Gonatopus Engl.
  • A.L.P.de Candolle & A.C.P.de Candolle, Monogr. Phan. 2: 208 (1879) 

Notes: Distribution: E. Trop. Africa to S. Africa

General Description

Small to large, seasonally dormant, tuberous herbs. Stem an underground rhizome or subglobose tuber. Leaf solitary, subtended by several basal cataphylls, glabrous, rarely pilose or scabrous; petiole pulvinate at base or centrally; blade broadly triangular to oblanceolate in outline, pinnately to quadri-pinnately lobed, ultimate lobes broadly elliptic to linear, often decurrent. Inflorescences 1–several, appearing before leaf but often persisting during its early development, subtended by several cataphylls, borne on erect very short to long penduncles. Spathe convolute in lower part, forming a subglobose, cylindric or suburceolate tube, upper part an oblong to elliptic expanded limb reflexed at maturity. Spadix subequal to spathe, lower part bearing pistillate flowers, upper part cylindric to clavate, bearing staminate flowers, separated from pistillate part by short constricted zone bearing sterile flowers. Flowers unisexual, with perigon of 4(–6) decussate, fleshy, truncate to cucullate tepals. Staminate flowers with stamens connate into a tube surrounding a central, cylindric to clavate pistillode; anthers dehiscing by apical pores, often exserted above tepals at dehiscence. Pistillate flowers usually lacking staminodes, occasionally a solitary subcylindric staminode present between tepals and ovary; pistil ± laterally compressed; ovary 2-locular; ovules solitary in each locule, attached to base of septum; style short, thick; stigma discoid-capitate. Berry ovoid-ellipsoid, fleshy, 1–2-seeded. Seed ovoid-ellipsoid, without endosperm; embryo macropodal, meristem lateral, superficial; testa smooth.

HABIT : Seasonally dormant herbs, stem subterranean, a subglobose tuber or a cylindric, horizontal rhizome. LEAF : solitary, rarely pilose or scabrous, preceded by lanceolate cataphylls. PETIOLE : geniculate basally or centrally. BLADE : usually trisect, rarely not (G. petiolulatus), primary divisions trifid to trisect or pinnatifid, or pinnatisect to quadri-pinnatifid, pinnae geniculate at junction with rachis, ultimate lobes varying from linear to broad-elliptic, often decurrent; primary lateral veins of each lobe pinnate, forming arching submarginal collective vein, higher order venation reticulate. INFLORESCENCE : 1-4 in each floral sympodium, appearing before or with leaves, subtended by several cataphylls. PEDUNCLE : erect, very short to long. SPATHE : constricted between tube and blade, tube convolute, subglobose, cylindric or suburceolate, blade oblong to elliptic, reflexed at anthesis, marcescent. SPADIX : subequal to spathe, female zone subcylindric, separated from male zone by very short, constricted zone of sterile flowers, male zone longer than female, cylindric to clavate, fertile to apex. FLOWERS : unisexual, perigoniate; tepals 4(-6), in 2 decussate whorls, fleshy, truncate to ± cucullate. MALE FLOWER : stamens with connate filaments forming tube around central, cylindric to clavate pistillode, often exserted above tepals at anthesis, connective slender, thecae dehiscing by apical pore. POLLEN : extruded in strands, extended monosulcate or fully zonate, hamburger-shaped, large (mean 76 µm., range 73-79 µm.), exine thick, foveolate, the foveolae scattered or grouped in fossulae, apertural exine psilate to ± verrucate. FEMALE FLOWER : usually lacking staminodes, exceptionally 1 staminode present, ovary 2-locular, ovules 1 per locule, anatropous, placenta basal-axile, style thick, somewhat attenuate, stigma large, discoid-hemispheric. BERRY : ovoid-ellipsoid, 1-2-seeded, red or orange to yellow, or whitish. SEED : ovoid-ellipsoid, testa thin, smooth, embryo large, plumule lateral, superficial, endosperm absent.

Diagnostic Description

Seasonally dormant geophytes; leaf solitary; petioles geniculate apically or centrally; leaf blade usually trisect with the three main divisions further subdivided; flowers unisexual, perigoniate; tepals usually 4, free, thick, truncate. Differs from Zamioculcas in having bipinnatifid to quadripinnatifid leaf blades (at least in lower pinnae), and connate stamen filaments.


Tropical evergreen forest; geophytes, on forest floor, also in rocky crevices with humus deposits.


E. Trop. Africa to S. Africa.


in Monogr. Phan. 2: 208 (1879) & in E.P. 21 (IV. 23B): 306 (1905); Bogner in Aroideana 1 (3): 72 (1979)

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • South Tropical Africa Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Southern Africa KwaZulu-Natal
  • Northern Provinces
  • Swaziland
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Zaire


  • 1 Govaerts, R. & Frodin, D.G. (2002). World Checklist and Bibliography of Araceae (and Acoraceae): 1-560. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • 2 S.J. Mayo (1985) Araceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa
  • 3 Gardens, K.""Royal Bot World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. (2008).
  • 4 Mayo, S.J., Bogner, J. & Boyce, P.C. The Genera of Araceae. (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew: 1997).

 Information From

CATE Araceae
Haigh, A., Clark, B., Reynolds, L., Mayo, S.J., Croat, T.B., Lay, L., Boyce, P.C., Mora, M., Bogner, J., Sellaro, M., Wong, S.Y., Kostelac, C., Grayum, M.H., Keating, R.C., Ruckert, G., Naylor, M.F. and Hay, A., CATE Araceae, 14 Dec 2011 . 17 Dec 2011.
  • A All Rights Reserved
  • B   http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2004. eFloras: Iridaceae. [online] Available at: http://kew.org/efloras/ [Accessed 2013-08-02]
  • C All Rights Reserved
  • D http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • E All Rights Reserved
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from http://e-monocot.org.
  • F Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/ Retrieved 2011 onwards
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