Eremospatha dransfieldii (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Eremospatha dransfieldii Sunderl.


Protologue: Kew Bull. 58(4): 988 (2003).
Family: Arecaceae (Palmae)

Origin and geographic distribution

Eremospatha dransfieldii is distributed from Sierra Leone eastwards to Ghana, occurring mainly in eastern Côte d’Ivoire and western Ghana.

Uses

The split stem is a strong tying material, used for house construction, and is widely used for basketry and furniture. The epidermis of the stem is used as rope, for instance for binding the framework of mud houses.

Production and international trade

Eremospatha dransfieldii is extensively traded, especially in Ghana, primarily in local markets. As is the case with most African rattans, there is inadequate information on the international trade, but it is probably negligible. Eremospatha dransfieldii may have been among the species that were exported from Ghana to the United Kingdom in the period between the two World Wars. The amount of all rattan canes supplied to urban markets in West and Central Africa has been estimated at a total length of 340,000 m per month.

Properties

The stem is reddish brown and lightweight, with an oven-dry density of 280–440 kg/m³, depending on the position along the stem. The stem is slender, soft and flexible, and is easy to split.

Adulterations and substitutes

Eremospatha dransfieldii has properties quite similar to those of the commercially more important Eremospatha macrocarpa (G.Mann & H.Wendl.) H.Wendl., one of the most favoured commercial rattans in Africa. In Ghana Calamus deërratus G.Mann & H.Wendl., a rattan species considered to be of lesser quality than Eremospatha spp., is utilized in areas where Eremospatha is absent.

Description

Clustering, moderate to robust rattan palm forming vigorous clumps; stem up to 40–50 m long, 13–24 mm in diameter without sheaths, 25–30 mm in diameter with sheaths, circular in cross section, internodes 10–16 cm long. Leaves up to 3.5 m long, pinnately compound; sheath slightly striate, unarmed, glabrous, often covered with colonies of scale insects; ocrea entire, obliquely truncate, expanding up to 1–2 cm above the leaf junction; petiole absent; rachis 1.2–1.5 m long, abaxially rounded, adaxially convex to concave, becoming trapezoid then triangular in cross-section distally, margins armed with robust, reflexed, yellow-orange spines, rachis distally prolonged into cirrus 1.2–1.5 m long bearing acanthophylls (leaflets modified into reflexed hooks) 3–4 cm long; leaflets up to 40 on each side of the rachis, inequidistant, oppositely to sub-oppositely arranged, highly variable in shape, obovate-elliptic to oblanceolate to rhomboid or spathulate, 12–30 cm × 3.5–5.5 cm, basal leaflets smaller than the others, base obtusely cuneate, apex praemorse, margins armed with yellow to orange spines. Inflorescence, flowers and fruits unknown.

Other botanical information

Eremospatha dransfieldii was only recently recognised as a species. Formerly specimens were frequently assigned to Eremospatha hookeri (G.Mann & H.Wendl.) H.Wendl. Eremospatha is one of the three rattan genera endemic to Africa. It comprises 11 species, which are easily distinguished from each other on the basis of vegetative characteristics.

Eremospatha cabrae (T.Durand & Schinz) De Wild. is a slender to moderately robust rattan palm with stems 20–30(–50) m long and 10–15 mm in diameter (up to 25 mm with sheaths), leaflets conspicuously rounded, and inflorescence with velvet-like covering. It is distributed from Gabon to Cabinda (Angola). The whole stem is used for making furniture frames and bridges, and in house construction, the split stem is used for making temporary market baskets and other woven products, and the base of the leaf sheath serves as a toothbrush. In Congo a soup of the terminal buds is eaten against worms, and plant sap is dropped in the ear for the treatment of otitis.

Eremospatha cuspidata (G.Mann & H.Wendl.) G.Mann & H.Wendl. is a relatively rare, slender rattan with stems 12–15 m long and 10–15 mm in diameter (16–25 mm with sheaths), and leaflets with a conspicuously apiculate apex. It is distributed from Cameroon and the Central African Republic southwards to Zambia and Angola. The split stems are used for light basketry and weaving.

