Eremospatha macrocarpa (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Eremospatha macrocarpa (G.Mann & H.Wendl.) H.Wendl.


Protologue: Les Palmiers: 244 (1878).
Family: Arecaceae (Palmae)

Synonyms

  • Calamus macrocarpus G.Mann & H.Wendl. (1864),
  • Eremospatha sapini De Wild. (1916).

Vernacular names

  • Small rattan palm, large-fruit rattan palm (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Eremospatha macrocarpa is distributed from Sierra Leone to the Central African Republic and DR Congo.

Uses

The whole stems are ideal for building cane bridges due to their flexibility. They are also used for binding in house construction and for making furniture. In Ghana they are woven into screens for fencing. The split stems are used for making baskets and mats. The bark is easily peeled off and provides strong cordage. The leaves are used for thatching. Potential uses of the stem include the production of particle board and briquettes from waste material from furniture making. In traditional medicine in Ghana and Nigeria the powdered root is taken for the treatment of syphilis.

Production and international trade

The cane of Eremospatha macrocarpa is widely traded and one of the favoured commercial rattans in West and Central Africa. However, very limited information is available on rattan exports from African countries. It is known that Ghana supplied a significant proportion of the canes in the United Kingdom market during the period between the two World Wars. There have also been reports of export of raw cane from Ghana and Nigeria to South-East Asia, and of a flourishing export trade from Nigeria to Korea. The local trade forms a significant part of the local economy in both rural and urban communities, with many people involved in the rattan industry. In Ghana, for instance, the rattan industry is estimated to contribute about 20% of the total revenue from the trade in non-timber forest products (NTFPs). However, many processors have complaints about the low price they get for finished products. For example, 50% of weavers in Ghana mentioned the low price of and irregular demand for finished products as the most important constraints in the marketing of rattan products. In urban areas products are rarely sold from formal display centres but mostly in informal stalls along roads. The amount of rattan canes supplied to urban markets in West and Central Africa has been estimated at a total length of 340,000 m per month. The unit of trade of commercial rattans is the ‘packet’, which, for small-diameter canes such as Eremospatha macrocarpa, comprises 20 stems 5 m long.

Properties

Eremospatha macrocarpa is the best source of cane in Africa. The stems are flexible and of comparable quality to the small-diameter rattans of South-East Asia. The stem is reddish brown and light to medium weight, with a density of 440–560 kg/m³ when oven-dry. At 12% moisture content stems from Nigeria had a modulus of rupture of 11 N/mm² and a modulus of elasticity of 520 N/mm². The stems are fairly durable but susceptible to attacks by termites. Air-dried samples of the stems in Nigeria were recorded to contain per 100 g: water 16.2 g, energy 1336 kJ (319 kcal), protein 3.9 g, fat 0.5 g, carbohydrate 77.9 g, ash 1.6 g, Ca 187 mg, Mg 39 mg.

Adulterations and substitutes

Calamus deërratus G.Mann & H.Wendl., a species considered to be of inferior quality is sometimes utilized in the absence of Eremospatha macrocarpa.

Description

Slender to moderately robust rattan palm, growing in clumps; stem up to 50–75(–150) m long, 8–19 mm in diameter without sheaths, 22–30 mm in diameter with sheaths, internodes 20–33 cm long. Leaves up to 3.5 m long, pinnately compound with up to 25 leaflets on each side of the rachis; sheath longitudinally striate, unarmed; ocrea entire, saddle-shaped, with rounded lobe 2.5–4 cm long; petiole short in leaves of juvenile palms, absent in older ones; rachis 1–1.5 m long, unarmed, distally prolonged into cirrus up to 2 m long bearing acanthophylls (leaflets modified into reflexed hooks) c. 3 cm long; leaflets of juvenile palms sharply bifid, leaflets of adult ones linear to lanceolate, generally drooping, 22–35 cm × 2–2.5 cm, narrowly praemorse at the apex, with sharp teeth on the margins and pointed ends. Inflorescence axillary, up to 55 cm long, arching outwards, branched to 1 order; rachis 25–40 cm long; branches horizontal; peduncle 10–15 cm long. Flowers in pairs, bisexual, sessile, buff yellow, very fragrant; calyx c. 3 mm long, thick, leathery, shallowly 3-lobed; corolla c. 10 mm long, thick, leathery, with 3 valvate lobes; stamens 6, united into a ring; gynoecium 3-carpellate. Fruit cylindrical to oblong-ellipsoid, 2–3 cm × 1–1.5 cm, pale orange to brown, with 15–24 rows of scales, 1(–2)-seeded. Seeds compressed, c. 2 cm × 1.5 cm × 1 cm.

Other botanical information

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.

Anatomy

The cross section of the stem shows three distinct regions: epidermis, cortex and central cylinder. The epidermis consists of a single layer of almost square parenchyma cells 9.9–16.8 μm long and 9–13.3 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 73–373 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 150–440 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 0.2–2.6 mm long and 8.7–43.5 μm wide, with a lumen width of 1.5–37.7 μm and a cell wall thickness of 2.9–26.1 μm. The ground parenchyma cells are round to oval in shape with uniform sizes.

Growth and development

Eremospatha macrocarpa has a long germination period and high initial seed mortality. In Cameroon an annual extension growth of 3.2 m has proven possible, making Eremospatha macrocarpa very suitable for short rotation agroforestry. 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 and mandrills (two species of forest primate related to the baboon), chimpanzees and gorillas are also key dispersal agents, as are elephants. Predation by rodents accounts for some additional dispersal.

Ecology

Eremospatha macrocarpa occurs in forest margins, gaps and regrowth vegetation. It is extremely light-demanding and responds well to selective logging in the forest. The species is rare in swamp forest.

