Grown for their spectacular, heart-shaped leaves, C. esculenta is a primary food source in Pacific island regions. These herbaceous perennials grow from tubers (sometimes fleshy, easily sliced rhizomes) and are sometimes stored in winter by entering a state of dormancy.
Colocasia esculenta (Taro, Kalo, Elephant’s Ear)
Subspecies: ‘Illustris’, ‘Antiquorum’, ‘Black Magic’, ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Coal Miner’, ‘Nancy’s Revenge’, ‘Elepaio’, ‘Pink China’, ‘Black Coral’, ‘Mojito’, and many more
Native: Phillipines, Pacific Islands
Hardiness Zones: 8-10 (‘Pink China’ to zone 6)
Height: to 1m (sun), rarely to 2m (typically shade)
Diameter: typically to 1m per tuber or fleshy rhizome base (discounting offshoots)
Root System: thick light brown tubers or dark, almost shiny, fleshy, quickly spreading rhizomes, roots fibrous and pink when new (white older), spreads aggresively quick and tolerant of flooding
Growth Rate: moderate to very quick
Deciduous: usually no, dormancy can be induced
Tolerates: wet soil, excessive rain fall, dividing, poor drainage (may grow in shallow standing water)
Problems (major): Calcium oxalate crystals
Problems (minor): red spider mites (low humidity), grows poorly indoors
Poisonous: Needle-like calcium oxalate crystals can cause mouth and throat irritation if ingested.
Soil requirements: prefer consistently moist/wet, nutrient-rich,humus rich soils (a pH of 5.5-7.0 optimally)
Air Requirements: grow poorly at high elevations
Watering requirement: moderate to high, drying out may quickly lead to death or dormancy
Sun requirement: full sun preferred, larger in part shade but with less “runners” and flowers
Leaves: heart/arrow-shaped, to 60cm by 30cm, light green but varying widely with variety
Stem: subterranean tuber, cylindrical or globular
Flowering structure: spadix yellowish-white, to 10cm tall, entirely closed in thin, bright yellow spathe to 20cm tall, sitting atop light green peduncle to 20cm
Flowering frequency: May-September under full sun and sufficiently watered conditions, some varieties flower copiously (others hardly ever), almost never indoors
Tubers or rhizomes proliferate exist under good conditions.
In many Pacific Island areas and in the East, C. esculenta are frequently grown as food. Leaves are often consumed after cooking, and the roots are used in curries. The plant contains large quantities of fiber and quite a bit of potassium, along with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and some protein found in the leaves. Additionally, the plant contains Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Calcium, Manganese, Magnesium, and Copper. Many health stores offer taro, as its health benefits can attract dieters. This crop is extremely valuable to Hawaiians, who have been growing the plant in cultivation for centuries. Taro may be helpful for various medicinal purposes, although there is not enough research to warrant such use.
These images were taken by me, and they may be used for educational/informational purposes only provided that this online journal/article is appropriately cited/referenced first.