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400 species in 30 genera are found in tropical regions chiefly in America.

[Summary yet to be added]

Maranta arundinacea L.

The tubers of this species provide West Indian, St Vincent, or Bermuda arrowroot, a starch product. According to Pereira (1842), the name "arrowroot" was coined by Colonel James Walker who brought the plant from Dominica to Barbados and thence to Jamaica, and who observed that the native Indians used the root against the poison of their arrows by mashing and applying it to the poisoned wounds. The term arrowroot has since that time been used as a generic name for several other starch products, mostly from botanically-unrelated plants (Pereira 1842, Mabberley 1987):

Arum maculatum L., fam. Araceae — yields Portland arrowroot
Canna edulis Ker Gawl., fam. Cannaceae — yields Queensland arrowroot
Curcuma angustifolia Roxb., fam. Zingiberaceae — yields East India arrowroot
Dioscorea alata L., fam. Dioscoreaceae — yields Guyana arrowroot
Manihot esculenta Crantz, fam. Euphorbiaceae — yields Brazilian, ParĂ¡ or Rio arrowroot
Myrosma cannifolia L.f., fam. Marantaceae — yields marble arrowroot
Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn., fam. Nelumbonaceae — yields Chinese arrowroot
Pueraria lobata Ohwi, fam. Leguminosae — yields Japanese arrowroot
Tacca leontopetaloides (L.) Kuntze, fam. Dioscoreaceae — yields African, Fiji, Hawaiian, or Tahiti arrowroot
Solanum tuberosum L., fam. Solanaceae — yields English arrowroot, better known as potato starch
Zamia integrifolia Aiton, fam. Zamiaceae — yields Florida arrowroot 

The starch of the root is said to produce respiratory allergy (Greenberg and Lester 1954).

Thaumatococcus daniellii (Bennett) Benth.

The pulp around the seed of this West African species has a sweetening effect on the taste similar to that produced by Synsepalum dulcificum Daniell, fam. Sapotaceae and Sphenocentrum jollyanum Pierre, fam. Menispermaceae (Dalziel 1937, Menninger 1967).


  • Dalziel JM (1937) The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa. Being an appendix to The Flora of West Tropical Africa by J. Hutchinson and J.M. Dalziel. London, UK: Crown Agents for the Colonies [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Greenberg LA, Lester D (1954) Handbook of Cosmetic Materials. Their properties, uses, and toxic and dermatologic actions. With a bibliography of over 2,500 titles. New York: Interscience Publishers [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Mabberley DJ (1987) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Menninger EA (1967) Fantastic Trees. New York: Viking Press [WorldCat] [url]
  • Pereira J (1842) Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, 2nd edn, Vols 1 & 2. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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