Eremospatha haullevilleana De Wild. is a slender to moderately robust rattan with stems up to 25 m long and 6–15 mm in diameter (10–25 mm with sheaths), leaf sheath conspicuously striate, and leaflets highly variable. It is distributed from Cameroon and the Central African Republic southwards to DR Congo, Tanzania and Angola. The whole stems are used for a range of products, including furniture framework, building frames, traps, walking sticks, rope and cables for cane bridges. The split stems are used for fish traps, chairs, basketry, rope, string, snares and handrails of bridges. Bark strips are used for furniture and wickerwork. The softened stem is used as a toothbrush, and the leaves are used for thatching. The apical bud (palm heart) is widely eaten. In DR Congo the acanthophylls are used as fish hooks and the fruits are used for decoration, especially in traditional collars. In Gabon unspecified parts are locally used against worms.

Eremospatha hookeri (G.Mann & H.Wendl.) H.Wendl. is a relatively slender rattan with stems up to 30 m long and 15–20 mm in diameter (20–30 mm with sheaths), and ovate-oblanceolate leaflets. It is distributed from Nigeria to Gabon, DR Congo and Cabinda (Angola). The split stem is used as a strong tying material, and the base of the leaf sheath serves as a chewing stick.

Eremospatha laurentii De Wild. is a robust rattan with stems up to 30 m long and 18–25 mm in diameter (25–30 mm with sheaths), and linear basal leaflets. It is distributed from Sierra Leone to the Central African Republic and DR Congo, but absent from Côte d’Ivoire to Benin. The stem is of poor quality and is seldom used for furniture or basketry.

Eremospatha quinquecostulata Becc. is a slender rattan with stems 10–15 m long and 4–9 mm in diameter (5–10 mm with sheaths). It is restricted to south-eastern Nigeria and Cameroon. The split stem is used for weaving.

Eremospatha wendlandiana Dammer ex Becc. (synonym: Eremospatha korthalsiaefolia Becc.) is a robust rattan with stems up to 60 m long and 12–20 mm in diameter (15–30 mm with sheaths), ocrea characteristically tattering, and leaflets triangular and rhomboid. It is distributed from Nigeria eastwards to the Central African Republic and southwards to Cabinda (Angola). The stem is used for basketry, beds and chairs. The split stem is used for tying house frames before plastering with clay, the split epidermis of the stem is used for tying yams, and the base of the leaf sheath serves as a chewing stick. The roasted apex of young stems is eaten.

Anatomy

The cross section of the stem shows three distinct regions: epidermis, cortex and central cylinder. The epidermis is comprised of a single layer of almost rectangular parenchyma cells 12.8–19.7 μm long and 8.7–12.8 μm wide. The cortex consists of fibre bands, rudimentary vascular bundles embedded in parenchyma cells, lying ring-like around the central cylinder. The cortex is 113–733 μm wide. The cortical cells are interconnected, round to oval in shape, with varying sizes; they are more lignified in the basal internodes than at the top. There are 2–3 fibre rows just below the epidermis. The central cylinder is composed of vascular bundles embedded in ground parenchyma. The vascular bundles consist of conducting tissue (xylem and phloem), surrounded by a fibre sheath and parenchyma. Per vascular bundle there are two metaxylem vessels 200–438 μm wide, the protoxylem consists of a cluster of 2–10 vessels, and the phloem consists of a single field with 4–12 sieve tubes. The surrounding fibre sheath is slightly broader in the peripheral and basal vascular bundles than in the inner and top ones. The fibre cells are 0.8–2.6 mm long and 8.7–40.6 μm wide, with a lumen width of 2.9–34.8 μm and a cell wall thickness of 2.9–31.9 μm. The ground parenchyma cells are round to oval in shape with varying sizes, they are more lignified in basal than in top internodes.

Growth and development

All Eremospatha species are pleonanthic, i.e. the stems do not die after flowering. The seeds of most African rattans are dispersed primarily by birds (especially hornbills). However, primates, predominantly drills, mandrills, chimpanzees and gorillas are also key dispersal agents, as are elephants. Predation by rodents accounts for some additional dispersal.

