Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Bull. Soc. Roy. Bot. Belg. 83: 17 (1950).
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 and breeding
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.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2011. Marantochloa congensis (K.Schum.) J.Léonard & Mullend. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.