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Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton

Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton




Amomum cardamomum L., Amomum repens Sonnerat, Alpinia cardamomum (L.) Roxb.

Vernacular Names


Bu­ah pelaga.


Cardamom, true car­damom, small cardamom.


Kapulaga sabrang (general), kapol (Sundanese), kapolaga (Sundanese).


Bala, pala, panlat


Krako sbat.


Hma:k hne:ngx.


Krawan-thet (central).


Tr[us]c sa, b[aj]ch d[aaj]u kh[aas]u.



Geographical Distributions

Elettaria car­damomum occurs wild in gaps in the evergreen montane monsoon forests of the western Ghats in southern India and the western highlands in Sri Lanka. It is possibly also truly wild in Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China and Malaysia, and has been introduced into other parts of the tropics. In­troduction into Guatemala in the 1920s was par­ticularly successful and a sizable production and export developed.


Elettariacar­damomum is a robust perennial herb which can reach up to 5 m tall. It grows in a thick clump, with branched rhi­zomes which arise from 10-20 erect leafy shoots (composed of the leaf sheaths) and numerous de­cumbent flowering shoots.

The leaves are distichous. The peti­ole (free part) is up to 2.5 cm long, sheathing at the base and forming the pseu­dostem together with other sheaths. The ligule is entire and measures up to 1 cm long. The blade is lance­-shaped, measuring 25-100 cm x 5-15 cm, acuminate at apex, dark green and hairless above while light green and hairless or pubescent beneath.

The inflorescence is a prostrate (seldom erect) panicle, which is up to 1.2 m long. It arises from the rhizome at the base of a leafy shoot. The bracts are arranged alternate, lance-shaped, measuring up to 3 cm x 1 cm and each bract is with an axillary which is usually a 2-3-flowered cincinnus. The bracteole is tubular and measures up to 2.5 cm long. The flowers are bisexual, zygomorphic and measure about 4 cm long. The green sepal is tubular, up to 2 cm long and with 2-3 teeth. The petal is also tubular and 3-lobed. The tube is as long as the sepal. The pale green lobes are 1-1.5 cm long and they are pale green. The labellum is obovate, measures 1.5-2 cm long, up to 1 cm wide, obscurely 3-lobed, and white but streaked with violet. The lateral staminodes are inconspicuous and awl-shaped. The pistil is with ovary 2-3 mm long while the style is slightly longer than the anther. The head-like stig­ma is small.

The fruit is a spherical or subcylindri­cal trilocular capsule, measuring 1-2(- 5) cm long, pale green to yellow and brown when drying. There are 15-20 seeds per fruit, which are an­gled, about 3 mm long, wrinkled, dark brown, aro­matic and with thin mucilaginous aril.

Ecology / Cultivation

Evergreen montane forest land sup­plies the most favorable environment for Elettaria cardamomum, with soils varying from deep forest loam to white quartz gravel with only a shallow zone of humus accumulation. E. car­damomum is a plant of the early succession stage and appears in natural or man-made forest clearings but is not found in forests with an undisturbed canopy. On sloping land, it may grow well in pockets of soil among boulders. In the main production areas in south­ern India and Sri Lanka, cardamom is grown at altitudes of 600-1500 m. A uniformly distributed rainfall of 2500-3800 mm per year is considered optimal. The tolerable range extends from 1500­ 5800 mm; months with less than 125 mm rainfall have to be regarded as drought months. Drought periods during the formation of the inflorescence or during flowering will preclude seed production and cannot be overcome by sufficient precipitation at a later stage. Successive droughts in two or more years endanger the plant as a whole. Opti­mum annual mean temperatures are considered to be around 22°C. The diurnal temperature may vary between 10°C and 35°C. In the lowlands (an­nual mean temperatures >24°C),­damomum only propagates vegetatively; the plants do not grow where annual mean temperatures are <17°C.­damomum does not tolerate prolonged exposure to direct sunlight; about 50% is thought to be opti­mal. Strong winds may topple cardamom plants as their root system is weak. Desiccation by dry winds is a serious threat, especially to young seed­lings, but may also affect adult plants. The crop does best in little-disturbed soils well supplied with organic matter and, since it does not tolerate waterlogging, it is crucial to have good drainage.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.13: Spices.

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