Ecology

Eremospatha dransfieldii is a light-demanding species preferring forest margins, forest gaps and roadsides. It is restricted to areas with an average annual rainfall over 2000 mm and is locally abundant.

Propagation and planting

In Africa rattans are usually exploited from wild sources. In Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon community-based trials concentrating on the introduction of rattans into agroforestry systems and enrichment planting of farm bush and secondary forest have been established but farmer adoption has remained low.

Management

In Africa rattans are considered open-access resources, and there are very few, if any customary laws regulating the harvest of rattan from the wild. Where they exist, external commercial harvesters often pay a small sum to the Chief and Council of the local village for access to the forest. Most national forestry codes still do not include the exploitation of NTFPs in their regulations and thus for most commercially important products including rattans, over-harvesting is uncontrolled and unabated. In Ghana, where exploitation of NTFPs is supposed to be governed by licenses and permits, there are no adequate monitoring systems for the exploitation of these resources, nor are they subject to the full forestry taxes related to the exploitation of these resources. Where those who harvest the rattan have more defined resource tenure, younger stems are not removed and are left to regenerate to provide a future source of cane, usually on a two- to three-year rotation.

Diseases and pests

The stems have very high starch and moisture contents, which render them highly susceptible to attacks by fungi and insects. Fungi cause discoloration of the canes, while beetles cause pinholes or worm holes. Defects resulting from infections by fungi and beetles can result in severe post-harvest losses.

Harvesting

Rattan harvesting in Africa is undertaken manually using cutlasses or machetes. It is a very difficult activity, particularly when rattans become entangled with each other and in the canopies of adjacent trees. The spines on the leaves of Eremospatha dransfieldii may result in various forms of injury to collectors. Hence, more efficient and better methods of harvesting such as the use of simple but effective tools and wearing of protective clothing are necessary.

The choice of the method used for harvesting rattans from their clumps may influence the survival and growth of new stems as well as regeneration of cut stems. Sustainable harvesting means taking into consideration variables such as the number of mature stems that can be removed from a clump, the height at which to cut the cane from the ground, the harvesting cycle, the maturity of the stem, removal of entangled upper stems to create gaps and the length of the stem to be harvested.

Yield

A good harvester can cut about 140 stems per day.

Handling after harvest

Most harvesters air-dry the stems and apply limited prophylactic treatments to prevent or reduce the incidence of attacks by fungi and insects at harvesting sites and during transportation to processing sites.

Genetic resources

Although Eremospatha dransfieldii is not included in the IUCN Red list, it is considered vulnerable due to its limited distribution and present overharvesting, especially in Ghana.

Prospects

Eremospatha dransfieldii was described quite recently and has been somewhat under-studied. In general, there is growing interest in the rattans of Africa owing to their importance in the livelihoods of rural as well as urban traders and artisans. Research on rattans in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon has shown that cultivation is ecologically feasible, but hampered by socio-economic and socio-cultural factors such as land tenure and perceptions of unlimited wild supplies.

Major references

  • Ebanyenle, E. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A., 2003. Anatomy and identification of five indigenous rattan species of Ghana. Ghana Journal of Forestry 11(2): 77–90.
  • Hawthorne, W. & Jongkind, C., 2006. Woody plants of western African forests: a guide to the forest trees, shrubs and lianes from Senegal to Ghana. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 1023 pp.
  • Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Obiri-Darko, B., 2002. Rattan as a sustainable cottage industry in Ghana: the need for development interventions. In: Sunderland, T.C.H. & Profizi, J.P. (Editors). New research on African rattans. Proceedings of the CARPE-funded International Expert Meeting on the Rattans of Africa, held at the Limbe Botanic Garden, Cameroon, 1–3 February 2000. International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Beijing, China. pp. 105–114.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., 2003. Two new species of rattan (Palmae: Calamoideae) from the forests of West and Central Africa. Kew Bulletin 58: 987–990.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., 2007. Field guide to the rattan palms of Africa. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 66 pp.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., Balinga, M.P.B., Asaha, S. & Malleson, R., 2008. The utilization and management of African rattans: constraints to sustainable supply through cultivation. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 38(4): 337–353.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., Beligné, V., Bonnéhin, L., Ebanyenle, E., Oteng-Amoako, A. & Zouzou, E.-J., 2005. Taxonomy, population dynamics and utilisation of the rattan palms of the Upper Guinea forests of West Africa. In: Bongers, F., Parren, M.P.E. & Traoré, D. (Editors). Forest climbing plants of West Africa. Diversity, ecology and management. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, United Kingdom. pp. 147–166.
  • Uhl, N.W. & Dransfield, J., 1987. Genera palmarum - a classification of palms based on the work of Harold E. Moore Jr. The L.H. Bailey Hortorium and the International Palm Society. Allen Press, Lawrence KS, United States. 610 pp.

