Marantochloa leucantha (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Marantochloa leucantha (K.Schum.) Milne-Redh.

Protologue: Bull. Soc. Roy. Bot. Belg. 83: 19 (1950).
Family: Marantaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 26, 28

Vernacular names

  • Yoruba soft cane (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Marantochloa leucantha is distributed from Guinea and Sierra Leone eastward to Ethiopia and southward to Angola.


The stems are often used for plaiting mats, baskets and traps. They are also used in fences, as a binding material in hut-building, and as base material for building mud walls. In Cameroon the bark is used for making cords and for weaving mats, baskets and knife sheaths, and the pith is made into brooms. The leaves are often used for thatching, for wrapping, especially food for cooking and kola nuts, and for lining carrying baskets. In Sierra Leone the leaf is folded into a cone to be used as a receptacle for honey collection. In Cameroon the leaves are used as fans. The petioles are used for making fishing nets. In Ghana sewing thread is obtained from the petioles, and in Nigeria veins from the leaf yield a thread.

In Nigeria the plants are browsed by goats and sheep. The fruit pulp is edible.

Marantochloa leucantha is widely used in African traditional medicine. In Côte d’Ivoire the root pulp is used as a dressing on abscesses, chancres and glandular swellings to soothe pain and to promote cicatrization. The leaf sap is drunk against epilepsy and madness, or pulverized leaves are taken in water or palm wine. For the treatment of bronchitis and cough the pulverized seeds are steeped in palm wine and the liquid is drunk or made into pellets and eaten. In Ghana the flowers are chewed for the treatment of stomach-ache and intestinal disorders, and the fruit or seed is swallowed to prevent boils. In the Central African Republic the plant is used for the treatment of skin mycosis. In DR Congo the leaves are rubbed on the body as a strengthening tonic before work. In Ethiopia preparations of the root and leaves are taken for the treatment of gonorrhoea. In Uganda and Tanzania root decoctions are drunk as an aphrodisiac, and in Tanzania sap squeezed from the rhizome is drunk as a galactagogue and rubbed into scarifications on the forehead and temples against headache.


In Nigeria mats made from the stems are considered durable, but somewhat inflexible.

Adulterations and substitutes

The stems and leaves of various other Marantaceae, particularly those of Ataenidia conferta, are used for similar purposes.


Perennial, erect or scrambling herb up to 4 m tall but often less, with rhizome; stems branched. Leaves alternate, homotropic (broader side of blade always to the right), petiole sheathing at the base, sheathing part up to 25 cm long, the uncalloused and calloused parts of the petiole not separated by a joint, uncalloused part of petiole up to 1 cm long, apical calloused part up to 2 cm long, transition of the petiole into the midvein marked by a beak on the upper surface, but continuous on the under surface; blade more or less ovate, asymmetric, up to 25 cm × 14 cm but often much smaller, base rounded, apex acuminate, with the acumen usually to the right of the midvein as seen from above, glabrous or hairy, lower surface whitish green or purplish. Inflorescence a panicle up to 40 cm long, lax, much branched, each branch with c. 4 nodes, with at each node a caducous abaxial bract 2.5–3.5 cm long with 1 cymule, rachis and bracts green; cymule 2-flowered, backed by a an adaxial bract, peduncle up to 3 cm long. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, c. 7 mm long, white to pink; pedicel up to 10 mm long; bracteole absent; sepals free, equal, c. 4 mm long, scarious; corolla 8–10 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, short-hairy, 3-locular. Fruit a subglobose capsule c. 9 mm in diameter, with conspicuous sutures, glabrescent, glossy, bright red, orange or creamy white, with deciduous withered perianth, not fleshy within, 3-seeded. Seeds shaped like a one-third segment of a sphere, 3–8 mm long, brown, grey or black, with a small basal aril.

Other botanical information

Marantochloa comprises c. 15 species, distributed in the more humid parts of tropical Africa. It is closely related to Ataenidia.

Marantochloa mannii (Benth.) Milne-Redh. is a perennial herb up to 3 m tall, distributed from Côte d’Ivoire to DR Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania. The split stem and stem bark are used for plaiting mats and baskets. The leaves are used for thatching in Ghana, and for cooking food in Gabon. In Cameroon its use as a fibre plant is similar to that of Marantochloa leucantha. Marantochloa ramosissima (Benth.) Hutch. is a perennial herb up to 2.5 m tall, distributed in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon and Bioko (Equatorial Guinea), and also recorded from Sierra Leone and Liberia. It resembles Marantochloa leucantha and has much the same uses.

Growth and development

The flowers are pollinated by bees.


