Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Colocasia esculenta
(taro)

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Datasheet

Colocasia esculenta (taro)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Colocasia esculenta
  • Preferred Common Name
  • taro
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Colocasia esculenta is a fast-growing herbaceous plant that originates from a large corm and can grow to 4 ft. (1.5 m) in height. It has been intentionally introduced in many tropical and subtropical regions to...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Colocasia esculenta (taro); habit, growing on a riverbank in Puerto Rico.
TitleHabit
CaptionColocasia esculenta (taro); habit, growing on a riverbank in Puerto Rico.
Copyright©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez
Colocasia esculenta (taro); habit, growing on a riverbank in Puerto Rico.
HabitColocasia esculenta (taro); habit, growing on a riverbank in Puerto Rico.©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez
Inflorescence of Colocasia esculenta (taro) from plants growing in Puerto Rico. May 2006.
TitleInflorescence
CaptionInflorescence of Colocasia esculenta (taro) from plants growing in Puerto Rico. May 2006.
Copyright©Dr. Juan A Rivero
Inflorescence of Colocasia esculenta (taro) from plants growing in Puerto Rico. May 2006.
InflorescenceInflorescence of Colocasia esculenta (taro) from plants growing in Puerto Rico. May 2006.©Dr. Juan A Rivero
Colocasia esculenta (taro); leaf.
TitleLeaf
CaptionColocasia esculenta (taro); leaf.
Copyright©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez
Colocasia esculenta (taro); leaf.
LeafColocasia esculenta (taro); leaf.©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez
Colocasia esculenta (taro) growing in open areas on the island of Grenada, West Indies. September 2012.
TitleHabit and foliage
CaptionColocasia esculenta (taro) growing in open areas on the island of Grenada, West Indies. September 2012.
Copyright©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez
Colocasia esculenta (taro) growing in open areas on the island of Grenada, West Indies. September 2012.
Habit and foliageColocasia esculenta (taro) growing in open areas on the island of Grenada, West Indies. September 2012.©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez
C. esculenta: 1, habit of plant; 2, corm.
TitleC. esculenta - line drawing
CaptionC. esculenta: 1, habit of plant; 2, corm.
CopyrightPROSEA Foundation
C. esculenta: 1, habit of plant; 2, corm.
C. esculenta - line drawingC. esculenta: 1, habit of plant; 2, corm.PROSEA Foundation

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott (1832)