Other references

  • Abbiw, D.K., 1990. Useful plants of Ghana: West African uses of wild and cultivated plants. Intermediate Technology Publications, London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 337 pp.
  • Ebanyenle, E. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A., 2005. Variation in some anatomical and physical properties of stems of five rattan palm species of Ghana. Journal of Bamboo and Rattan 4(2): 125–142.
  • Kawukpa, U.U. & Angoyo, M.M., 1994. Plantes utiles chez les Batiabetuwa de l’Ile de Mbie, Kisangani, Zaire. African Study Monographs 15(2): 49–68.
  • Morakinyo, A.B., 1995. Profiles and pan-African distributions of the rattan species (Calamoideae) recorded in Nigeria. Principes 39(4): 197–209.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Ebanyenle, E., 2002. The anatomy of five economic rattan species from Ghana. In: Sunderland, T.C.H. & Profizi, J.P. (Editors). New research on African rattans. Proceedings of the CARPE-funded International Expert Meeting on the Rattans of Africa, held at the Limbe Botanic Garden, Cameroon, 1–3 February 2000. International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Beijing, China. pp. 17–31.
  • Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., 1998. Diversity and abundance of rattans in the Campo Faunal Reserve, Cameroon and an estimate of market value. Technical Note No 2. African Rattan Research Programme.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., 2001. Rattan resources and use in West and Central Africa. Unasylva 52(205): 18–26.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., 2002. Hapaxanthy and pleonanthy in African rattans (Palmae: Calamoideae). Journal of Bamboo and Rattan 1(2): 131–139.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., 2002. Two new species of rattan (Palmae: Calamoideae) from Africa. Journal of Bamboo and Rattan 1(4): 361–369.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., Balinga, M.P.B. & Groves, J., 2002. The cane bridges of the Takamanda region, Cameroon. Palms 46(2): 93–95.
  • 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. & 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.
  • 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.
  • Townson, I.M., 1995. Incomes from non-timber forest products. Patterns of enterprise activity in the forest zone of southern Ghana. Main Report. Oxford Forestry Institute, Oxford, United Kingdom. 127 pp.

Sources of illustration

  • Sunderland, T.C.H., Beligné, V., Bonnéhin, L., Ebanyenle, E., Oteng-Amoako, A. & Zouzou, E.-J., 2005. Taxonomy, population dynamics and utilisation of the rattan palms of the Upper Guinea forests of West Africa. In: Bongers, F., Parren, M.P.E. & Traoré, D. (Editors). Forest climbing plants of West Africa. Diversity, ecology and management. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, United Kingdom. pp. 147–166.

Author(s)

  • E. Opuni-Frimpong, Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), University P.O. Box 63, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
  • S. Acheampong Owusu, Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), University P.O. Box 63, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
  • E. Ebanyenle, Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), KNUST, University, P.O. Box 63, Kumasi, Ghana
  • T.C.H. Sunderland, Forests and Livelihoods Programme, Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), P.O. Box 0113 BOBCD, Bogor 16000, Indonesia

Correct citation of this article

Opuni-Frimpong, E. & Acheampong Owusu, S. & Ebanyenle, E. & Sunderland, T.C.H., 2011. Eremospatha dransfieldii Sunderl. [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. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.

Accessed 13 November 2020.