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Thalia geniculata L.

Protologue
Sp.pl. 2: 1193 (1753).
Family
Marantaceae
Chromosome number
2n = 18, 26
Synonyms
Thalia welwitschii Ridl. (1887).
Vernacular names
Alligator flag, bent alligator flag, fire flag (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Thalia geniculata originates from America, where it occurs in the south-eastern United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Because of the lack of variation among the African populations, it is believed to have been introduced into tropical Africa, where it has widely naturalized and it is now distributed from Senegal eastward to Sudan and Ethiopia and southward to Angola and Zambia. Thalia geniculata has the widest distribution of all Marantaceae.
Uses
The leaves are widely used for thatching and packing. In Ghana they are also used for covering walls. The leaves are often used for wrapping food products, such as kola nuts and maize products, and to line food containers. In Gabon the rolled leaves are used as plugs for bottles and calabashes. In Sierra Leone the leaves are used as a bandage for circumcision wounds. The stems are used in basketry, for fencing and for making fish-traps, furniture, ladders and bridges. In Ghana they form the framework of walls to be daubed with mud. The split stems are plaited into mats.
The leaves are sometimes eaten in Burkina Faso. In Ghana Thalia geniculata is given as fodder to small ruminants. Ash from the burnt stem has been used for making salt. The plant is valued as a garden pond plant, especially the types with red petioles.
In traditional medicine in Senegal the roots and leaves are parts of preparations drunk and massaged in case of snakebite. In Côte d’Ivoire a maceration of the root is drunk and used in baths for the treatment of anaemia. In Ghana a root infusion is drunk for the treatment of asthma. In Benin unspecified plant parts are used for the treatment of malaria.
Production and international trade
Information on production and international trade is not available. The leaves are often traded in local markets, e.g. in Benin.
Properties
The leaves give a specific aroma to the food wrapped in them. Investigations in Ghana have shown that Thalia geniculata stems are suitable as reinforcing bars in concrete.
A methanolic extract of the root has shown antiplasmodial activity against both chloroquine-sensitive and chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum strains. The aerial parts were found to contain sitoindoside I, daucosterol, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol and geranylfarnesol. Geranylfarnesol, isolated from the aerial parts of the plant, showed significant antiprotozoal activity against Plasmodium falciparum and Leishmania donovani. The leaves contain rosmarinic acid.
Experiments in the United States have shown that wetland systems with Thalia geniculata have potential for recovering N and P from wastewater.
Adulterations and substitutes
The leaves and stems of various other Marantaceae are used for similar purposes.
Description
Perennial, straggling herb up to 3.5 m tall, with short rhizome, tufts of leaves, and stems bearing an inflorescence and a single subtending leaf or sheath. Leaves imbricate; petiole sheathing at the base, basal sheath 20–40 cm long, uncalloused part of petiole 20–40 cm long, apical calloused part up to 2.5(–4) cm long, transition of the petiole into the midvein marked above by a depression at right angles to the midvein, green or occasionally red-purple, glabrous; blade subtriangular to ovate, rarely elliptical, oblong or sublinear, (12–)19–63 cm × (2–)4–26 cm, base rounded to subcordate, apex acute to acuminate, glabrous. Inflorescence a lax panicle up to 40 cm long; axis zig-zag, much branched, internodes 0.5–2 cm long; abaxial bracts 1–3.5 cm long, green or purplish, caducous, supporting a single cymule; cymule 2-flowered, backed by an adaxial bract, common peduncle absent. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, purple, sessile or on pedicel up to 2 mm long; bracteole absent, sepals 3, free, equal, ovate to elliptical, 0.5–2 mm long; corolla 6–13 mm long, with short tube and 3 lobes; staminodes and stamen in 2 cycles, at the base forming a tube fused to the corolla tube, outer cycle consisting of 1 petaloid staminode with clawed base, inner cycle consisting of 1 stamen and 2 staminodes, of which 1 hooded with 2 linear appendages; ovary inferior, 1-locular, style helically twisted, stigma appendaged. Fruit an ellipsoid to subglobose capsule up to 12 mm × 7 mm, indehiscent, orange-red, reticulate when dry, with persistent calyx, with membranous pericarp, 1-seeded. Seed ellipsoid to subglobose, 5–10 mm × 3–6 mm, smooth, brownish to greyish or black, with conspicuous to rudimentary aril.
Other botanical information
Thalia comprises about 7 species, distributed in tropical America, with 1 species also in tropical Africa. Typical for the genus are the hooded staminode with 2 appendages and the appendaged stigma. Also characteristic is the presence of air chambers in the leaf sheath, giving the sheath its distinctive spongy texture and providing adaptation to aquatic habitats.
Growth and development
Pollination is triggered by bees and hummingbirds, but self-pollination is also possible. Natural reproduction is by seed and via rhizomes. The seeds and rhizome pieces are dispersed by water. A gas-filled space between the seed and the fruit wall makes the fruit buoyant.
Ecology
Thalia geniculata occurs in swamps, near pools and in other wet locations in forest, savanna and fallow land, from sea-level up to 1100 m altitude. It occurs as a weed, particularly in rice cultivation. It does not tolerate frost or salt water.
Propagation and planting
Thalia geniculata can be propagated by rhizome division or with seed. The 1000-seed weight is 50–80 g.
Management
Thalia geniculata can be grown in moist soil or water up to 25 cm deep.
Handling after harvest
Before being used to wrap ‘lio’ (a fermented maize product) in Benin, the leaves are soaked in boiling water, after which they have a brown colour and are softer.
Genetic resources
In view of its extremely wide distribution Thalia geniculata is not threatened with genetic erosion.
