Marantochloa congensis (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Marantochloa congensis (K.Schum.) J.Léonard & Mullend.

Protologue: Bull. Soc. Roy. Bot. Belg. 83: 17 (1950).
Family: Marantaceae

Vernacular names

  • Yoruba soft cane (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Marantochloa congensis is distributed from Guinea and Sierra Leone to the Central African Republic, DR Congo, Burundi and Cabinda (Angola).


The stem and the stem bark are widely used for making cords and for plaiting mats, baskets and ornamental items. The petioles are also recorded to be used for tying and plaiting. The leaves are used for packing. In DR Congo the plants are laid on the ground to sleep on them. In DR Congo the dried stem is used as firebrand.

In traditional medicine in Côte d’Ivoire the leaves are chewed and the extract is swallowed for the treatment of diarrhoea, and a sauce of the leaves ground with palm nuts and meat is eaten against palpitation. In Congo the root sap is taken as a purgative and the leaves form part of a preparation drunk in case of painful and abundant menstruation.


Cords made from the stem bark are strong, but mats and baskets are not durable, because the bark strips lose their flexibility rapidly and tend to break readily when dry.


Perennial, erect or scrambling herb up to 4 m tall, with rhizome; stems branched. Leaves alternate, antitropic (broader side of blade alternately to the right and to the left); petiole sheathing at the base, the uncalloused and calloused parts of the petiole not separated by a joint, uncalloused part of petiole up to c. 5 mm long, apical calloused part 2–7(–10) mm long and often hairy, transition of the petiole into the midvein marked by a beak on the upper surface, but continuous on the under surface; blade asymmetric, up to 20 cm × 10 cm, base rounded, apex acuminate, with the acumen usually not in line with the midvein. Inflorescence lax, c. 10 cm long, not or little branched, with at the nodes persistent abaxial bracts 1–2 cm long with 2-flowered cymules; cymule backed by an adaxial bract, peduncle c. 2 cm long. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, white or yellow; pedicel up to 5 mm long; bracteole absent; sepals free, equal, 3–4 mm long; corolla c. 5 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 with a cushion-like appendage; ovary inferior, densely hairy, 3-locular. Fruit a dehiscent, globose capsule, 3-lobed, smooth, with deciduous withered perianth. Seeds with a basal aril.

Flowers are pollinated by bees. Fruit production is low, but compensated by vigorous vegetative reproduction via rhizomes and adventive shoots in leaf axils and inflorescence.

Marantochloa comprises c. 15 species, distributed in the more humid parts of tropical Africa. It is closely related to Ataenidia. Marantochloa cordifolia (K.Schum.) Koechlin is a perennial herb up to 2 m tall, distributed in Cameroon, Gabon, Congo and Cabinda (Angola). The bark of its stem or petiole is used for making cords and for weaving mats, baskets and knife sheaths, and the pith is made into brooms. The species is sometimes planted in Cameroon. Marantochloa monophylla (K.Schum.) D’Orey (synonym: Marantochloa holostachya (Baker) Hutch.) is a perennial herb up to 2 m tall, with a stem bearing only 1–2 leaves. It is distributed in Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, DR Congo and Cabinda (Angola). Its leaves are used for wrapping food for cooking; they are said to give a good smell to the food. In Gabon the leaves are used as stoppers in calabashes. In DR Congo the midvein of the leaf is used for fishing crabs. In traditional medicine in DR Congo the powder of dried leaves is rubbed into scarifications on the belly of a woman to facilitate pregnancy. In DR Congo Marantochloa monophylla is sometimes planted in fields with other crops, to increase their yield.


Marantochloa congensis occurs from sea-level up to 1200 m altitude in moist, shaded locations in forest, including primary forest, secondary forest, riverine forest, swamp forest, gallery forest, seasonally flooded forest, mixed forest and forest regrowth.

Genetic resources

In view of its wide distribution and vigorous vegetative reproduction, Marantochloa congensis is unlikely to be threatened with genetic erosion.


Marantochloa congensis is a widely used local source of material for tying, plaiting and wrapping. No information is available on local trade of its products, and there are no reports of the species being overexploited, but the plant may have potential for cultivation, and research on propagation and management practices may thus 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.
  • Dhetchuvi, M.M., 1996. The genus Marantochloa (Marantaceae) in Africa. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique 65(3–4): 369–398.
  • Koechlin, J., 1965. Marantaceae. Flore du Cameroun. Volume 4. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 99–157.
  • 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.

Other references

  • d’Orey, J.D.S., 1981. Marantacae colhidas por John Gossweiler em Angola existentes em LISJC. Garcia de Orta, Série de Botânica 5(1): 47–57.
  • Hattori, S., 2006. Utilization of Marantaceae plants by the Baka hunter-gatherers in southeastern Cameroon. African Study Monographs, Supplement 33: 29–48.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lubini, A., 1994. Utilisation de plantes par les Yansi del’entre Kwilu-Kasai (Zaire). In: Seyani, J.H. & Chikuni, A.C. (Editors). Proceedings of the 13th plenary meeting of AETFAT, Zomba, Malawi. Volume 1. National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi. pp. 53–74.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Pischtschan, E., Ley, A.C. & Claβen-Bockhoff, R., 2010. Ontogenetic and phylogenetic diversification of the hooded staminode in Marantaceae. Taxon 59(4): 1111–1125.
  • Terashima, H., Ichikawa, M. & Sawada, M., 1988. Wild plant utilization of the Balese and the Efe of the Ituri Forest, the Republic of Zaire. African Study Monographs, Supplement 8. The Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan. 78 pp.
  • 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.


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

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2011. Marantochloa congensis (K.Schum.) J.Léonard & Mullend. [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 12 November 2020.