Preferred Common Name

  • taro

Other Scientific Names

  • Alocasia dussii Dammer
  • Alocasia illustris W. Bull
  • Aron colocasium (L.) St.-Lag.
  • Arum chinense L.
  • Arum colocasia L.
  • Arum colocasioides Desf.
  • Arum esculentum L.
  • Arum lividum Salisb.
  • Arum nymphaeifolium (Vent.) Roxb.
  • Arum peltatum Lam.
  • Caladium acre R. Br.
  • Caladium colocasioides (Desf.) Brongn.
  • Caladium esculenta Vent.
  • Caladium esculentum (L.) Vent.
  • Caladium glycyrrhizum Fraser
  • Caladium nymphaeifolium Vent.
  • Caladium violaceum Desf.
  • Caladium violaceum Engl.
  • Calla gaby Blanco
  • Calla virosa Roxb.
  • Colocasia acris (R.Br.) Schott
  • Colocasia aegyptiaca Samp.
  • Colocasia antiquorum Schott (1832)
  • Colocasia antiquorum f. acuatica Makino
  • Colocasia antiquorum f. eguimo Makino
  • Colocasia antiquorum f. oyasetage Makino
  • Colocasia antiquorum f. purpurea Makino
  • Colocasia antiquorum f. yamamotoi Makino
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. acris (R. Br.) Schott
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. aquatilis (Hassk.) Engl. & K. Krause
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. euchlora (K.Koch & Linden) Schott
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. fontanesii (Schott) Schott
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. globulifera Engl. & K.Krause
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. illustris (W.Bull) Engl.
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. multifolia Makino
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. nymphaeifolia (Vent.) Engl.
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. patens Makino
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. rosea Makino
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. rupicola Haines
  • Colocasia antiquorum var. stolonifera Haines
  • Colocasia esculenta f. ebiimo Makino
  • Colocasia esculenta f. rotundifolia Makino
  • Colocasia esculenta var. acris (R. Br.) A. F. Hill
  • Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum (Schott) F.T.Hubb. & Rehder
  • Colocasia esculenta var. aquatilis Hassk.
  • Colocasia esculenta var. euchlora (K.Koch & Linden) A.F.Hill
  • Colocasia esculenta var. fontanesii (Schott) A.F.Hill
  • Colocasia esculenta var. globulifera (Engl. & K.Krause) R.A.Young
  • Colocasia esculenta var. illustris (W.Bull) A.F.Hill
  • Colocasia esculenta var. nymphaeifolia (Kunth) A.F.Hill
  • Colocasia esculenta var. rupicola (Haines) H.B.Naithani
  • Colocasia esculenta var. stolonifera (Haines) H.B.Naithani
  • Colocasia euchlora K.Koch & Linden
  • Colocasia fontanesii Schott
  • Colocasia gracilis Engl.
  • Colocasia himalensis Royle
  • Colocasia neocaledonica Van Houtte
  • Colocasia nymphaeifolia (Vent.) Kunth
  • Colocasia peltata (Lam.) Samp.
  • Colocasia tonoimo Nakai
  • Colocasia vera Hassk.
  • Colocasia violacea (Desf.) auct.
  • Colocasia virosa (Roxb.) Kunth
  • Colocasia vulgaris Raf.
  • Leucocasia esculenta (L.) Nakai
  • Steudnera virosa (Roxb.) Prain
  • Zantedeschia virosa (Roxb.) K.Koch

International Common Names

  • English: Chinese potato; cocoyam; dasheen; dry taro; eddoe; Egyptian colocasia; elephant's ear; old cocoyam; small taro; sweet taro; true taro
  • Spanish: malanga; malanga islena; oreja de elefante; papa china; pituca; tayoba; yautía malanga; yautia melendez
  • French: arouille carri; arum d'Egypte; chou caraibe; colocase; colocasie; madere; songe; songe blanc; songe sauvage
  • Chinese: yu

Local Common Names

  • : madumbe
  • Brazil: taio
  • Cambodia: traw
  • Cuba: malanga isleña
  • Dominican Republic: tahia; tania; tayo; yautía coquito; yautía morada
  • Germany: echte Blattwurz
  • Haiti: caraibe; caraibe manzoubelle; malanga; malanga deux palles; malanga thiote; taro bombou; tayo bambou; tayo blanc; tayo noir
  • India: arum
  • Indonesia: bentul; keladi; talas
  • Italy: aro d'Egitto
  • Laos: bon; phüak
  • Lesser Antilles: dachine; edoe; malanga
  • Malaysia: daun keladi
  • Papua New Guinea: anega; ba; biloun
  • Philippines: abalong; gabi; natong
  • Puerto Rico: angustia
  • Thailand: bon-nam; tun
  • Vietnam: khoai nuwowsc; khoai soj; moon nuwowsc

EPPO code

  • CXSEA (Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum)
  • CXSES (Colocasia esculenta)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Colocasia esculenta is a fast-growing herbaceous plant that originates from a large corm and can grow to 4 ft. (1.5 m) in height. It has been intentionally introduced in many tropical and subtropical regions to be used as a food crop and animal fodder (Onwueme, 1999; Safo-Kantaka, 2004), and has subsequently escaped from cultivated areas into natural areas where it becomes invasive (Langeland et al., 2008). In Australia, it is regarded as an environmental weed in Queensland, New South Wales and south-western Western Australia (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). In PIER (2012) it is listed as invasive in Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Juan Fernández Islands, the Galapagos, the Kermadec Islands and the Marshall Islands, although it is also widely cultivated in some of these and other Pacific Islands. It is also viewed as an invasive species or aggressive weed in parts of the Caribbean and Americas (see Distribution Table for details).

