Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Alocasia macrorrhizos
(giant taro)

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Datasheet

Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 16 July 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Alocasia macrorrhizos
  • Preferred Common Name
  • giant taro
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. macrorrhizos is a fast-growing herbaceous plant, growing up to 5 m in height, which has been intentionally introduced in many tropical and subtropical regions to be used as an ornamental, food crop, and anim...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); habit. Puerto Rico.
TitleHabit
CaptionAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); habit. Puerto Rico.
Copyright©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); habit. Puerto Rico.
HabitAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); habit. Puerto Rico.©Smithsonian Institution/Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); habit - note person on right for scale. Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
TitleHabit
CaptionAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); habit - note person on right for scale. Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); habit - note person on right for scale. Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
HabitAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); habit - note person on right for scale. Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); close view of large leaf. Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
TitleLeaf
CaptionAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); close view of large leaf. Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); close view of large leaf. Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
LeafAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); close view of large leaf. Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); flowering habit.
TitleHabit
CaptionAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); flowering habit.
Copyright©Fanghong/Wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); flowering habit.
HabitAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); flowering habit.©Fanghong/Wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); fruit at Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
TitleFruit
CaptionAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); fruit at Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Alocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); fruit at Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012
FruitAlocasia macrorrhizos (giant taro or ape); fruit at Kahanu Garden NTBG Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Alocasia macrorrhizos (L.) G. Don

Preferred Common Name

  • giant taro

Other Scientific Names

  • Alocasia cordifolia (Bory) Cordem.
  • Alocasia indica (Lour.) Spach
  • Alocasia indica var. diversifolia Engl.
  • Alocasia indica var. heterophylla Engl.
  • Alocasia indica var. metallica (Schott) Schott
  • Alocasia indica var. rubra (Hassk.) Engl
  • Alocasia indica var. typica Engl.
  • Alocasia indica var. variegata (K.Koch & C.D.Bouché) Engl.
  • Alocasia macrorrhiza (L.) Schott
  • Alocasia macrorrhizos var. rubra (Hassk.) Furtado
  • Alocasia macrorrhizos var. variegata (K.Koch & C.D.Bouché) Furtado
  • Alocasia marginata N.E.Br.
  • Alocasia metallica Schott
  • Alocasia montana (Roxb.) Schott
  • Alocasia pallida K.Koch & C.D.Bouché
  • Alocasia rapiformis (Roxb.) Schott
  • Alocasia uhinkii Engl. & K.Krause
  • Alocasia variegata K.Koch & C.D.Bouché
  • Arum cordifolium Bory
  • Arum indicum Lour
  • Arum macrorrhizon L.
  • Arum montanum Roxb.
  • Arum mucronatum Lam.
  • Arum peregrinum L.
  • Arum rapiforme Roxb.
  • Caladium macrorrhizon (L.) R.Br.
  • Caladium metallicum Engl.
  • Caladium odoratum Lodd.
  • Calla badian Blanco
  • Calla maxima Blanco
  • Colocasia boryi Kunth
  • Colocasia indica (Lour.) Kunth
  • Colocasia indica var. rubra Hassk.
  • Colocasia macrorrhizos (L.) Schott
  • Colocasia montana (Roxb.) Kunth
  • Colocasia mucronata (Lam.) Kunth
  • Colocasia peregrina (L.) Raf.
  • Colocasia rapiformis (Roxb.) Kunth
  • Philodendron peregrinum (L.) Kunth
  • Philodendron punctatum Kunth

International Common Names

  • English: Egyptian lily; elephant's ear; giant alocasia; western yam; wild taro
  • Spanish: camacho; malanga; yautía
  • French: alocasie; songe blanc; songe sauvage
  • Chinese: re ya hai yu