Marantochloa leucantha occurs from sea level up to 1500 m altitude in primary and secondary forest, often in moist places. Its habitats include gallery forest, swamp forest, periodically inundated forest, fallows and roadsides in forest.

Propagation and planting

Marantochloa leucantha is usually collected from the wild, but in Sierra Leone the plant is grown in the outskirts of town.


The leaves are individually harvested by cutting the petiole at its base.

Handling after harvest

The usual preparation for mat-making is to split the stems, remove the central pith and to dry the split stems in the sun. The stems are sometimes dyed before being used.

Genetic resources

Marantochloa leucantha is not threatened with genetic erosion. Wild stands are usually durably exploited.


The stems of Marantochloa leucantha are widely used for plaiting and in construction, and the leaves for thatching and wrapping, and the plant is widely used in traditional medicine. It is occasionally planted and may have potential for wider cultivation. Therefore, research on propagation and management practices seems worthwhile.

Major references

  • Bouquet, A. & Debray, M., 1974. Plantes médicinales de la Côte d’Ivoire. Travaux et Documents No 32. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 231 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.
  • Dhetchuvi, M.M., 1996. The genus Marantochloa (Marantaceae) in Africa. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique 65(3–4): 369–398.
  • 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.
  • Koechlin, J., 1965. Marantaceae. Flore du Cameroun. Volume 4. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 99–157.
  • Lye, K.A., 1994. The family Marantaceae in Ethiopia. Lidia 3(4): 123–130.
  • Lye, K.A. & Friis, I., 1997. Marantaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse, Demissew Sebsebe & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 6. Hydrocharitaceae to Arecaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 335–338.
  • 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.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 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.
  • Addo-Fordjour, P., Anning, A.K., Belford, E.J.D. & Akonnor, D., 2008. Diversity and conservation of medicinal plants in the Bomaa community of the Brong Ahafo region, Ghana. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 2(9): 226–233.
  • Andersson, L. & Chase, M.W., 2001. Phylogeny and classification of Marantaceae. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 135(3): 275–287.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Giday, M., Asfaw, Z. & Woldu, Z., 2010. Ethnomedicinal study of plants used by Sheko ethnic group of Ethiopia. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 132(1):75–85.
  • Hamill, F.A., Apio, S., Mubiru, N.K., Bukenya-Ziraba, R., Mosango, M., Maganyi, O.W. & Soejarto, D.D., 2003. Traditional herbal drugs of southern Uganda, 2: literature analysis and antimicrobial assays. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 84: 57–78.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
  • Ley, A.C. & Claβen-Bockhoff, R., 2009. Pollination syndromes in African Marantaceae. Annals of Botany 104: 41–56.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] W3T/Search/ vast.html. August 2010.
  • 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., 1998. Afrikanische Arzneipflanzen und Jagdgifte. Chemie, Pharmakologie, Toxikologie. 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Stuttgart, Germany. 960 pp.
  • Onwuka, C.F.I., Taiwo, B.B.A. & Adu, I.F., 1992. Browse species and supplements used for feeding small ruminants in Ogun State, Nigeria.1992. In: Stares, J.E.C., Said, A.N. & Kategile, J.A. (Editors). The complementarity of feed resources for animal production in Africa. Proceedings of the joint feed resources networks workshop held in Gaborone, Botswana, 4–8 March 1991. African Feeds Research Network, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. pp. 173–180.
  • Pischtschan, E., Ley, A.C. & Claβen-Bockhoff, R., 2010. Ontogenetic and phylogenetic diversification of the hooded staminode in Marantaceae. Taxon 59(4): 1111–1125.
  • Prince, L.M. & Kress, J., 2006a. Phylogenetic relationships and classification in Marantaceae: insights from plastid DNA sequence data. Taxon 55(2): 281–296.
  • 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.
  • Van der Veen, L.J. & Bodinga bwa Bodinga, S., undated. Une société traditionnelle noire africaine et ses plantes utiles : les Éviya du Gabon. Dénomination, catégorisation et utilisation des plantes. [Internet] Editions Raponda-Walker, Libreville, Gabon. 140 pp. fulltext/Van%20der%20Veen/ Van%20der%20Veen_%C3%A0%20para%C3%AEtre_a.pdf. August 2009.
  • Wild, R.G. & Mutebi, J., 1996. Conservation through community use of plant resources: establishing collaborative management at Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks, Uganda. People and Plants Working Paper No 5. UNESCO, Paris, France. 45 pp.


  • V.A. Kémeuzé, Millennium Ecologic Museum, B.P. 8038, Yaoundé, Cameroon

Correct citation of this article

Kémeuzé, V.A., 2011. Marantochloa leucantha (K.Schum.) 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 7 March 2020.