C. esculenta has several adaptations that aid its survival as a weed. It has the ability to reproduce both sexually by seeds and vegetatively by corms, tubers, and root suckers, and it is adapted to grow in a great variety of substrates and habitats ranging from full sun to deep shaded areas (Safo-Kantaka, 2004). As a highly variable species, invasiveness varies with cultivar: in Australia, for example, the purple-stalked ornamental garden cultivars (i.e. 'Euchlora' and esculenta 'Fontanesii') are the most invasive (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Arales
  •                         Family: Araceae
  •                             Genus: Colocasia
  •                                 Species: Colocasia esculenta

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The family Araceae comprises about 117 genera and 4095 species distributed mostly in tropical areas in the New World, but also in Australia, Africa, and north temperate regions (Stevens, 2012). The genus Colocasia includes 8-16 species native to tropical Asia. The species C. esculenta, also known as taro or cocoyam, is cultivated and naturalized throughout the tropics (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Randall, 2012). Many cultivars adapted to saline conditions, low water availability and/or seasonal flooded soils have been created and are also widely cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical regions (Onwueme, 1999). The taxonomy of Colocasia cultivars with edible corms is confusing. The number of species recognized varies among authors, some recognizing C. esculenta as a highly variable species, others recognizing several species or varieties within this complex [see also ‘Other Botanical Information’ in the Biology and Ecology section]. Some forms are cultivated for their edible corms while others are grown for their ornamental foliage. In the early twentieth century around 300 varietal names for the crop were recorded in Hawaii, about half of which were estimated to be synonyms (Whitney et al., 1939).

Description

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Perennial, glabrous, herb growing to a height of 1 m or more, with a massive, fleshy corm at the base, and lateral, thick, edible runners. Root system adventitious, fibrous, and shallow. Storage stem (corm) massive (up to 4 kg), cylindrical or spherical, up to 30 x 15 cm, usually brown, with lateral buds located above leaf scars giving rise to new cormels, suckers or stolons. Leaves are arranged in a loose rosette; blades pointing downward, 23-55 × 12-38 cm, cordate or lanceolate, sub-coriaceous, green above, glaucous below, the apex obtuse, acute or shortly acuminate, the base peltate-cordate, the margins more or less wavy, with a submarginal collecting vein; petioles erect, to 85 cm long, inserted 3-7 cm from base of blade. Inflorescences axillary, ascending, solitary; peduncles nearly as long as the petiole, cylindrical; spathe fleshy, to 35 cm long, the tube green, the blade lanceolate, not much wider than the tube, yellow to orange, flexing open near the base, then deflexing and dropped; spadix yellow, much shorter than the spathe, the sterile flower zone and the distal appendage shorter than the fertile zones. Fruit is a many-seeded berry, densely packed and forming a fruiting head. Seeds are ovoid to ellipsoid, less than 2 mm long, with copious endosperm (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Langeland et al., 2008).

Plant Type

Top of page Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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C. esculenta is native to tropical Asia (Govaerts, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2012), originating in South-East or southern Central Asia, where it was probably cultivated before rice. It has been actively cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical regions. Today it is grown throughout the West Indies and in West and North Africa. In Asia, it is widely planted in south and central China and is grown to a lesser extent in India. It is now a staple food in many islands of the Pacific including Papua New Guinea, where it has prestigious as well as economic value, playing an important role in traditional gift-giving and ceremonies. It also has great cultural importance in Hawaii, where growing the crop was not merely an activity of food production but was strongly bound to the people’s culture and beliefs about creation (Cho et al., 2007). 

In Indonesia, C. esculenta is a staple food on the Mentawai Islands and for Melanesians in Irian Java. It is cultivated to a lesser extent in Bogor and Malang in Java, and on Bali. In Malaysia, it has been used for more than 2000 years and is now found throughout the country. C. esculenta is grown throughout the Philippines but is most important in eastern and central Visayas and the Mindanao and Bikol regions.