Local Common Names

  • : paragum
  • Brazil: inhame-açú; orelha de elefante; taioba; taioba-branco
  • Cook Islands: kape
  • Costa Rica: hoja de pato; pato
  • Cuba: malanga de jardín
  • Fiji: via nganga; viadidi; viamila; viandini; viandranu; viasori
  • Germany: Tropenwurz, Indische
  • India: mankachu
  • Indonesia: bira; mael; sente
  • Laos: kaph’uk
  • Lesser Antilles: giant tayo
  • Malaysia: birah negeri; keladi sebaring
  • Myanmar: pein-mohawaya
  • New Caledonia: aware; ica; kape; kaxete; koe; kowe; moerere; peka; pia; pidu; poaere; twowe; wave
  • Philippines: aba; aba-aba; badiang; bagiang; biga
  • Puerto Rico: yautía cimarrona
  • Thailand: hora; kradatdam
  • USA/Hawaii: ‘ape
  • Vietnam: khoais

EPPO code

  • ALDMA (Alocasia macrorrhiza)

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. macrorrhizos is a fast-growing herbaceous plant, growing up to 5 m in height, which has been intentionally introduced in many tropical and subtropical regions to be used as an ornamental, food crop, and animal feed (Léon, 1987; Manner, 2011). It has the capability to reproductive sexually by seeds and vegetatively by corms, tubers, and root suckers and it is able grow in a great variety of substrates and habitats ranging from full sun to deep shaded areas (Flach and Rumawas, 1996). It is listed as invasive in Cuba, New Zealand, and several islands in the Pacific including Hawaii, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Palau (Sykes, 1970; Smith, 1979; Wagner et al., 1999; Space et al., 2009; Florence et al., 2011; González-Torres et al., 2012; PIER, 2012) and it is considered a weed in Vietnam (Koo et al., 2000).

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Araceae is a family of monocotyledonous flowering plants comprising about 117 genera and 4095 species distributed mostly in tropical areas in the New World, but also in Australia, Africa-Madagascar, and north temperate regions (Stevens, 2012). The genus Alocasia includes about 70 species native to the Old World tropics and subtropics (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005). A. macrorrhizos is widely cultivated around the world, mainly in tropical and subtropical regions (Randall, 2012). A. macrorrhizos can be distinguished from A. odora as A. odora has peltate leaves and a shorter spadix appendix while A. macrorrhizos does not produce stolons from stem bases (Lim, 2015).

Description

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A. macrorrhizos is a glabrous, terrestrial herb, normally around 1–1.5 m tall but growing up to 5 m (Manner, 2011). Plants are acaulescent with a short, conical corm, produce watery sap and develop an elongated caudex with age. Leaves are arranged in a rosette, ascending; blades flattened, ascending, with basal sinus projecting downward, 25–50 (–100) × 20–36 (–100) cm, green (although white-variegated in some cultivars), slightly lustrous, lance-ovate, coriaceous, wavy or slightly plicate along secondary veins, the apex acute or obtuse and apiculate, the base hastate, the sinuses non-overlapping, up to 30 cm long, the margins wavy, with a submarginal vein within 2 mm from the margin; mid-vein broad and conspicuous with 4-7 primary lateral veins per side; lower surface with dark spots on secondary vein angles; petioles 60–100 cm long. Two or more inflorescences subtended by brachts. Peduncles 20–45 cm long; spathe a whitish to yellowish green, oblong tube; spadix 11–32 cm, pistil 3–4 cm long and about 1.5 cm thick. Fruit a fleshy berry, red when mature, globose or ovoid (Flach and Rumawas, 1996; Wagner et al., 1999; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005).

Distribution

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A. macrorrhizos is native to Malesia (including Peninsular Malaysia, the Philippines and parts of Indonesia), Queensland and the Solomon Islands. It is currently widely distributed and naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions in North, Central and South America, the West Indies, tropical Africa and the Indo-Pacific Islands (Wagner et al., 1999; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005; Govaerts, 2012; PIER, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2012). It is cultivated in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and also in Myanmar, Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia (Flach and Rumawas, 1996; Singh et al., 2017) and in tropical America and in some parts of Africa, where it is a minor crop (Lebot, 2008).

It is likely to have originated in India or Sri Lanka (Quero Garcia et al., 2008Lebot (2008), where it occurs in the wild state, particularly in the humid Western and Eastern Ghats and in the north-east. Its seeds were probably naturally spread eastwards to Melanesia, where wild forms were also found in natural habitats. The main centre of diversity of the genus is the island of Borneo, where there are 23 species. 

