Calathea allouia (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Calathea allouia (Aublet) Lindley

Family: Marantaceae


Maranta allouia Aublet, Curcuma americana Lamk.

Vernacular names

  • Topee tambu, Guinea arrowroot, sweet corn tuber (En). Allélouia (Fr). Laren, leren, topitambou (Sp, Caribbean and South America)
  • Vietnam: củlùn, dong tía.


Native to parts of the West Indies and the northern part of South America. Locally cultivated in its native area and occasionally elsewhere, also in South-East Asia.


Tubers are eaten boiled like Irish potato. Although formerly locally used as a staple food, they are now eaten more as an occasional delicacy. Leaves are used in traditional medicine to treat cystitis and as a diuretic. Like most Calathea species, C. allouia is also grown as an ornamental.


Perennial rhizomatous herb, 1-2 m tall, more or less pubescent, forming a clump of shoots; tubers developing at the end of fibrous roots, ovoid, 2-8 cm × 2-4 cm, orange-yellow to red, green or white. Leaves simple, papery; petiole long, sheathing; blade elliptical, 15-60 cm × 5-25 cm. Inflorescence terminal, spike-like, ellipsoid or ovoid, 6-10 cm long; peduncle 5-20 cm long; bracteoles 15-30, membranaceous, white; flowers in pairs, hermaphrodite, zygomorphic, 2.5-4 cm long, white; perianth segments differentiated into calyx with 3 free segments and tubular corolla with 3 lobes; androecium united to corolla with 1 petaloid fertile stamen and 3-4 petaloid staminodes; ovary trilocular. Propagation is from suckers or rhizome parts, as the tubers lack buds. About 9-14 months are required to produce a crop. Yields are up to 10 t/ha. C. allouia is a truly tropical lowland crop, requiring a high equable temperature (25-30°C) and a moderate rainfall (1500-2000 mm), similar to arrowroot ( Maranta arundinacea L.). It is worth trying out in South-East Asia from sea-level up to 600 m altitude.

Selected sources

28, 31, 43, 50, 55, 56, 69.


L.E. Groen, J.S. Siemonsma & P.C.M. Jansen