C. esculenta is now also found in North and Central America, and European islands such as Madeira, Malta, the Azores, Sicily, Sardinia, and the Balearic and Canary Islands. While often introduced as a crop, it has escaped in many areas and become naturalized. In Florida, for example, it is listed as a Category I invasive species (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2011), meaning that it is regarded as altering native plant communities. It is invasive in Costa Rica (Chacón and Saborío, 2012), Cuba (González-Torres et al., 2012), Puerto Rico (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005) and Ecuador (Jørgensen and León-Yánez, 1999).

In Australia, C. esculenta is naturalised in northern and south-eastern Queensland, in south-western Western Australia, and in the coastal districts of central and northern New South Wales. It is also naturalized on Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island and Christmas Island (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011).
 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
BhutanPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AnhuiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-ChongqingPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
-FujianPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-GuangdongPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-GuangxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-GuizhouPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-HainanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-HebeiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-Hong KongPresentNativeWu, 2001
-HunanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-JiangsuPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-JiangxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-ShandongPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
-SichuanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-YunnanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-ZhejiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroducedQueensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011Naturalized
IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Andhra PradeshPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
-Arunachal PradeshPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
-AssamPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
-SikkimPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
IndonesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-JavaPresentGovaerts, 2012
-SulawesiPresentGovaerts, 2012
-SumatraPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
JapanPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
LaosPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
MalaysiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
MaldivesPresentPIER, 2012
NepalPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012Cultivated
SingaporePresentIntroduced Invasive Chong et al., 2009
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2012Cultivated
ThailandPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012

Africa

AlgeriaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
AngolaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
Burkina FasoPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
CameroonPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
Cape VerdePresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
Central African RepublicPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
ChadPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
CongoPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Equatorial GuineaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
GabonPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
GambiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
GhanaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
GuineaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Guinea-BissauPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
KenyaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
LiberiaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
MadagascarPresentIntroducedMadagascar Catalogue, 2012
MalawiPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
MaliPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
MauritiusPresentPIER, 2012
MoroccoPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
NigerPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
NigeriaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2012
RwandaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
Saint HelenaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Sao Tome and PrincipePresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
SenegalPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
SeychellesPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Sierra LeonePresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedAcebes et al., 2001; DAISIE, 2012; EPPO, 2014
SudanPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
-ZanzibarPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
TogoPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
TunisiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
UgandaPresentIntroducedSafo-Kantaka, 2004Cultivated
ZambiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedVillaseñor and Espinosa-Garcia, 2004Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tabasco
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2011Invasive category I
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Wagner et al., 1999; PIER, 2012Persisting outside cultivation
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-MississippiPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaWidespreadIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedRobin, 2008Cultivated
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedProctor, 1984Cultivated
Costa RicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Chacón and Saborío, 2012
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive González-Torres et al., 2012Cultivated
DominicaWidespreadIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012Cultivated
GrenadaPresentIntroducedAvecedo, 2012, personal observationsCultivated and escaped
GuadeloupeWidespreadIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedStandley and Steyermark, 1958
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedMolina, 1975
JamaicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979Weed
MartiniqueWidespreadIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
MontserratWidespreadIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroducedRobin, 2008Cultivated. St. Marten
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
PanamaPresentIntroducedCorrea et al., 2004Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí, Darién, San Blas
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005Cultivated
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroducedRobin, 2008Cultivated
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedGraveson, 2012Cultivated

South America

ChilePresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2012Juan Fernández Island
-Easter IslandPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
ColombiaPresentIntroducedIdárraga-Piedrahita et al., 2011
EcuadorPresentIntroduced Invasive Jørgensen and León-Yànez, 1999Los Ríos, Napo, Pichincha
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Charles Darwin Foundation, 2008; PIER, 2012
French GuianaPresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007
GuyanaPresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007
PeruPresentIntroducedBrako and Zarucchi, 1993
SurinamePresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedHokche et al., 2008Anzoategui, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro, Merida, Monagas, Portuguesa, Tachira, Zulia