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

BangladeshPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
BhutanPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ChongqingPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-HainanPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-Hong KongPresentWu, 2001
-SichuanPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-TianjinPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
IndiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-Arunachal PradeshPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-AssamPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-DelhiPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-DiuPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-SikkimPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
IndonesiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012Native in Borneo
-JavaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-KalimantanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
-MoluccasPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
-Nusa TenggaraPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-SulawesiPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
-SumatraPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
MalaysiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
PhilippinesPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
TaiwanPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
ThailandPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
VietnamPresentIntroducedKoo et al., 2000; Govaerts, 2012Considered a weed by Koo et al.

Africa

GuineaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
SeychellesPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012

North America

USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroducedWunderlin and Hansen, 2008
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Wagner et al., 1999Cultivated, and escaped into natural areas
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedHammel et al., 2003Cultivated and escaped
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive González-Torres et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
GrenadaPresentAcevedo-Rodríguez,, pers. observ.Cultivated
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
PanamaPresentAcevedo-Rodríguez,, pers. observ.Cultivated
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005Potentially invasive (Acevedo-Rodríguez, pers. observ).
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedGraveson, 2012Cultivated
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedLeón, 1987Intentionally introduced to feed farm animals (pigs)
EcuadorPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedCharles Darwin Foundation, 2008Isabela, San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Sierra Negra
ParaguayPresentIntroducedZuloaga et al., 2008
PeruPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
SurinamePresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007Cultivated, escaped
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012

Oceania

American SamoaPresentIntroducedRagone and Lorence, 2003Aboriginal introduction
AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-QueenslandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedMcCormack, 2007Aboriginal introduction
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1979Aboriginal introduction
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Florence et al., 2011Cultivated, escaped
GuamPresentIntroducedStone, 1970
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Fosberg et al., 1987
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroduced Invasive Herrera et al., 2010Cultivated. Invasive on Pohnpei, Fais, and Satawal Islands
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive MacKee, 1994
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive Sykes, 1970Offshore islands: Raoul Islands, Kermadec Islands
NiuePresentIntroducedSykes, 1970Cultivated
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedFosberg et al., 1987Aboriginal introduction
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive Space et al., 2009Cultivated, escaped
Papua New GuineaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2012
Pitcairn IslandPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012
SamoaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Solomon IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
TongaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
TuvaluPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012
VanuatuPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2012
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroducedMeyer, 2007Cultivated

History of Introduction and Spread

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A. macrorrhizos has been intentionally introduced as an ornamental, food crop, and for animal feed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world (Léon, 1987; Manner, 2011). The year of introduction in these regions is very difficult to determine and in many cases it was introduced into new areas by aboriginal groups (without written records), complicating the possibilities of tracking the introduction path.

It has been suggested that A. macrorrhizos was introduced into America through Brazil at the beginning of the twentieth century to feed pigs (Léon, 1987; Gómez, 2001). In the West Indies, the oldest records of this species are from herbarium collections made in 1925 in Haiti, 1930 in the Dominican Republic, and 1938 in Puerto Rico (Smithsonian Herbarium Collection).

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of A. macrorrhizos is moderate to high. It is a fast growing herb widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of the world and it has the potential to become invasive (Randall, 2012; PIER, 2012) near to cultivated areas. It has escaped from gardens and cultivated lands and has been reported as naturalized in natural forests.

Habitat

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A. macrorrhizos is common and widely distributed in cultivated lands, waste places, old gardens, mesic valleys, low moist disturbed and secondary forests, along riverbanks and streams from sea level to 600-800 metres in tropical and subtropical warm climates (Smith, 1979; Wagner et al., 1999; Manner, 2011). In Puerto Rico this species is a common herb along roads bordered by moist secondary forests, abandoned farms, along streams and riverbanks (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2005).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Reproductive Biology

