Kencur is used in the cuisine of such places as Bali, Java, and China. It has medicinal qualities that fight a wide range of bacteria and certain fungi. It is an herb of the ginger family and is somewhat similar to ginger. Its scientific name is Kaempferia galanga, and one of its English common names is resurrection plant.
Kaempferia galanga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The scientific name of kencur is Kaempferia galanga L. As you can see from the initial, Carolus Linnaeus gave this plant its scientific name. Kaempferia is an adaptation of the last name of Engelbert Kaempfer, the botanist who first described Kaempferia galanga.
Kencur belongs to the ginger family Zingiberaceae. Like other members of this family, it is a monocotyledonous plant. This means that its seeds have only one leaf instead of two.
In English, kencur is known as the cutcherry, sand ginger, or resurrection plant. However, the name “resurrection plant” has also been applied to other species. For example, Salaginella lepidophylla, one of the fern allies, has received this name because it seems to come alive when a dried out specimen is dowsed with water.
Gisol is the name that I prefer to call this plant. This is one of its common names in the Philippines.
If you have a large enough English dictionary, you will find the word “galangal” listed in its pages. This is not a common name for any particular species, but it is a general name for a number of plants that resemble Zingiber officinale, which is ordinary ginger. Kaempferia galanga is one of these galangals.
Kaempferia galanga grows in Southeast Asia from Indonesia north to southern China and from India east to the Philippines. It is also grown as a cultivated plant.
Like common ginger, kencur is an herbaceous plant. According to Picheansoonthon and Koonterm, a distinctive feature of Kaempferia galanga is its two fairly large egg-shaped or nearly orbicular leaves that lie flat on the ground and its cluster of white flowers that are enclosed in the two leaf-sheaths. Unlike other species in the genus Kaempferia, kencur has no stem.
Other sources say that the leaves are few in number The plant in the picture on top of the page seems to have more than two leaves, but the plant in the picture immediately below apparently has only two leaves. I put two more pictures below that to give you a good idea how different plants of this species look. Note the close-up of the flower in the third picture below.