Sp. Pl. 1:1. 1753; Kraenzlin, Pflanzenreich IV.47 (1912), monogr., now largely outdated; Segeren & Maas, Acta bot. neerl. 20:663-680 (1971), rev. northern S Amer. H. Maas-van de Kamer and P.J.M. Maas (2008)
Type: Canna indica L.
Cannaceae has only one genus, Canna with 10 species. Species of Canna are sturdy herbs to 6 m tall and devoid of hairs. Often described as glaucous or woolly, this aspect is caused by an epicuticular wax layer. The rhizome is fleshy, horizontal and sympodially branched. The well-developed aerial stems are composed of nodes and internodes, basally covered by bladeless sheaths. Cannas are hapaxanthis plants with the aerial parts living a few months, flowering and dying off. Each stem bears up to 10 leaves. The inflorescence of Canna is terminal, sympodially branched and lax or congested and varies from 10 to 100 cm in length. The flowers are red purple, orange, yellow or white. Color occurs on the petaloid staminodes, style and stamen and to a lesser extent the corolla. Mature seeds of Canna are numerous, shiny brown to black, and globose to narrowly ellipsoid. The Cannas are widely planted and found in gardens around the world. The name Canna, from the Greek 'kanna' meaning a reed, most likely refers to the reed-like appearance of the stems. (H. Maas-van de Kamer and P.J.M. Maas in Blumea 53: 247-218, 2008).
The Cannaceae are distributed all over the Neotropics; from Virginia in the USA (C. flaccid) to the West Indies and northern Argentina (C. indica and C. glauca) at altitudes ranging from seal level to almost 3000 m. Habitat preference is very diverse, from low, open and wet vegetation areas to forested areas.
Phylogeny and Classification:
There have been up to 58 species recognized in Canna with the latest revision indicating 10 species. The huge Canna indica complex warrants further study.
The Cannaceae are from Neotropical origin (H. Maas-Van de Kamer and P.J.M. Maas, 2008). All species from Africa and Asia have been derived from plants, rhizomes or seeds that have been imported from the Neotropics. Many of the taxa have been naturalized so long that they behave like indigenous taxa.
Ecology and Pollination Biology:
Cannas are found scattered in transitional habitats, both natural and artificial. In the wild they grow along the edges of marshes and forest margins, often in water up to 10 cm deep. They also thrive in spoil banks, roadside ditches and refuse sites given adequate moisture and seasonal drought. Seeds germinate and produce reproductive shoots in a single growing season (less than 4 months), generally flowering mid to late rainy season. Little is know regarding pollination of these plants. C. glauca and C. flaccida flower at dusk, the flowers withering the following morning. Some studies indicate these flowers might be pollinated by hawkmoths however, pollen is shed before the flowers open, resulting in self-pollination. Indeed, greenhouse grown plants set seed readily, even in the absence of any likely pollinator. The coloration and floral tube of some (C. jaegeriana, C. paniculata, and C. tuerkheimii) suggest hummingbird pollination. A variety of insects including bees, moths and butterflies, as well as hummingbirds, have been observed visiting Canna flowers, presumably to collect the nectar which accumulates at the base of the floral tube. Seed dispersal is likely unassisted due to the large seed size and lack of reward for potential animal dispersal agents. (Kubitzki, 1998).
Common Names, Uses and Notes:
The most common use of the canna by Europeans and North Americans is as an ornamental. These handsome plants are grown for their striking foliage and large, delicate flowers (of the cultivated varieties). The seeds are used as beads in some countries, or in gourds to form rattles. The rhizomes are used to make a form of arrowroot. The particular starch made from the roots of Canna indica is known as "tous-les-mois" in the West Indies, and as the Queensland Arrowroot in Australia. The rhizomes have also been used in India as a diaphoretic, diuretic, in fevers and dropsy, and as a demulcent, stimulant. Indians have used stalks cut into pieces and boiled with rice water and pepper given to cattle as antidote for effects produced by eating poisonous grasses. Because cannas have been cultivated for a long period of time, a large list of common names have been applied, especially to C. indica::
C. flaccida: Golden Canna - continental US, Bandana-of-the-Everglades - continental US
C. glauca: Louisiana Canna - continental US, embira -Brazil
C. indica: Ali'ipoe - Hawaii, meaning tiny globes, Bandera - Mexico, Bandera espanola - Puerto Rico, cana coro - Mexico, cana corro - Puerto Rico, cana de cuentas - Mexico, canna lily - continental US, canne d'Inde - French Antilles, Chachalaca - Veracruz, Chancle - Mexico, Changara - Mexico, Chank'ala - Yucatan, chilalaga - Veracruz, chimalaga - Veracruz, coshu - Mexico, coyol - Mexico, cuhuap (= platanillo) - Mexico, Devakili - India, Flor de cangrejo - Mexico, Giunco (Italian for jonquil or reed) - Africa, Guinco - Africa, Hakik - India, Hierba del rosario - Mexico, Imbiri - Brazil, Indian Shot - continental US, Kalvalai - India, Kattuvalla - India, Krishnatamara - India, Lengua de dragon - Veracruz, Li'ipoe - Hawaii, Maraca - Puerto Rico, Maraca cimarrona - Cuba, Maraga - Puerto Rico, papata - Veracruz, piriquitaya - El Salvador, plantanillo - Mexico, platanillo - Veracruz, platanillo de Monte - Cuba , Sabbajaya - India, Sarvajaya - India, sinaloa - Yucatan, Oaxaca, wild canna - Puerto Rico.
Cannas are most closely related to the prayer plants (Marantaceae) with which they share several unusual floral features.
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