Propagation and planting

In Africa rattans are usually exploited from wild sources, and there is little cultivation despite favourable ecological factors and growth rates that suggest cultivation would be feasible. This contrasts with the situation in South-East Asia, where traditional rattan cultivation practices exist such as the cultivation in mixed gardens by sedentary cultivators or in recently burned forests by shifting cultivators. 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.

Propagation by seed is possible, but germination is slow and seed mortality high. Trials in Cameroon showed germination rates of 32.5%, with a time to first emergence of 96 days. In nursery trials with suckers in Côte d’Ivoire shoots emerged 43–93 days after planting.

In on-farm trials in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon a high post-planting mortality was recorded, which is attributed to neglect and predation by rodents.

Management

In Africa rattans are considered open-access resources, and there are very few, if any customary laws regulating exploitation of wild rattan. 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.

Seedlings of Eremospatha macrocarpa are eaten by rodents.

Harvesting

Rattans are harvested manually, which can be difficult activity, particularly when rattans become entangled with each other and in the canopies of adjacent trees. The leaves of Eremospatha macrocarpa have thorns which may result in various forms of injury to collectors, and better and more efficient methods of harvesting such as the use of simple but effective tools and wearing of adequate protective clothing are called for. 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.

Handling after harvest

After the extraction of the stems from the forest, they are bundled in packets to be sold. Processing of the raw cane involves removing the epidermis (skin) from the stem and drying the raw cane. In much of Africa this is done manually by scraping the stem with a kitchen knife to remove the skin and then drying the raw cane, which is usually done in the open with little or no preservative treatment. Transportation from the forest to the roadsides or villages is usually by head-portering, which influences the price of cane and cane products, as nowadays harvesters have to travel long distances to harvest the canes.

Genetic resources

Eremospatha macrocarpa is widespread and locally common throughout its range. It is not considered threatened according to IUCN criteria, but populations easily accessible to harvesters are under great pressure which could lead to a loss of entire populations, thus eroding the genetic base.

Prospects

Eremospatha macrocarpa will remain one of the most desired rattans of Africa. Surprisingly little information is available on the species, and research is needed to assess its potential for cultivation, although initial research has shown that issues such as land tenure and the relative abundance of rattans in the wild keep adoption of cultivation by farmers low. There are also prospects for better processing of the raw cane to produce high quality products of international standards that are able to compete on the global market. Sustainable management of the species can help in poverty alleviation in the rural and urban communities involved in the harvest and manufacture of rattan products.

Major 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Falconer, J., 1994. Non-timber forest products in southern Ghana: main report. Natural Resources Institute, Chatham Maritime, United Kingdom. 244 pp.
  • Hall, J.B. & Swaine, M.D., 1981. Distribution and ecology of vascular plants in a tropical rain forest: forest vegetation of Ghana. W. Junk Publishers, the Hague, Netherlands. 383 pp.
  • 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.
  • Sunderland, T.C.H., 2001. The taxonomy, ecology and utilisation of African rattans (Palmae: Calamoideae). PhD Thesis, University College, London, United Kingdom. 359 pp.
  • 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.

Other references

  • 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.
  • Irvine, F.R., 1952. Supplementary and emergency food plants of West Africa. Economic Botany 6: 23–40.
  • Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
  • Kouakou, K.L., Zoro Bi, I.A., Abessika, Y.G., Kouakou, T.H. & Baudoin, J.-P., 2009. Rapid seedlings regeneration from seeds and vegetative propagation with sucker and rhizome of Eremospatha macrocarpa (Mann & Wendl.) and Laccosperma secundiflorum (P.Beauv.) Kuntze. Scientia Horticulturae 120: 257–263.
  • Kyei, B.K., 2004. Chemical analysis of three Ghanaian rattan species (Calamus deeratus, Eremospatha macrocarpa and Laccosperma secundiflorum). B.Sc. Natural Resource Management degree thesis, Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. 42 pp.
  • Lucas, E.B. & Dahunsi, B.I.O., 2004. Characteristics of three western Nigerian rattan species in relation to their utilization as construction material. Journal of Bamboo and Rattan 3(1): 45–56.
  • Morakinyo, A.B., 1995. Profiles and pan-African distributions of the rattan species (Calamoideae) recorded in Nigeria. Principes 39(4): 197–209.
  • Olorunnisola, A.O., 2004. Briquetting of rattan furniture waste. Journal of Bamboo and Rattan 3(2): 139–149.
  • Osei, A.A., 2005. Chemical analysis of a Ghanaian rattan species (Eremospatha macrocarpa). B.Sc. Natural Resource Management degree thesis, Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. 38 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.
  • 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.
  • Otoo, M., 2001. Vegetative propagation of rattans (Ancistrophyllum opacum, Calamus deeratus and Eremospatha macrocarpa). B.Sc. Natural Resource Management degree thesis, Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. 46 pp.
  • Quarcoo, B., 1996. Effect of fertilizer top dressing on the height growth of two rattan species (Calamus deerratus; Eremospatha macrocarpa) at planting. B.Sc. Natural Resource Management degree thesis, Institute of R3newable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. 45 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., 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., Balinga, M.P.B. & Groves, J., 2002. The cane bridges of the Takamanda region, Cameroon. Palms 46(2): 93–95.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Sources of illustration

  • Sunderland, T.C.H., 2001. The taxonomy, ecology and utilisation of African rattans (Palmae: Calamoideae). PhD Thesis, University College, London, United Kingdom. 359 pp.

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 macrocarpa (G.Mann & H.Wendl.) H.Wendl. [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 2 March 2020.