In the Araceae flowers are borne on a type of inflorescence called a “spadix”, which is usually accompanied by a spathe or leaf-like bract (Stevens, 2012). The protogynous flowers in Alocasia are pollinated by insects. For example, in Borneo, flowers of A. macrorrhizos are pollinated by Colocasiomyia flies and a syndrome of pollination mutualism has been described (Takano et al., 2012). Within its native range, A. macrorrhizos reproduces sexually by seed, and vegetatively by tubers and root suckers. However, in Puerto Rico this species is not known to flower and plants mainly spread vegetatively (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012).  Quero Garcia et al. (2008) considered sexual reproduction to be rare due to self incompatibility and lack of effective pollinators. Lebot (2008) noted that it is predominantly a cross-fertilizing species. The main pollinators are insects, mostly flies and small beetles, which are attracted by a strong odour. Wind may also be a pollinating agent. Rain usually causes self-pollination and self-fertilization of self-compatible genotypes that can produce numerous seeds. Self-fertilization can be prevented by self-incompatibility, protogyny and the constriction of the spathe in the sterile region between the female and male parts of the spadix. In wild populations, flowering is usually synchronized, which enables cross-fertilization. Insect pollination is assisted by thermogenesis in the inflorescence. Studies conducted on A. macrorrhizos indicated that the highest temperatures are produced by the sterile appendix of the inflorescence and are more than 20°C above the ambient air temperature (Lebot, 2008). The fruits of A. macrorrhizos are berries that may contain several, but not many, seeds. The colour of ripe berries appears to be controlled genetically and can be red, orange or yellow. The number of seeds per fruit head varies from 10 to 50 (Lebot, 2008).

Longevity

For cultivated A. macrorrhizos, the crop life is usually 12–18 months, but harvesting can be delayed for up to 4 years. Plants can live for several years and flowering occurs sometime during the second year of growth (Manner, 2011). 

Environmental Requirements

A. macrorrhizos prefers to grow in humid tropical and sub­tropical climates with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 35°C and more than 1700 mm of rainfall at elevations from sea level to 600–800 m (Smith, 1979; Wagner et al., 1999). The most drought tolerant of the edible aroids, it is also more cold resistant tolerating temperatures down to 10°C. Freezing temperatures damage the leaves, but new ones sprout readily (Kay, 1987). The species can be found growing in a wide variety of soil types, ranging from freely drained sandy soils to deep, well drained clayey soils. It will tolerate shallow flooding, but it does not tolerate waterlogged soils. A. macrorrhizos has the capability to grow in habitats ranging from full sunlight to deep shade and also tolerates up to 4 months of drought (Flach and Rumawas, 1996). Consequently it can be found growing in limestone rocky soils with low water-holding capacity and holes in the exposed limestone substrate (Manner, 2011). It also grows in gaps in the forest understorey, margins of wet fields, alongside streams or in roadside ditches. It is moderately salt tolerant and occurs on many South Pacific atolls (Lim, 2015).

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
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 23 31

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration04number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall15005000mm; lower/upper limits

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Agrotis ipsilon Herbivore All Stages not specific
Cercospora Pathogen All Stages not specific
Glomerella cingulata Pathogen All Stages not specific
Hippotion celerio Herbivore All Stages not specific
Macrophoma Pathogen All Stages not specific
Mycosphaerella alocasiae Pathogen All Stages not specific
Pestalotiopsis Pathogen All Stages not specific
Phoma Pathogen All Stages not specific
Phytophthora colocasiae Pathogen All Stages not specific
Spodoptera litura Herbivore All Stages not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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According to Kay (1987), A. macrorrhizos is resistant to most pests and diseases affecting the aroid family. For islands in the Pacific, where this species is commonly cultivated, pests include the black cutworm (Agrotis ipsilon), taro sphinx moth (Hippotion celerio), and the cluster caterpillar (Spodoptera litura). Diseases caused by Cladosporium colocasiae and Mycosphaerella colocasiae are reported as “minor” (Manner, 2011).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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A. macrorrhizos reproduces sexually by seeds and also vegetatively by corms, tubers, and root suckers (Wagner et al., 1999; Manner, 2011). However, the most common form of propagation (mostly outside its native distribution range) is vegetatively. Tubers, corms, and root suckers easily re-spread producing new plants which in less than one year are complete developed. In addition, tubers and corm can remain on the ground for several months waiting for suitable environmental conditions to sprout (Manner, 2011). Corms and tubers can be propagated by movement of soil by vehicles and farming machinery.

