The Marantaceae are a family, the arrowroot family, of flowering plants consisting of 31 genera and around 530 species, defining it as one of the most species rich families in its order [2][3]. Species of this family are found in lowland tropical forests of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The majority (80%) of the species are found in the American tropics, followed by Asian (11%) and African (9%) tropics [2]. They are commonly called the prayer-plant family and are also known for their unique secondary pollination presentation.

Maranta leuconeura3.jpg
Maranta leuconeura
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Marantaceae
Type genus


The plants usually have underground rhizomes or tubers. The leaves are arranged in two rows with the petioles having a sheathing base. The leaf blade is narrow or broad with pinnate veins running parallel to the midrib. The petiole may be winged, and swollen into a pulvinus at the base.[citation needed]

The inflorescence is a spike or panicle, enclosed by spathe-like bracts. The flowers are small and often inconspicuous, irregular, and bisexual, usually with an outer three free sepals and an inner series of three petaloid-like segments, tube-like in appearance. The fruit is either fleshy or a loculicidal capsule.[citation needed]


The APG II system, of 2003 (unchanged from the APG system, 1998), also recognizes this family, and assigns it to the order Zingiberales in the clade commelinids in the monocots. The Marantaceae are considered the most derived family in this group due to the extreme reduction in both stamens and carpels.[citation needed]

The family consists of 29 genera with about 570 known species,[4] found in the tropical areas of the world except in Australia. The biggest concentration is in the Americas, with seven genera in Africa, and six in Asia.

Cladogram: Phylogeny of Zingiberales[5]











Seed dispersalEdit

Arilated seeds of Marantaceae are dispersed mainly by birds and mammals. In Amazonia, crickets and ants are important secondary dispersers.[6]


Rosmarinic acid can be found in plants in the family Marantaceae such as species in the genera Maranta (Maranta leuconeura, Maranta depressa) and Thalia (Thalia geniculata).[7]

Rapid plant movement: secondary pollination presentationEdit

Marantaceae have a distinctive pollination mechanism that is defined by an explosive style movement. It is commonly termed explosive because the action is swift, occurs only one time for each flower, and is irreversible [8]. This quick pollination event plays a significant role in optimizing mating and has been hypothesized to be a factor in the high level of speciation within this family[3]. There are two parts of the floral anatomy that contribute to the explosive pollination mechanism: the style and the hooded staminode [3].

The secondary pollination presentation begins after a mechanical stimulus is introduced by a pollinator on the trigger appendage of the hooded staminode [9][8]. Touching this trigger causes the release of the style from the contacted staminode, leading to rapid inward rolling of the style which is no longer being held under high tension [9][10]. During this quick rolling movement, self pollen (located on top of the style) is deposited on the pollinator while cross-pollen is scooped off the pollinator into the stigmatic cavity [10][8]. This single action occurs very quickly with the full movement being clocked in at around 0.03 seconds [10].

There has been debate on the specific mechanism of style release/movement. Many wondered whether the release is initiated physiologically (chemical & electrical) or biomechanically. Markus Jerominek and Regine Claßen-Bockhoff published a study in 2015 outlining their results to their artificial release experiments as well as their electrophysiological measurements on prayer plants. In their artificial release experiments, they tested both the influence of electric impulses and chloroform to investigate whether the style movement can be induced electrically or chemically [9]. As a reference, they used the Venus flytrap and its rapid movement which is known to be initiated by electrical changes of the membrane [9]. To test if rapid style release could be induced by electric signals, a minutien needle was attached to the style and electric impulses were given. To test if the style movement could be released physiologically, chloroform (well known for acting on membranes) was applied to the upper surface of the style [9]. In both artificial release experiments, the Venus flytrap movement was successfully induced but the style movement in Marantaceae was not released. This led them to conclude that the style movement is released biomechanically due to the built tension between the style and hooded staminode contact.

This unique style movement of the Marantaceae secondary pollination presentation provides evidence that not all rapid plant movements are initiated by electrical changes in the membrane.


The most well-known species in the family is arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), a plant of the Caribbean, grown in parts of the Caribbean, Australasia, and sub-Saharan Africa for its easily digestible starch known as arrowroot. It is grown commercially in the West Indies and tropical Americas.[citation needed]

Several species of genus Calathea are grown as houseplants for their large ornamental leaves, which are variegated in shades of green, white, and pink. Other genera grown for houseplants includes Stromanthe, Ctenanthe, and Maranta.[citation needed]

Calathea lutea has tough, durable leaves used to make waterproof baskets, and in the Caribbean and Central America, its leaves are used for roofing. Two Mexican species - C. macrosepala and C. violacea - have flowers that are cooked and used as vegetables. C. allouia or leren, from the West Indies and tropical America, is known as sweet corn root for its edible tuber.[citation needed]

Schumannianthus dichotomus is used for weaving mats to use on floors and beds.[citation needed]

Prayer plant "praying", i.e., raising its leaves for the evening

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
  2. ^ a b Kennedy, H. (2000). “Diversification in pollination mechanisms in the Marantaceae”. Pp. 335-343 in Monocots: systematics and evolution, eds. K. L. Wilson and D. A. Morrison. Melbourne: CSIRO
  3. ^ a b c Ley, A. C., and Claßen-Bockhoff, R. (2011). “Evolution in African Marantaceae - evidence from phylogenetic, ecological and morphological studies”. Syst. Bot. 36, 277–290. doi: 10.1600/036364411X569480
  4. ^ Christenhusz, M. J. M. & Byng, J. W. (2016). "The number of known plants species in the world and its annual increase". Phytotaxa. 261 (3): 201–217. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.261.3.1.
  5. ^ Sass et al 2016.
  6. ^ Santana, Flávia Delgado; Baccaro, Fabricio Beggiato; Costa, Flávia Regina Capellotto (2016). "Busy Nights: High Seed Dispersal by Crickets in a Neotropical Forest". The American Naturalist. 188 (5): E126–E133. doi:10.1086/688676. ISSN 0003-0147. PMID 27788347.
  7. ^ Abdullah, Yana (2008). "Occurrence of rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid and rutin in Marantaceae species". Phytochemistry Letters. 1 (4): 199–203. doi:10.1016/j.phytol.2008.09.010.
  8. ^ a b c Pischtschan E, Claßen-Bockhoff R (2008). “Setting-up tension in the style of Marantaceae”. Plant Biol 10:441–450. doi:10.1111/j.1438-8677.2008.00051.x
  9. ^ a b c d e Jerominek M., Claßen-Bockhoff R. (2015). “Electrical signals in prayer plants (Marantaceae)? Insights into the trigger mechanism of the explosive style movement”. PLoS One 10:e0126411. 10.1371/journal.pone.0126411
  10. ^ a b c Claßen‐Bockhoff R. (1991). “Investigations on the Construction of the Pollination Apparatus of Thalia geniculata (Marantaceae)”. Botanica Acta, 74, 183–193.


External linksEdit