Ataenidia conferta (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Ataenidia conferta (Benth.) Milne-Redh.

Protologue: Kew Bull. 1952: 168 (1952).
Family: Marantaceae


  • Phrynium confertum (Benth.) K.Schum. (1902),
  • Ataenidia gabonensis Gagnep. (1908).

Origin and geographic distribution

Ataenidia conferta is distributed from Côte d’Ivoire eastward to Sudan and Uganda, and southward to DR Congo and Cabinda (Angola).


The leaves are widely used for thatching and for wrapping things (especially food products) that need to be carried, cooked or kept. They are made into a range of articles, such as disposable plates, cups, pots, containers, funnels, fans and parasols, and they are used as cushion under sleeping mats. The stems are woven into baskets, granaries and stretchers for transport. In DR Congo the stem with a tip of a leaf is used for fishing freshwater crabs, and the leaves are used for marking paths in the forest.

In traditional medicine in Ghana a decoction of the root is rubbed on the chest for the treatment of whooping cough. In Cameroon the burnt and pounded root is mixed with palm oil and externally applied for the treatment of headache and sores. Bark scrapings are applied on swellings. In DR Congo a leaf decoction is used as an enema for the treatment of kwashiorkor (malnutrition caused by protein deficiency) and a maceration or decoction of the leaves is used in washings against haemorrhoids.

Production and international trade

In Cameroon bunches of leaves are locally traded.


Wrapping food with the leaves of Ataenidia conferta is said to give the food a good aroma.


Perennial herb with tufted habit and branched stems up to 1.5 m tall, forming tangles; rhizome short. Leaves distichous; petiole sheathing below, calloused just below the blade, calloused part up to 5 cm long; blade elliptical, asymmetrical, up to 48 cm × 20 cm, base attenuate to rounded, apex acuminate, upper surface glabrous, lower surface pubescent and often tinged reddish or purplish, veins parallel and numerous. Inflorescence 1 per stem, terminal but appearing to be axillary, surrounded by up to 6 leaves, spike-like, up to 4 cm × 4 cm, much branched, dense; branches with very short internodes and at each node a broadly elliptical, reddish-purple, persistent, abaxial bract c. 2.5 cm long subtending up to 4 cymules; cymules 2-flowered, with at the base 1 adaxial and 1 abaxial bract; peduncle of cymule c. 1 mm long. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, c. 2 cm long, pale pink or pale purple, sometimes white; pedicel c. 2 mm long; bracteole absent; sepals free, equal, 12–15 mm long; corolla c. 20 mm long, tubular below, with 3 lobes; staminodes and stamen in 2 cycles, at the base forming a tube fused to the corolla tube, outer cycle consisting of 2 petaloid staminodes, inner cycle consisting of 1 stamen and 2 staminodes, of which 1 hooded without spur-like appendage; ovary inferior, pubescent, 3-locular. Fruit indehiscent, ellipsoid, c. 10 mm × 6–7 mm, membranous, red, not fleshy, with persisting perianth, 1–3-seeded. Seeds brown, with a white aril divided into 2 points.

Ataenidia is a monotypic genus. Ataenidia conferta is self-compatible, but depends on sunbirds for pollination. Natural reproduction is through seed, rhizomes and adventive shoots.


Ataenidia conferta occurs from sea level up to 1750 m altitude in wet places in dense primary and secondary forest.


Ataenidia conferta is usually collected from the wild. In Ghana it is sometimes planted, but details on propagation and management practices are not available.

Genetic resources

As it is widely distributed and occasionally cultivated, Ataenidia conferta seems not to be in danger of genetic erosion.


Ataenidia conferta is a very useful fibre plant, yielding leaves for thatching and wrapping, and stems for weaving. Research on propagation and management practices may be worthwhile.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
  • Hattori, S., 2006. Utilization of Marantaceae plants by the Baka hunter-gatherers in southeastern Cameroon. African Study Monographs, Supplement 33: 29–48.
  • Koechlin, J., 1965. Marantaceae. Flore du Cameroun. Volume 4. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 99–157.
  • Milne-Redhead, E., 1952. Marantaceae. In: Turrill, W.B. & Milne-Redhead, E. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 11 pp.
  • Terashima, H. & Ichikawa, M., 2003. A comparative ethnobotany of the Mbuti and Efe hunter-gatherers in the Ituri forest, Democratic Republic of Congo. African Study Monographs 24(1–2): 1–168.

Other references

  • Cunningham, A.B., 1996. People, park and plant use: recommendations for multiple-use zones and development alternatives around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. UNESCO People and Plants Working Paper 4, Paris, France. 58 pp.
  • Hepper, F.N., 1968. Marantaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 3, part 1. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 79–89.
  • Kalanda, K., Ataholo, M. & Ilumbe, B., 1995. Contribution à la connaissance des plantes médicinales du Haut-Zaïre: plantes antihémorroïdaires de Kisangani. Revue de Médecines et Pharmacopées Africaines 9(1): 51–58.
  • Ley, A.C., 2008. Evolutionary tendencies in African Marantaceae - evidence from floral morphology, ecology and phylogeny. PhD thesis, Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Mainz, Germany. 187 pp.
  • Muhwezi, O., Cunningham, A.B. & Bukenya-Ziraba, R., 2009. Lianas and livelihoods: the role of fibrous forest plants in food security and society around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Economic Botany 63(4): 340–352.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Tanno, T., 1981. Plant utilization of the Mbuti Pygmies - with special reference to their material culture and use of wild vegetable foods. African Study Monographs 1: 1–53.
  • Terashima, H., Kalala, S. & Malasi, N., 1991. Ethnobotany of the Lega in the tropical rain forest of eastern Zaire: part one, zone de Mwenga. African Study Monographs, Supplement 15: 1–61.
  • Waliszewski, W.S., Oppong, S., Hall, J.N. & Sinclair, F.L., 2005. Implications of local knowledge of the ecology of a wild super sweetener for its domestication and commercialization in West and Central Africa. Economic Botany 59(3): 231–243.
  • Wieckhorst, A., 2002. Die Verwendung von Pflanzen in der traditionellen Medizin bei drei Baka Gruppen in südost Kamerun. Kölner Ethnologische Beiträge, Heft 2. Institut für Völkerkunde, Universität zu Köln, Germany. 153 pp.


  • M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2010. Ataenidia conferta (Benth.) Milne-Redh. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <>.

Accessed 5 March 2020.