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|rattlesnake plant (C. lancifolia)|
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Calathea is a genus of plants belonging to the family Marantaceae. There are several dozen species in this genus. Native to the tropical Americas, many of the species are popular as pot plants due to their decorative leaves and, in some species, colorful inflorescences. They are commonly called calatheas or (like their relatives) prayer plants. There are several cultivars, such as 'Silver Plate'.
In its native range, the large and tough leaves are popular for holding small items. Sometimes, they are used unprocessed, e.g. to wrap fish for transport in parts of Brazil, such as the Benevides region of Pará. In other places, the leaves are used in handicraft to produce containers, such as the quivers of the Nukak people of Colombia. Most famous, perhaps, are the decorative Calathea-leaf rice containers produced in some villages of Thailand, especially in Ban Huak (Amphoe Si Bun Rueang) where they are an important source of income and sold to locals and tourists alike.
Calathea foliage is of importance to some herbivores, such as the caterpillars of the Purple Owl (Caligo beltrao) which feed on C. zebrina. For a list of Calathea diseases, see List of foliage plant diseases (Maranthaceae).
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