Europe

ItalyPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2012Sicily and Sardinia
MaltaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2012
PortugalPresentEPPO, 2014
-AzoresPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2012
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedSilva VRMda, 2002; DAISIE, 2012
SpainPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2012; EPPO, 2014
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2012

Oceania

American SamoaPresentIntroducedRagone and Lorence, 2003Cultivated
AustraliaPresentIntroducedQueensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011
-Lord Howe Is.PresentIntroducedQueensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011Naturalized
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive Groves et al., 2005Weed
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011; Govaerts, 2012
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedMcCormack, 2007Cultivated
FijiPresentIntroducedSmith, 1979Cultivated
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Florence et al., 2011; PIER, 2012
GuamPresentIntroducedStone, 1970Cultivated
KiribatiPresentIntroducedFosberg, et al., 1987
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive Fosberg, et al., 1987; PIER, 2012
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedFosberg, et al., 1987; Lorence and Flynn, 2010Cultivated
NauruPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-ARS, 2012
-Kermadec IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2012
NiuePresentIntroducedSykes, 1970
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroducedQueensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011Naturalized
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedFosberg, et al., 1987Cultivated
PalauPresentIntroducedFosberg, et al., 1987
Papua New GuineaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
SamoaPresentIntroducedOnwueme, 1999Cultivated
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedHancock et al., 1988
TongaPresentIntroducedEllison, 1990On outlier islets of Pangaimotu, Oneata and Ata
TuvaluPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
VanuatuPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroducedMeyer, 2007

History of Introduction and Spread

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C. esculenta is thought to have been domesticated in northern India, but independent domestication in New Guinea has also been suggested (Safo-Kantaka, 2004). Domestication is believed to have taken place at a very early date, even before the domestication of rice. Archaeological evidence suggests human use of the plants 28,000 years ago in the Solomon Islands (Loy et al., 1992). It was spread by human settlers eastward to New Guinea and the Pacific over 2000 years ago, where it became one of the most important food plants economically and culturally. It was one of the first crops introduced to Hawaii by Polynesians around 900 to 1000 AD, most likely in multiple arrivals (Cho et al., 2007).

Distribution to China and via Arabia to Egypt and East Africa also occurred at least 2000 years ago. From there C. esculenta was introduced by Arab people to West Africa. It was introduced into Europe from Egypt (Greenwell, 1947).

During the seventeenth century, C. esculenta was introduced from Africa to the Americas as a food crop for slaves by Spaniard, Portuguese, and British slave traders (Greenwell, 1947). For example, as early as 1647, taro was cultivated in Barbados as a slave dietary staple (Carney and Rosomoff, 2009). Later, by 1864, it was reported as “naturalized” in Jamaica and St. Kitts and widely cultivated in most islands in the West Indies (Grisebach, 1864). In Puerto Rico, the first report of this species was made by Bello in 1883. In the southeastern United States, it was introduced in 1910 by the Department of Agriculture as a substitute crop for potatoes (Greenwell, 1947; Langeland et al., 2008).

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of C. esculenta is high, especially in areas near to cultivated fields. It is an aggressive weed that has escaped from cultivated areas and become invasive in tropical and subtropical regions of the world (Randall, 2012). Plants produce underground corms and stems that are commercialized as food for human consumption and animal fodder. It is also exploited as an ornamental (Onwueme, 1999; Safo-Kantaka, 2004). C. esculenta is a fast-growing plant that can be dispersed by seed and by corms which re-sprout easily forming new plants.

Habitat

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C. esculenta can be found growing mainly in moist forests and wet areas in riparian habitats, riverbanks, along streams, marshes, and canals (Safo-Kantaka, 2004; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Langeland et al., 2008). It can also be found in secondary forests, roadsides, and disturbed areas near to abandoned crop fields (Wagner et al., 1999; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005).

