Family : Marantaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to Tropical Africa (Angola, Benin, Burkina, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda), where it lives in the humid forests up to about 1500 m of altitude, often in swampy zones and along the water streams.
The name of the genus is the combination of Maranta, genus honoured to the Italian physician and botanist Bartholomaeus Marantha (1500-1571) and of the Greek substantive “χλόη” (chloe) = grass; the name of the species is the Latin adjective “purpureus, a, um” = purpureal, with reference to the colours of the flowers.
Common names: yoruba soft cane (English); canne molle, feuille du kola (French).
The Marantochloa purpurea (Ridl.) Milne-Redh. (1950) is an evergreen, perennial rhizomatous herbaceous species, with ramified stems, forming dense 1-4 m tall tufts. The leaves, on an about 90 cm long petiole, sheathing at the base for a length of about 40 cm, are alternate, ovate, with long pointed apex, asymmetrical in respect to the central nervation, 15-40 cm long and 10-18 cm broad, of green colour above, with purple shades below. The inflorescences are ramified, loose, up to about 45 cm long, with pink rachis and about 4 nodes in each ramification provided of 2-4 cm long pink bracts.
The bracts envelop two small cymes, on a 3 cm long peduncle, carrying two hermaphroditic 1,8 cm long flowers, with three equal sepals and corolla tubular at the base with three lobes, pink to purple, and stamen and staminodes arranged in two verticils forming at the base a tube merged with the corolla, the outer verticil is formed by two petaloid staminodes of pink or purple colour, the inner one with fertile stamen and one yellow two lobed staminode. The fruit is a tri-lobed globose capsule, of about 8 mm of diameter, of bright red colour, containing three brown, about 5 mm long, trigonal seeds, with small whitish aril.
It almost exclusively reproduces by division of the rhizome with each section provided of several vegetative buds.
Little diffused out of the origin zones, where is normally collected in nature or planted in the forests close to the villages, requires a humid tropical or subtropical climate and exposition in full sun or partially shaded and is not particular about the soil. The stems are amply utilized for making baskets, ropes, brooms, mats, fish traps and other everyday objects and the leaves, taken fresh every day from the forest to the markets, for wrapping foods and the kola nuts in order to avoid their drying. Various parts of the plant are used since yore in the traditional medicine for several pathologies.
Synonyms: Clinogyne purpurea Ridl. (1887); Donax arillata K.Schum. (1892); Donax purpurea (Ridl.) K.Schum. (1892); Clinogyne arillata (K.Schum.) K.Schum. (1897); Clinogyne baumannii K.Schum. (1902).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza