Sarcophrynium brachystachyum (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Sarcophrynium brachystachyum (Benth.) K.Schum.

Protologue: Engl., Pflanzenr. IV, 48: 36 (1902).
Family: Marantaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 28

Vernacular names

  • Yoruba soft cane (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Sarcophrynium brachystachyum is distributed from Senegal to the Central African Republic and DR Congo.


The leaves are widely used for thatching and for wrapping food products, such as cassava. They are used for covering pots in which bananas, yams or taro are cooked, and for baking meat and fish during field camps. In Cameroon they are used as cushion under sleeping mats and made into articles such as instant containers, plates, pots, cups, funnels, fans and parasols. Split petioles, with the central pith scraped out, are used for tying; they are also plaited into mats and baskets. The stems are recorded to be used for making cords, fish traps and baskets.

In Côte d’Ivoire the seeds are credited with expectorant and emetic activity and they are used against pulmonary problems such as cough and bronchitis. For this purpose, they are ground, mixed with water or palm-wine and drunk, or they are taken as small pills. A paste made of pounded seeds and water is applied on abscesses. In Gabon the rhizome is an ingredient of a decoction taken for the treatment of pulmonary problems.

In Nigeria the dried leaves are stored with kola nuts to preserve the nuts.

Production and international trade

Information on local trade is not available.


The fruit pulp is said to be edible in Ghana, but in Gabon the fruits are recorded not to be edible.

Adulterations and substitutes

A range of other Marantaceae species are similarly used for thatching, packing, wrapping, tying and weaving.


Perennial, erect herb with rhizome and tufts of c. 10 imbricate leaves around a central stem terminated with a single leaf and a lateral inflorescence. Leaves distichous; petiole up to 1.5 m long, sheathing at the base, sheath pubescent, the uncalloused and calloused parts of the petiole not separated by a joint, apical calloused part up to 6 cm long, transition of the petiole into the midvein marked by a V-shaped beak on the upper surface, but continuous on the under surface; blade elliptical to linear-elliptical, 20–40 cm × 10–20 cm, base attenuate. Inflorescence of 1 or more racemes; raceme up to 7 cm long, sessile or with peduncle up to 6 cm, condensed, internodes c. 5 mm long; abaxial bracts overlapping, 10–20 mm × 8–10 mm, persistent, each with 4–5 cymules; cymule 2-flowered, backed by a an adaxial bract. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic; pedicel c. 1 mm long; bracteole c. 1.5 mm long, acuminate, fleshy, smooth; sepals free, equal; corolla c. 10 mm long, tubular below, with 3 lobes, pinkish white to purplish or yellowish; 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 sword-like appendage; ovary inferior, glabrous, 3-locular. Fruit almost globose, 12–15 mm in diameter, with inconspicuous sutures, indehiscent, fleshy, orange-red, wrinkled when dry, 3-seeded. Seeds subpyramidal, oblique, without aril.

Other botanical information

Sarcophrynium comprises 4–7 species, distributed in the forest regions of tropical Africa.

Within Sarcophrynium brachystachyum 2 varieties are distinguished: var. brachystachyum, with glabrous leaf blade except for the midvein on the upper surface, and var. puberulifolium Koechlin, with fine pubescence on the undersurface of the leaf blade.

Growth and development

Flowers open early in the morning and start wilting at around 11.00 in the morning. Pollination is by bees.


Sarcophrynium brachystachyum occurs in forest understorey, particularly in humid locations or along streams. It is also recorded to occur as a weed in oil palm plantations.

Propagation and planting

Natural reproduction is rapid.

Genetic resources

In view of its wide distribution and rapid natural reproduction Sarcophrynium brachystachyum is not threatened with genetic erosion.


Sarcophrynium brachystachyum yields many useful products, but little information is available on the species. Studies on its market value and trade routes, its properties, its germination characteristics, and its phenology seem worthwhile.

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.
  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 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.
  • 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.
  • Koechlin, J., 1965. Marantaceae. Flore du Cameroun. Volume 4. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 99–157.

Other references

  • Adjanohoun, E.J. & Aké Assi, L., 1979. Contribution au recensement des plantes médicinales de Côte d’Ivoire. Centre National de Floristique, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 358 pp.
  • Aiyeloja, A.A. & Ajewole, O.I., 2006. Non-timber forest products’ marketing in Nigeria: a case study of Osun state. Educational Research and Reviews 1(2): 52–58.
  • Gassita, J.N., Nze Ekekang, L., De Vecchy, H., Louis, A.M., Koudogbo, B. & Ekomié, R. (Editors), 1982. Les plantes médicinales du Gabon. CENAREST, IPHAMETRA, mission ethnobotanique de l’ACCT au Gabon, 10–31 juillet 1982. 26 pp.
  • Kayode, J., Ige, O.E. & Ojo, B.M., 2009. Conservation and biodiversity erosion in Ondo State, Nigeria: (2). assessing botanicals used in the storage of farm produce in Akure region. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 13: 603–610.
  • 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.
  • Mangenot, S. & Mangenot, G., 1958. Deuxième liste de nombres chromosomiques nouveaux chez diverses Dicotyledones et Monocotyledones d'Afrique occidentale. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique de l'Etat (Bruxelles) 28(4): 315–329.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] W3T/Search/ vast.html. June 2010.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • N’goran, A., Goli, K., Abdourahamane, S. & Alassane, S., 1995. Côte d’Ivoire: Rapport de pays pour la conférence technique internationale de la FAO sur les ressources phytogénétiques. FAO, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. 75 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.
  • Tchatat, M., 1999. Produits forestiers autres que le bois d’oeuvre (PFAB) : place dans l’aménagement durable des forêts denses humides d’Afrique Centrale. Document Forafri 18. Cirad, Montpellier, France. 94 pp.
  • Zapfack, L., Ayeni, J.S.O., Besong, S. & Mdaihli, M., 2001. Ethnobotanical survey of the Takamanda Forest Reserve. Consultancy report submitted to PROFA (MINEF-GTZ), Mamfe, Cameroon. 90 pp.

Sources of illustration

  • Koechlin, J., 1964. Marantacées. Flore du Gabon. Volume 9. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 91–158.
  • Schnell, K., 1953. Sarcophrynium (Marantacées) ouest-africains. Bulletin de l'Institut Française d'Afrique Noire 15: 1390–1393.


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

Correct citation of this article

Kémeuzé, V.A. & Nkongmeneck, B.-A., 2011. Sarcophrynium brachystachyum (Benth.) K.Schum. [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 8 March 2020.