Prospects
The leaves and stems of Thalia geniculata are widely used for thatching, packing and plaiting. The species seems not overexploited, but the plant may have potential for cultivation for local use, and research on propagation and management practices may be worthwhile. The antiplasmodial properties may warrant further investigation.
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.
• Andersson, L., 1981. Revision of the Thalia geniculata complex (Marantaceae). Nordic Journal of Botany 1(1): 48–56.
• 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.
• Claβen-Bockhoff, R., 1991. Untersuchungen zur Konstruktion des Bestäubungsapparates von Thalia geniculata (Marantaceen). Botanica Acta 104: 183–193.
• Davis, M.A., 1987. The role of flower visitors in the explosive pollination of Thalia geniculata (Marantaceae), a Costa Rican marsh plant. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 114(2): 134–138.
• Koechlin, J., 1965. Marantaceae. Flore du Cameroun. Volume 4. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 99–157.
• Lagnika, L., Attioua, B., Weniger, B., Kaiser, M., Sanni, A. & Vonthron-Senecheau, C., 2008. Phytochemical study and antiprotozoal activity of compounds isolated from Thalia geniculata. Pharmaceutical Biology 46(3): 162–165.
• 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.
• Weniger, B., Lagnika, L., Vonthron-Sénécheau, C., Adjobimey, T., Gbenou, J., Moudachirou, M., Brun, R., Anton, R. & Sanni, A., 2004. Evaluation of ethnobotanically selected Benin medicinal plants for their in vitro antiplasmodial activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 90: 279–284.
Other references
• Abdullah, Y., Schneider, B. & Petersen, M., 2008. Occurrence of rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid and rutin in Marantaceae species. Phytochemistry Letters 1(4): 199–203.
• Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (Editors), 2005. Monocotyledons and gymnosperms of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 52: 1–415.
• Adams, C.D., 1972. Flowering plants of Jamaica. University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. 848 pp.
• d’Oliveira Feijão, R., 1961. Elucidário fitológico. Plantas vulgares de Portugal continental, insular e ultramarino. Classificão, nomes vernáculos e aplicações. Volume 2, I-O. Instituto Botânico de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal. 462 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.
• Hermans, M., Akoègninou, A. & van der Maesen, J., 2004. Medicinal plants used to treat malaria in southern Benin. Economic Botany 58 (supplement): S239–S252.
• Kankam, C.K. & Odum-Ewuakye, B., 2006. Babadua reinforced concrete two-way slabs subjected to concentrated loading. Construction and Building Materials 20(5): 279–285.
• Kennedy, H., undated. Marantaceae. [Internet] Flora of North America. http://www.efloras.org/ florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=10535. Accessed 08 July 2010.
• Kerharo, J. & Adam, J.G., 1974. La pharmacopée sénégalaise traditionnelle. Plantes médicinales et toxiques. Vigot & Frères, Paris, France. 1011 pp.
• Koné, M.W. & Kamanzi, A.K., 2006. Inventaire ethnomédical et évaluation de l’activité anthelminthique des plantes médicinales utilisées en Côte d’Ivoire contre les helminthiases intestinales. Pharm. Méd. Trad. Afr. 14: 55–72.
• León, H., 1946. Flora de Cuba. Vol. 1. Gimnospermas – Monocotiledoneas. Contribuciones ocasionales del Museo de Historia Natural No. 8. Cultural S. A. , Havana, Cuba. 441 pp.
• Nana, C., Brouwer, I.D. & Traoré, A.S., 2003. Consommation alimentaire des enfants de 6 à 36 mois en milieu rural en fonction de la disponibilité des aliments riches en vitamine. 2ème Atelier international Voies alimentaires d’amélioration des situations nutritionnelles, Ouagadougou, 23–28 November 2003. pp. 251–260.
• Nash, H. & Stroupe, S., 2003. Complete guide to water garden plants. Sterling Publishing, New York, United States. 224 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Odoi, F.N.A., Awuah-Kyei, E., Laryea, T.T. & Wumbei, I.M., 2002. A survey of indigenous browse species used as feed for small ruminants in the Atwima district of the Ashanti region of Ghana. Journal of the Ghana Science Association 4(2): 6.
• Polomski, R.F., Bielenberg, D.G., Whitwell, T., Taylor, M.D., Bridges, W.C.& Klaine, S.J., 2008. Differential nitrogen and phosphorus recovery by five aquatic garden species in laboratory-scale subsurface-constructed wetlands. HortScience 43(3): 868–874.
• Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
• Speichert, G. & Speichert, S., 2008. Timber Press pocket guide to water garden plants. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, United States. 210 pp.
• Thomas, J., 1959. Notes d’ethnobotanique africaine : plantes utilisées dans la région de la Lobaye (Afrique Centrale). Journal d’Agriculture Tropicale et de Botanique Appliquée 6(8–9): 353–390.
• Wagner, T., 2004. Le lio, un produit de terroir: analyse des systèmes de production du lio à Abomey et Bohicon. Working Papers No 50. Institut für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Germany. 51 pp.
Sources of illustration
• 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., 1964. Marantacées. Flore du Gabon. Volume 9. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 91–158.
Author(s)
N.S. Alvarez Cruz
Unidad de Medio Ambiente, Delegación del CITMA, Cor. Legon 268 / Henry Reeve y Carlos Roloff, Sancti Spiritus C.P. 60100, Cuba


Editors
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
E.G. Achigan Dako
PROTA Network Office Africa, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P.O. Box 30677-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
Photo editor
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Alvarez Cruz, N.S., 2011. Thalia geniculata L. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.

















































Distribution Map wild


1, leaf with inflorescence; 2, flower; 3, fruit.



obtained from TopTropicals




obtained from TopTropicals



Thalia geniculata



obtained from TopTropicals



Thalia geniculata


Thalia geniculata


Thalia geniculata


Thalia geniculata


Thalia geniculata