Polyploidy is common in the ginger family Zingiberaceae. The aims of the present paper are (1) to provide a general introduction on species diversity with emphasis on conservation; (2) to highlight the human-use significance of this family, focusing on the two major genera, Zingiber (ginger) and Curcuma (turmeric); (3) to present chromosome number data from 45 natural and cultivated Curcuma taxa from Thailand, of which polyploids are predominant; and (4) to describe our own work on cytotaxonomy of selected Thai Curcuma species. We obtained somatic chromosome numbers from root tips and analysed meiotic chromosome behaviour from flowers. We also used the molecular cytogenetic method of ribosomal gene mapping on chromosomes to infer mechanism of polyploidization and reveal genomic relationships among closely related species. The main results of our cytogenetic studies include the following. The most sought-after medicinal Curcuma cultivars growing on a large-scale basis are secondary triploids, so as taxa in natural habitats that are harvested for local utilisation. These triploids are sexually deficient, due to meiotic pairing abnormalities, but they are propagated asexually via rhizomes. The ribosomal mapping results indicate natural triploidization process via hybridisation, either within populations or across the species boundaries.
Part of the book: Chromosomal Abnormalities