloudy day. Probably the last of flowering specimens of the year in this area.

Yes sir, Cautleya spicata

I am not sure if this interesting plant belongs to Cannaceae or Zingiberaceae
was seen at Herbal Nursery, Deoban.
Please give your precious views….

It seems to be fruiting branch of Cautleya spicata, showing its prominent waxy grey capsules with black seeds.

It is Cautleya spicata (= Roscoea spicata) from Zingiberaceae, commonly known as Chinese Butterfly Ginger.

Thank you very much …
This was long pending with me..
I was not sure where to place this..


Cautleya spicata ATJUNE2016/47 : 4 posts by 3 authors. Attachments (3)
Cautleya spicata
Syn. Roscoea spicata, Cautleya petiolata, Cautleya robusta
Spiked Shade Ginger, Chinese Butterfly Ginger, Hardy Shade Ginger

Liked 1st & 2nd very much.

Thank you, …  Third one is to show only the habit and habitat.

Thank you … I am waiting for these to come out here too. I see the leaves everywhere.


SK32JUL15-2016:ID : 8 posts by 3 authors. Attachments (2)
Enclosing some pictures for identification please..
Location : Mudhe Dolakha Nepal
Altitude:  6700ft.
Date: 23 July 2014

Perhaps Stromanthe sanguinea

Thank you, but I have noticed some differences in the colour of seed pod and leaf.
It is Stromanthe. Could you verify further?

Cautleya spicata.

I guess all these plants are same and Cautleya spicata. Attachments (3)

SK1331 29 JUL 2018 : 4 posts by 2 authors. Attachments (4)- around 600 kb each.
Location: Kakani,  Nepal
Altitude :6600 ft.
Date: 20 June 2018
Habit : Wild
Cautleya spicata (Sm.) Baker  ??

Yes. Cautleya spicata


Cautleya spicata for validation. Photo taken on the way to Gala approx height 7500 feet, Aug 14, 2016.

I think matches with images at Cautleya spicata ABJUL01/35

Cautleya gracilis?

… is correct this is Cautleya spicata.
Please note, C.spicata has flowers crowded into an erect spike. In ‘Flowers of the Himalaya’ they describe C.gracilis as having a lax drooping spike but certainly early on, it does not droop but the flowers are few and distant.
C.spicata has spikes 13-23cm. C.gracilis 5-10cm (though it can be hard to judge scale from photos taken from different distances).
C.spicata has red bracts as long as (thus covering) the calyx. C.gracilis has green bracts much shorter than calyx.
C.spicata grows in shrubberies and amongst rocks, sometimes epiphytic whereas C.gracilis is a forest epiphyte, sometimes growing on rocks.
C.spicata has narrow-elliptic leaves whereas C.gracilis has linear long-pointed leaves.
Both species were recorded by Collet on Jako, Shimla.
The larger image in Cautleya on the Gingers of India site is of C.spicata. See: gingersofindia
The smaller image named as C.gracilis does match this species. Note that Noltie in ‘Flora of Bhutan’ Vol 3 Part 1 (1994) considers that C.cathcartii to probably be just be a robust form of C.gracilis.
There are correct images showing C.gracilis as an epiphyte in Sikkim & Darjeeling:
There are a number of images of herbarium specimens of C.gracilis available on the Kew Herbarium site such as:  which show the distant flowers – though variation exists. Note that this was originally thought to be a specimen of C.cathcartii.
The situation is complicated by a number of images on the internet (primarily of cultivated plants both in India and the West) having been misidentified – this is common-place. It is worth repeating that my informal investigations suggest at least 50% of plants in cultivation under Himalayan names are misidentified. So you cannot always rely upon images on the internet – the same principle applies (though hopefully much less than 50%) to images of plants taken in the Himalaya, in books and articles about Himalayan plants are also misidentified). Even ‘Flowers of the Himalaya’ has a few misidentifications amongst its images….   ALWAYS be cautious in accepting the information provided on the internet and traditionally printed articles and books. The content of many check-lists and floras covering the Himalaya cannot always be relied upon.  I find many littered with clear-cut errors plus numerous questionable records.   It is of course difficult for those without the background or experience to be able to question such things. We ALL of us need to be less trusting of information. As for the content of articles published in the amazing array of ‘international’ journals that abound these days – beware, it is often not peer-reviewed or properly checked (though how could the content be). Even the information supplied by prestigious international organisations is not always accurate….

