i love the diverse foliage of marantaceae plants, which originated in africa. they include the following plants: calathea, ctenanthe, maranta, and stromanthe. these guys are sometimes called prayer plants in reference to the movement of their leaves. this is due to nyctinasty, a process which is a type of circadian rhythm. movement is facilitated by a little organ called pulvinis at the base at each leaf which swells & shrinks to help the leaf move (zhou et al., 2012). progress shots of my marantaceae fam can be seen here: #jmmarantaceae.

my marantaceae fam ~ clockwise from top left: maranta leuconeura, maranta leuconeura var. kerchoviana, ctenanthe burle-marxii ‘amagris,’ calathea lancifolia, stromanthe sanguinea ‘triostar,’ calathea white fusion, calathea medallion, calathea ornata, calathea orbifolia


prince and kress (2006) conducted phylogenetic analyses on marantaceae dna to understand the relationships among the marantaceae family & its ancestors. the results suggest that these plants originated in africa and then were dispersed over a minimum of two events to the tropics and four or more events to asia. the researchers conclude that the history of marantaceae is complex and much is unclear. regardless, the evolution of plants is interesting.

did you know?

hattori (2006) worked with a baka elder & the community to describe the use of marantaceae plants in southeastern cameroon. baka people who live in the rainforest use these plants for various reasons, including food, materials for building huts & utensils/baskets, & medicine. marantaceae plants are present in folk tales & have been apart of cultural & spiritual practices for thousands of years.

care tips

  • these plants thrive in medium light as strong light fades foliage & may cause dry, brown edges. i have mine several feet away from east-facing windows or behind objects for a bit of shade.
  • during the warmer months, water plentifully and keep the potting mixture thoroughly moist. during winter, water sparingly and allow the top half of the soil to dry.
  • i use filtered water to prevent spotting on the foliage
  • i rinse the leaves off every now and then as a preventative measure against spider mites
  • humidity is important for these plants to be happy
  • propagate by dividing plants or from taking three to four inch cuttings with a few leaves 

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