In Puerto Rico, this species escaped from cultivation and persists along riverbanks and in moist forest understory in Arecibo, Caguas, Carolina, Jayuya, Loíza, Salinas, San Juan, and Toa Baja (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005). In Florida, this weed was widely naturalized along streams, marshy shores, canals, and ditches in more than 235 public water bodies by 1994 (Langeland et al., 2008).

In Australia, C. esculenta is an environmental weed invading waterways and wetlands and replacing native aquatic plants. It is listed among the 200 most invasive plants in the region of Queensland and is also a problem in the coastal districts of New South Wales and along the waterways in Western Australia (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Freshwater
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural
Wetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Present, no further details Natural

Species Vectored

Top of page Pomacea maculata

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Chromosome numbers reported for C. esculenta include 2n = 22, 26, 28, 38 and 42 (Coates et al., 1988; Sreekumari and Mathew, 1989; Onwueme, 1999). The disparity in the numbers may be due to the fact that chromosomes in this species are prone to unpredictable behaviour during cell division. The most commonly reported results are 2n = 28 or 42 (Coates et al., 1988). 

Reproductive Biology

Under natural conditions, reproductive activity in C. esculenta occurs only occasionally. However, flowering can be artificially promoted by application of gibberellic acid. The inflorescence arises from the leaf axils, or from the centre of the cluster of unexpanded leaves. Each plant may bear more than one inflorescence. The spadix is 6-14 cm long, with female flowers at the base, male flowers towards the tip, and sterile flowers in between, in the region compressed by the neck of the spathe. Pollination in this species is probably performed by flies (Onwueme, 1999). 

Physiology and Phenology

Information on growth is mainly available for C. esculenta grown as a crop. Growth of leaves on main plants is slow during establishment, but is rapid from 1.5-2 months after planting, with most rapid leaf growth between 3 and 5 months after planting. During the fourth or fifth month, leaf size, leaf dry weight, leaf area, leaf area index and plant height reach their maximum values. Leaf number varies and there is a continuous turnover of leaves. After peaking, leaves become smaller with shorter petioles and leaf number decreases.

Only a portion of corm or stem is needed to establish new plants. Main corm growth begins as early as 2 weeks after planting, with rapid corm growth beginning two months after planting under rainfed conditions and 3-5 months after planting under irrigated conditions. Corms reach maximum weight at 10-11.5 months when rainfed and 12-15 months when irrigated, but are usually harvested before this time.

Sucker growth generally begins 2.5 months after planting. The number of suckers depends on cultivar and management.

Corms can remain underground and survive through unfavourable environmental conditions (i.e., drought). If they are not harvested, corms will sprout and give rise to new plants at the onset of the next favourable season. Under favourable environmental conditions, plants may continue growth for several years (Onwueme, 1999; Safo-Kantaka, 2004).

Environmental Requirements

C. esculenta is best suited to tropical lowland areas with annual precipitation greater than 2000 mm, and evenly distributed, although there are many upland varieties with water requirement of much less than 2000 mm. It is well adapted to high temperatures (20-35°C) and shaded conditions and for that reason it is common to find it growing under coconut, cocoa or coffee plantations: when cultivated, it is often grown as an intercrop with such tree crops. It also grows well in wetlands including paddies with a continuous supply of flowing water, furrow-irrigated fields, and raised beds in poorly drained swamps. As a crop, many cultivars adapted to wet soil conditions, drought, partially saline conditions, and low temperatures have been produced. In Papua New Guinea, it is as frost hardy as sweet potato.

C. esculenta grows best in well-drained loamy soils, but it has the potential to grow in a wide variety of soils including clay, sandy, and loamy soils with pH normally ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 (Onwueme, 1999; Safo-Kantaka, 2004). In Malaysia it is reported to tolerate soil pH ranging from 4.2 to 7.5. Good crop yields require high fertility.

Other Botanical Information

When cultivated as a crop, there are two forms of C. esculenta or taro. The dasheen type has a large central corm with a few small cormels which are generally not eaten. The eddoe type produces a smaller central corm surrounded by large, well-developed cormels which are the main harvestable yield. Eddoes are often more drought-hardy than dasheens.

