Maranta arundinacea L.

Maranta arundinacea L.




Maranat sylvatica Roscoe ex J.E. Smith.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Ararut, ubi garut, berolu.
English Arrowroot, West Indian arrowroot, St Vincent arrowroot.
Indonesia Garut (Indonesian), angkrik (Javanese), larut (Sundanese).
Philippines Aroru (Tagalog), aru-aru (Tagalog), sagu (Bikol).
Cambodia Saku.
Laos Sa:kh'u.
Thailand Sakhu (Central).
Vietnam Ho[af]ng tinh, c[ur] dong, hu[yf]nh tinh.
French Arrowroot des Antilles, herbe aux flèches, arruruz.

Geographical Distributions

The exact origin of Maranta arundinacea is not known but it is indigenous in Central America (including the Caribbean area) and northern South America with exclaves in western Ecuador and in some of the interior Guiana savannas. Nowadays, it can be found in cultivation throughout the tropics, but it is important only in the West Indies (Bahamas, Antilles, especially St. Vincent Island). In Southeast Asia, it can be found cultivated everywhere, mainly as a home garden crop.


M. arundinacea is a perennial, erect herb that can reach up to 0.5-1.5 m tall, shallow-rooted and with rhizomes that penetrate more deeply into the soil. The rhizomes are fleshy, cylindrical, measuring 5-40 cm x 2-5 cm, white or reddish, covered with overlapping, persistent or deciduous and with brownish-white scale leaves. The stem is thin and usually much forked towards the apex.

The leaves are radical, cauline and distichous. The petiole is cylindrical, sheathing at the base and with thickened, hairless to sparsely pulvinus hair at the apex. In the upper leaves, the petiole is often absent. The blade is ovate-oblong, measuring 10-30 cm x 3-10 cm, rounded to truncate at the base, acute acuminate at the top, largest in basal leaves, hairless or more usually hirsute, green or sometimes variously streaked white or brownish-purple, with a prominent midrib and numerous pinnately arranged, fine and closely spaced parallel veins.

The inflorescence is paniculate, terminal, often branched where each branch is subtended by a deciduous bract and ends in a stalked flower pair. The peduncle of flower pair is thin and measures up to 4 cm long. The pedicel of one flower of the pair is 7-15 mm long while the other one is 0-3 mm long.

The flowers are bisexual, zygomorphic, measure 2 cm long, with 3 green, free, persistent, lance-shaped of 12-16(-18) mm long sepals, and a white, 3-lobed, tubular and early caducous petal. The androecium is in 2 whorls that are attached to the petal. The outer whorl consists of 2 petaloid staminodes and measures about 1 cm long. The inner whorl is about half long, consists of 1 fertile stamen, a large fleshy staminode and a smaller hooded staminode. The fertile stamen is with a 1-celled half anther that joined to a petaloid appendage. There is 1 pistil, with a 1-celled, 1-ovuled, inferior ovary, adnate to petal tube style, with a 3-lobed stigma and enclosed by a hooded staminode.

The fruit is an oblongoid, measures about 7 mm long, berry-like, leathery, brown and smooth to hairy. The seed is 3-sided, scabrous, pinkish, with a yellow, 2-lobed and basal aril.

Ecology / Cultivation

In the wild, M. arundinacea grows primarily in the understorey of tropical deciduous or semi-deciduous forests near temporary pools and brooklets, sometimes however, also in the dry pine forest. It grows best under warm humid conditions, preferring temperatures of 25-30°C and requiring an annual average rainfall of 1500-2000 mm or more, but with 1-2 dry months. M. arundinacea tolerates up to 50% shading without notable yield reduction, survives waterlogging and saturated soil conditions but does not produce storage rhizomes under such circumstances. It prefers lowland conditions, but can be cultivated up to 1000 m altitude. M. arundinacea can be grown on many soil types but thrives on rich, loose and sandy loams with a pH of 5-8 (e.g. the volcanic soils of St. Vincent are perfectly suited for M. arundinacea).

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 9: Plants yielding non-seed carbohydrates.