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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 22 | Marantaceae

2. Thalia Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 1193. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5; 3, 1754.

[FfFor Johann Thal, German physician and botanist who lived during the mid 1500s]

Plants aquatic, upright, often dying back to rhizome in winter [dry season], 1--3.5 m. Rhizome not evidently enlarged or specialized for starch storage. Stems unbranched below inflorescence; leaves all basal or rarely with single cauline leaf borne above elongate (0.7--2.5 m) internode. Leaves homotropic; sheath not auriculate, spongy, containing prominent air spaces; blade plain green, ovate to elliptic. Inflorescences branched, branches short and upright to elongate and arching; rachis internodes conspicuously zigzagged; bracts deciduous, both bracts and prophylls falling with flower if fruit not set, leaving proximal portion of rachis bare, each bract subtending 1 flower pair, herbaceous to leathery; prophylls not evidently keeled, membranous; secondary bracts absent; bracteoles absent. Flowers self-fertilizing [outcrossing], pale to dark purple (corolla and staminodes); sepals persistent in fruit, 0.5--3 mm, membranous; corolla tube 1--6 mm, corolla lobes subequal to strongly unequal; outer staminode 1, petal-like, showy; callose staminode mainly fleshy, narrow apical rim petal-like; cucullate staminode with 2 appendages, subterminal, finger-like; stylar movement helical when tripped; styles with 1 appendage, elongate, straplike. Fruits capsules, 1-seeded, nearly globose to ellipsoid, pericarp thin, indehiscent. Seeds dark brown, nearly globose or ellipsoid, smooth; perisperm canals 2, curved; aril reduced. x = 6.

Species 6 (2 in the flora): warm temperate to tropical regions, se North America, Mexico, West Indies, Central America, South America (to n Argentina), w Africa.

Thalia is not closely related to any of the other Neotropical genera (L. Andersson 1981), and it is the only genus of Marantaceae that is strictly aquatic. The cucullate staminode bearing two appendages, the helical stylar movement, and the appendaged style are unique within the family. Also unique is the prevalence of various air chambers in the leaf sheath and petiole, a specialization for the aquatic habitat, which gives the sheath its distinctive spongy texture. Dispersal by water is probably the most common means of dispersal: a gas-filled space between the seed and the fruit wall in Thalia makes the fruit buoyant (C. J. Grootjen 1983). Fruits of T. geniculata have also been reported to be eaten by ducks (W. L. McAtee 1915). Carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.) are reported to pollinate T. geniculata in Costa Rica ( T. Hartgerink et. al. 1978) and in cultivation in Asia (R. Classen-Backhoff 1991).

The widely varying chromosome numbers reported for species of Thalia probably represent errors or misinterpretations. Chromosome counts in Marantaceae are difficult, and few taxa have been adequately studied.


Andersson, L. 1981b. Revision of the Thalia geniculata complex (Marantaceae). Nordic J. Bot. 1: 48--56. Classen-Bockhoff, R. 1991. Untersuchungen zur Konstruktion des Bestäubungsapparates Von Thalia geniculata (Marantaceen). Bot. Acta 104: 183--193. Dressler, R. L. et al. 1987. Identification Manual for Wetland Plant Species of Florida.... Gainesville. P. 119. Classen-Bockhoff, R. 1991. Untersuchungen zur Konstruktion des Bestäubungsapparates Von Thalia geniculata (Marantaceen). Bot. Acta 104: 183--193. Godfrey, R. K. and J. W. Wooten. 1979. Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States: Monocotyledons. Athens, Ga. Pp. 621--622. Gris, A. 1859. Observations sur la fleur des Marantées. Ann. Sci. Nat., Bot. sér. 4, 12: 193--219, plates 11--14. Koechlin, J. 1964. Marantacées. In: A. Aubréville and J.-F. Leroy. 1961+. Flore du Gabon. 354+ vols. Paris. Vol. 9, pp. 91--158.

1 Leaves glabrous adaxially; inflorescences lax, broadly spreading to pendant, paniclelike array; rachis internodes 5--20 mm; bracts not pruinose, green or streaked or tinged with purple   1 Thalia geniculata
+ Leaves pilose at base adaxially; inflorescences erect, tightly clustered, compact array; rachis internodes 2--3 mm; bracts markedly pruinose, appearing whitish, red-brown to red-purple beneath waxy coating   2 Thalia dealbata

Lower Taxa


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