Although the eddoe type is frequently classified as a separate species, C. antiquorum Schott, it is more generally accepted that it is a variety, C. esculenta var. antiquorum (Schott) Hubb. & Rehder, of a very variable species that includes both dasheens and eddoes. 

There are many taro cultivars, and these are distinguished by morphological characteristics (e.g., corm size and shape) as well as time taken to mature. Colour of corm flesh, lateral buds, petioles, and leaf blades are also used to differentiate cultivars.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -10
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 12 30

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall15002000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Athelia rolfsii Pathogen Whole plant not specific N
Caliothrips indicus Herbivore Leaves/Roots/Whole plant not specific
Papuana biroi Herbivore Roots/Whole plant not specific N
Papuana huebneri Herbivore Roots/Whole plant not specific N
Papuana trinodosa Herbivore Roots/Whole plant not specific N
Papuana woodlarkiana Herbivore Roots/Whole plant not specific N
Phytophthora colocasiae Pathogen Whole plant not specific N
Pythium Pathogen Whole plant not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The natural enemies of C. esculenta include the following species:

  • The taro beetles: Papuana woodlarkiana,Papuana biroi, Papuana huebneri, and Papuana trinodosa.
  • Taro leaf blight caused by the fungus Phytophthora colocasiae.
  • Taro large bacilliform virus (TLBV) which is transmitted by the plant hopper Tarophagus proserpina
  • Taro small bacilliform virus (TSBV) which is transmitted by the mealybug Planococcus citri
  • Thrips Heliothrips indicus

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. esculenta spreads by seeds, underground corms, tubers, root suckers, and stems. Seeds in this species are uncommon. Fragments of corms and tubers can be easily dispersed by streams and floods (Wagner et al., 1999; Langeland et al., 2008). Tubers, corms, and root suckers easily re-spread producing new plants. In addition, corms can remain on the ground for several months waiting for suitable environmental conditions to sprout (Onwueme, 1999). Corms and tubers can also be dispersed by movement of soil by vehicles and farming machinery.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionCorms, stems and leaves are edible and planted for human consumption Yes Yes Safo-Kantaka, 2004
Escape from confinement or garden escapeOccasionally planted as ornamental Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2012
ForageCorms, stems and leaves are used as animal fodder Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2012
HorticultureCorms, stems and leaves are edible and planted for human consumption Yes Yes Safo-Kantaka, 2004
Ornamental purposesOccasionally planted as ornamental Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2012
People foragingCorms, stems and leaves are edible and planted for human consumption Yes Yes Safo-Kantaka, 2004

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
ConsumablesCorms, stems and leaves are edible Yes Yes Safo-Kantaka, 2004
Floating vegetation and debrisCorm and stem fragments Yes Yes Safo-Kantaka, 2004
Machinery and equipmentSoil movements can disperse buried corms Yes Yes Safo-Kantaka, 2004
Soil, sand and gravelSoil movements can disperse buried corms Yes Yes Safo-Kantaka, 2004
WaterCorm and stem fragments can float on water Yes Yes Safo-Kantaka, 2004

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Environmental Impact

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C. esculenta is an invasive fast-growing weed with the potential to displace native vegetation (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). It has become naturalized outside its native distribution range and grows forming dense thickets along rivers, lake shores, and in wetlands displacing native shoreline vegetation and replacing native aquatic plants (Langeland et al., 2008; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011; PIER, 2012). It is also affecting native vegetation in moist secondary forests and in disturbed areas along roadsides where dense populations are able to emerge.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Gambusia georgei (San Marcos gambusia)No DetailsTexasEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995
Zizania texana (Texas wild-rice)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesTexasCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Loss of medicinal resources
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Causes allergic responses
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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C. esculenta, commonly known in its crop form as taro, is mainly cultivated for its starchy stem tubers and corms. These corms are eaten boiled, fried or roasted as a side dish or are used to produce starch and flour. Taro corm puree makes an easily digested, low-allergenic baby food. In times of scarcity, this species is used as a famine food and in some regions leaves are used for food after cooking.

