Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Pflanzenr. IV, 48: 39 (1902).
2n = 28
Yoruba soft cane (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Sarcophrynium prionogonium is distributed in the forest regions of West and Central Africa, from Guinea to DR Congo and Cabinda (Angola).
The leaves are used for thatching and for wrapping kola nuts and other products. They are also used as mats, for lining carrying baskets, and as disposable plates. In Cameroon they are used as cushion under sleeping mats and made into articles such as instant containers, pots, cups, funnels, fans and parasols. Split petioles, with the central pith scraped out, are plaited into mats.
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.
In DR Congo the leaves are said to be apt to tear and become fragile as they dry, and therefore they are not used as often as those of Ataenidia conferta (Benth.) Milne-Redh. It is also said that ticks are often present on the leaves. The fruit pulp is mucilaginous and sticky. In the Central African Republic the main components of the essential oil obtained from rhizomes by water-distillation were camphor (31.0%), α-zingiberene (17.8%), β-sesquiphellandrene (13.7%) and isoborneol (8.5%).
Perennial, erect herb up to 2 m tall, with rhizome and tufts of c. 10 imbricate leaves around a central stem with a single leaf and a lateral inflorescence. Leaves distichous; petiole sheathing at the base, sheath pubescent, the uncalloused and calloused parts of the petiole not separated by a joint, apical calloused part 4–9 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, 25–50 cm × 10–20 cm, base rounded, one half cordate, apex acuminate. Inflorescence up to 30 cm long, branched, internodes 15–20 mm long; abaxial bracts not overlapping, 4 cm × 0.5–1 cm, with 3–4 cymules; cymule 2-flowered, backed by a an adaxial bract, common peduncle c. 20 mm long, 1 flower subsessile, the other with a pedicel 2–3 mm long. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic; bracteole ovate, c. 1.5 mm long, acute, fleshy, smooth; sepals free, equal; corolla c. 6 mm long, tubular below, with 3 lobes, pinkish white; 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 15 mm × 10–12 mm, with unconspicuous sutures, indehiscent, fleshy, red. Seeds subpyramidal, oblique, brown or whitish when dry, without aril.
The flowers are pollinated by bees.
Sarcophrynium comprises 4–7 species, distributed in the forest regions of tropical Africa. Sarcophrynium schweinfurthianum (Kuntze) Milne-Redh. is a perennial, erect herb up to 2 m tall distributed in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, DR Congo, Sudan and Uganda. Its leaves are used for thatching and for wrapping things to be transported or cooked. 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. In DR Congo the leaves are sometimes used as toilet paper. The petioles are used for plaiting. Young leaves are eaten as a vegetable.
Within Sarcophrynium prionogonium 3 varieties are distinguished: var. prionogonium, with glabrous leaf blade except for the midvein on the upper surface, var. puberulifolium Schnell, with dense and fine pubescence on the undersurface of the leaf blade, and var. ivorense Schnell, with hairs with a tubercled base.
Sarcophrynium prionogonium occurs in the understorey of non-swampy forest, disturbed forest and secondary forest.
Sarcophrynium prionogonium is collected from wild stands.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its wide distribution and occurrence in disturbed and secondary forest, Sarcophrynium prionogonium is unlikely to be threatened with genetic erosion.
Sarcophrynium prionogonium is a useful local source of material for thatching and wrapping, and for the production of a range of products. However, the quality of the leaves is recorded to be lower than that of other Marantaceae, and its products are not recorded to be traded in markets. In view of the availability of better-quality Marantaceae, such as Ataenidia conferta, and synthetic substitutes, Sarcophrynium prionogonium is unlikely to become more important.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2011. Sarcophrynium prionogonium (K.Schum.) K.Schum. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.