Impact Summary

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

Environmental Impact

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A. macrorrhizos is an invasive fast-growing herbaceous plant with the potential to displace native vegetation (PIER, 2012). This species has become naturalized outside its native distribution range and is listed as invasive species in Cuba, New Zealand, and several islands in the Pacific including Hawaii, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Palau where it is affecting native vegetation mainly in moist secondary forests and along stream and river banks (Sykes, 1970; Smith, 1979; Wagner et al., 1999; Space et al., 2009; Florence et al., 2011; González-Torres et al., 2012; PIER, 2012). In Vietnam, this species is listed as a weed and represents a problem in lowland rainforests (Koo et al., 2000).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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A. macrorrhizos is mainly cultivated for its starchy stem tubers. In the Pacific islands the stem tubers are roasted, baked, or boiled and eaten as a source of starch. In southeastern Asia (i.e., India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia) the stem tuber is peeled, cut into pieces and eaten as a vegetable after cooking, usually in curries or stews (Manner, 2011). In times of scarcity it is used as a famine food (Wagner et al., 1999). The underground corms and leaves are cooked and used for food. In tropical America this species has been used to feed pigs and farm animals (Léon, 1987; Gómez, 2001). Root and leaf meal has also been used in feeding poultry (López et al., 2012; Diarra et al., 2016; Diarra, 2018).

Across South and South East Asia giant taro has been used in traditional medicine. In Malaysia the juice is used to treat stings of the giant nettle (Laportea spp.) and sap from the petioles is used to treat coughs. Chopped up roots and leaves are applied to joints to relieve pain and as a rubefacient. Young leaves and their sap are used to treat headaches in Papua New Guinea, while in India the corm is used for scorpion stings, and to treat gout, rheumatism, and spleen and abdominal problems. Leaves are used as an astringent, a styptic and an anti-tumour agent, and also to treat skin disorders and burns. Leaf poultices are used to relieve joint pain. In Indonesia the tuber has a range of uses, including to treat fevers, influenza, diarrhoea, headaches, malaria, typhoid, rheumatism, tuberculosis, abscesses, ringworm and bites of dogs, snakes and insects. Stem juices are used to treat oedema, pain and bleeding from wounds in Bangladesh. Ground petioles are used in the Philippines to treat toothache. In China it is used widely to treat joint problems, influenza, headaches, bleeding haemorrhoids, pulmonary tuberculosis, bronchitis and appendicitis, and is used as an anti-inflammatory. In Hawaii tubers are used to treat burns and stomach aches (Lim, 2015). Medicinal and pharmacological properties were extensively reviewed by Lim (2015). Tuber and leaf extracts have significant antioxidant, antihyperglycaemic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic, analgesic, antibacterial, hepatoprotective, antidiarrhoeal, haemagglutinating, thrombolytic, antmalarial, immunomodulatory, antiprotozoal, antihelminthic, antihyperlipidaemic and proteinase inhibitory activities. Significant laxative, diuretic and natriuretic activity was also noted.

Tubers were found to contain the sterols cholesterol, β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol and fucosterol (Lim, 2015) and piperidine alkaloids (Huang et al., 2017). Leaf extracts contain flavonoids, cyanogenic glycosides, citric acid, ascorbic acid and polyphenolic compounds (Lim, 2015).

A. macrorrhizos has been also used as an ornamental for its attractive leaves (Kay 1987).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Mechanical removal of A. macrorrhizos is effective but is labour intensive. All corms and tubers should be removed to prevent spread into new areas. Dense stands should be removed using specialized machinery.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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  1. Studies on the history of introduction of this species are highly recommended.
  2. Studies evaluating the impact of this exotic species on native plants and natural communities are needed in order to develop appropriate management and control strategies.
  3. Recommendations for management and control in natural areas invaded by this species are also needed.

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Angiosperm Phylogeny Websitehttp://www.mobot.org/mobot/research/apweb/
ASEAN Tropical Plant Databasehttp://211.114.21.20/tropicalplant/html/introduction01.html
Flora of the West Indieshttp://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/
Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestryhttp://agroforestry.net/scps

Contributors

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18/04/13 Original text 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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