Waste leaves, corms and peel can be cooked or fermented into silage for animal feed. Most taro in South-East Asia is consumed by humans, but it also has uses in religious festivals and in folk medicines and is fed to livestock, primarily pigs.

In areas of Indonesia where rice is not grown, taro is eaten as a staple, baked, boiled or cooked in bamboo tubes. In Java, confections are prepared from taro flavoured with coconut and sugar: fried taro slices and taro chips are popular snacks. The leaves are used in preparing 'buntil' (salted fish with spices, grated coconut and vegetables, wrapped up and steamed in a taro leaf), and petioles are cooked. In Malaysia, taro is cooked in similar ways and also plays a role in religious festivals. Leaves are boiled and eaten as salad with spicy sauce, and petioles are cooked with coconut milk, meat and prawns. Taro in the Philippines is used primarily when more popular starches and green vegetables are in short supply. Corms are boiled, chipped and fried or made into confections. In Hawaii and parts of Polynesia, the corms are cooked and pounded into a paste that is allowed to ferment to produce 'poi'. A steamed pudding is made from grated taro and coconut.

Fibre obtained from the leaf stalk has been used for plaiting. In Asia and Africa, this species is also used in traditional medicine to treat arterial hypertension, liver problems, ulcers, snakebites, and rheumatism (Onwueme, 1999; Safo-Kantaka, 2004).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Environmental

  • Amenity

General

  • Ornamental
  • Sociocultural value

Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base
  • Flour/starch
  • Food additive
  • Root crop
  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Fibre

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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C. esculenta may be confused with other plants having large arrowhead-shaped leaf blades, such as species in the genera Alocasia and Xanthosoma (i.e., Xanthosoma sagittifolium). However, leaves of all similar-looking species are not peltate (i.e., their petioles are attached at the leaf-blade margin, rather than in the middle as with C. esculenta; Langeland et al., 2008).

Prevention and Control

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Physical/Mechanical Control

Mechanical removal of C. esculenta may be effective but is labour intensive. All corms and tubers should be removed to prevent spread. Dense stands should be removed using specialized machinery.

Chemical Control

Chemical control of C. esculenta should include mechanical cutting of the plants to the base followed by applications of N-phosphonomethyl-glycine (glyphosate). Follow-up treatments are recommended at 6 weeks intervals until control is completed (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). This procedure is not recommended when plants are growing near rivers or streams.

Bibliography

Top of page Ghani FD, 1980. The status of keladi China, Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott, cultivation in Peninsula Malaysia. IFS Provisional Report No 5. Stockholm, Sweden: International Foundation for Science, 35-54.

Ghani FD, 1981. Conservation and utilization of Colocasia (cultivars) and edible aroids (keladi) in Malaysia. Tropical Root and Tuber Crops Newsletter, 12, 13:38-46.

Sastrapradja S, Hambali GG, 1980. Taro (Colocasia spp.) as a source of carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals in Indonesian diets. IFS Provisional Report No 5. Stockholm, Sweden: International Foundation for Science, 17-28.

Villanueva MR, Tupas GL, 1980. Taro production in the Philippines: its prospects and problems. IFS Provisional Report No 5. Stockholm, Sweden: International Foundation for Science, 99-111.

Wang J-K, ed, 1983. Taro, a review of Colocasia esculenta and its potentials. Hawaii, USA: University of Hawaii Press.

Wilson JE, 1984. Cocoyam. In: Goldsworthy PR, Fisher NM, eds. The physiology of tropical field crops. Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons, 589-605.

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Angiosperm Phylogeny Websitehttp://www.mobot.org/mobot/research/apweb/
FAO: Technical Report on Taro Cultivation in Asia and the Pacifichttp://www.fao.org/docrep/005/AC450E/ac450e00.htm#Contents
Flora of the West Indieshttp://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/
Florida Exotic Pest Plant Councilhttp://www.fleppc.org/ID_book/Colocasia%20esculenta.pdf
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Contributors

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22/02/13 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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