Alocasia macrorrhizos (Giant Taro, Elephant Ear Taro, Sweet Ape)

Native to Pacific Islands and regions of Asia, Giant taro are fast-growing aroids that reach up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) in a single growing season. They can be overwintered in colder areas, although they are perennials in their native habitats.

Alocasia macrorrhizos (Giant taro, Elephant ear taro, Sweet ape)
Deciduous: no
Hardiness Zones: 8-11
Height: 0.6-1.8 meters (2-6 feet) tall
Diameter: 0.6-1.8 meters (2-6 feet) tall
Growth Rate: fast (can reach 1.8 meters (6 feet) tall in one growing season)
Age: perennial
Root System: extensive lateral roots
Family: Araceae
Subspecies: none

Tolerates: heavy shade on occassion, air pollution (somewhat)
Problems (major): none
Problems (minor): spider mites
Poisonous: The calcium oxalate crystals found (especially) in the corms can cause severe throat and mouth pain if ingested.

Soil requirements: prefers a neutral pH (6.6-7.5) in somewhat moist, nutrient-rich, well-drained soils
Air requirements: somewhat tolerant of poor urban air conditions
Watering requirement: moderate
Sun requirement: full sun to full shade

Leaf shape: heart-shaped, massive
Leaf size: The petioles may reach 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) long, and the lamina (or blade) can reach more than 1 meter (3 feet) in length.
Stem: none, has petioles but no stems
Flowering structure: The inflorescence consists of a peduncle, a spathe (which covers the spadix), and the spadix (which has the flowers on it).
Flowering frequency: infrequent
Fruits: The red berries encase numerous tiny brown seeds.
Bulb/Corm: bulb/corms, sometimes gives way to “daughter” cormels
Monocot/Dicot: monocot
Annual/Biennial/Perennial: perennial

Notable characteristics:
The leaves can grow to impressive sizes very quickly. The inflorescences (flowering structures) are fairly rare and resemble calla-lily flowers.

Uses:
The corms are sometimes used as food once they have been cooked and cleaned thoroughly (to get rid of the calcium oxalate crystals present). These are usually only eaten as a “famine food” however due to the calcium oxalate crystals abundantly present. The juices from recently cut petioles was sometimes used to reduce stinging pains from touching plants such as nettle.

Sources used:

Image
Mature, large leaves of A. macrorrhizos (at the Denver Botanical Garden in Colorado)

Image
Fairly large petioles and lamina (at Denver Botanical Garden in Colorado)

Image
Relatively small and young A. macrorrhizos at SIU Carbondale’s greenhouses

Image
A mature inflorescence of an alocasia (not A. macrorrhizos, at Missouri Botanical Garden)

Image
A juvenile Giant Taro at SIU Carbondale’s campus

All of the images provided were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited first.

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