Please note, C.spicata has flowers crowded into an erect spike.  In ‘Flowers of the Himalaya’ they describe C.gracilis as having a lax drooping spike but certainly early on, it does not droop but the flowers are few and distant.
This is correct.
C.spicata has spikes 13-23cm. C.gracilis 5-10cm (though it can be hard to judge scale from photos taken from different distances).
C.spicata has red bracts as long as (thus covering) the calyx. C.gracilis has green bracts much shorter than calyx.
This is highly confusing. In both species red and green bract forms are available. This is the case with many Zingiberaceae members.
C.spicata grows in shrubberies and amongst rocks, sometimes epiphytic whereas C.gracilis is a forest epiphyte, sometimes growing on rocks.
The habitat of both species are more or less same.
C.spicata has narrow-elliptic leaves whereas C.gracilis has linear long-pointed leaves.
Leaves of C. spicata are oblong lanceolate whereas in C. gracilis it is linear lanceolate.
Both species were recorded by Collet on Jako, Shimla.

Thank you for your observations.
As I have said for other genera and shall keep making the point, all one can ever say is “to the best of our current knowledge/thinking” and that is liable to change.
Only by inspecting carefully and at times being encouraged, perhaps even provoked/challenged, to check more carefully can our knowledge of genera improve – which it needs to.
Yes, there will be differences of interpretation amongst botanists and taxonomist plus as this site says, we are all fallible with mistakes being made.
Clearly, most photos are not close-up.  We are often having to do our best with one or two general shots showing little more
than the ‘habit’ of the plant.
As we examine plants more closely we will find some of the descriptions within what reference books/works we have are imperfect. I regularly comment that ‘Flowers of the Himalaya’ is not a flora, covers only a fraction of the total species from the region and has brief descriptions which can only summarise the variation in each species – and this publication is now 40+ years old. Overall, the work is of a high standard but has its limitations – few members of this group have ready access to more detailed monographs covering genera in the Himalaya/India. And not everything that is published is accurate/can be relied upon.
There is a need for specialists for every genus and family present in the flora of India. Its flora has not been studied intensively. In the UK
through our Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland we have large numbers of amateur botanists voluntarily undertaking studies and surveys
to a professional standard to supplement the efforts of a limited number holding professional positions. Even with a flora (a fraction of the
size of the Himalaya’s let alone India as a whole) studied in such depth over a long period there is much still to be investigated.
Hooker and his numerous collaborators did a remarkable job compiling ‘Flora of British India’ with often scant material, which was sometimes of poor quality with non-existent field notes.  Many specimens were collected by non-field-botanists and the Indian sub-continent presents challenges climate-wise as to the thorough collection, pressing, drying and preservation of mounted specimens in herbaria.  Pity conditions are not all as favourable as the arid Trans-Himalaya.
But his work was merely a preliminary starting point and is out-of-date.
All genera in Indian incl. the Himalaya need further investigation and at times, revision.
The starting point for this is field-work, with detailed, informed observations – with, where appropriate, high quality pressed specimens with detailed accompanying field-notes.  Too many reference pressed specimens in herbaria (the world over) are inadequate – with few, if any field notes such that herbarium taxonomists have to rely on what they can observe from the dried specimens.  High quality close-up digital images can make a major contribution here especially if the photographer knows which bit of the plant matter for each genus.  The traditional general images showing the “pretty bits” often miss the crucial characteristics.  Those specialising in genera can advise others what to pay particular attention to, so the images are of greater use identification-wise.   Keen amateurs who access plants in the wild are an invaluable resource.  Another valuable source of information can be observing plants in cultivation (provided they are of known provenance and of recent introduction directly from the wild).  Such things will allow those undertaking taxonomic studies to be able to inspect fresh morphological characteristics rather than having to rely on dried specimens only.
Lots of images/records are required to understand better variation within species and between species in each genus.  Species that occur over a wide geographical and altitudinal range particularly need such studies.
We need to encourage more extensive and thorough field-work/observations – quite a problem (and this applies in the West as well) in these days of high-tech science with the attractions of laboratory research rather than the often arduous conditions of going into the field but without this, our knowledge of India flora incl. rarity or abundance will not attain the standards it could.   Field-work needs to be given the respect it deserves, even if not especially ‘high-tech’!   Though the use of digital cameras helps in this respect.
Perhaps you could post images of close-ups of the floral (and fruiting) parts of Cautleyas (and other Zingiberaceae) to help clarify issues?  Or get some of your students to?

Appears closer to images at Cautleya spicata compared to those at Cautleya gracilis

SK2065 22 July 2019 : 4 posts by 2 authors. Attachments (4)- around 500 kb each.
Location:  Phulchoki, Lalitpur
Date:  3 July 2019
Elevation:  2484 m.
Habit : Wild
Cautleya spicata (Sm.) Baker ??

Yes you are right.

Thank you …!
Nepali Names : गग्लेटो Gagleto/ बन बेसार Ban Besaar/  पानी सरो Paanee Saro/ सानो सरो Saano Saro/ डन्डी गग्लेटो Dandee Gagleto


Cautleya spicata (Sm.) Baker: 7 very high res. images.

Location: Phulchoki, Lalitpur
Date:  18 July 2021
Elevation:  2500m.
Habit : Wild

Yes you are correct.

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