The Alocasia macrorrhizos is a rhizomatous perennial plant from the Araceae family and originates from the tropical rain forests of India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. This Giant Taro can grow up to 4 m tall with huge leaves that can reach up to 2 m in length in cultivation. Be warned that this plant’s sap is known to be an irritant.
Alocasia comes from Greek a- 'without' or 'lacking' and locasia 'lotus root' in reference to its point of difference with its close relative Colocasia. Macrorrhizos means “with large roots” (Greek).
Description and flowering period
It is an herbaceous perennial with tuberous rhizomes. The species can reach 5 meters in height. Its dark-green persistent leaves reach up to 1,80 meter in length and are positioned horizontally. They are lance-shaped, with numerous showy veins and wavy margins. The inflorescence is composed of a pale green spathe (a large bract: modified leaf at the base of an inflorescence) which surrounds a 20cm long, cream-coloured, spike-shaped inflorescence referred to as the “spadix”. It is characteristic to the Araceae family such as Arum and Calla lilies. The spike-like spadix holds the female flowers at its base and the male flowers on its upper-half, neatly separated by a few rows of sterile flowers. Its fruits are oval fleshy berries which turn red once mature.
It requires a free-draining soil as well as a wet tropical or sub-tropical environment. It cannot survive temperatures below 1°C. It has to be planted in a full sun or part-shade location.
- Food & drink: The tubers are edible after being cooked thoroughly to get rid of its toxic agents. They are routinely grilled, baked or boiled in South-East Asia as well as in the Pacific Islands.
The species is now considered invasive in numerous locations such as Cuba, New-Zealand, Fiji, Palau, Hawaii and New-Caledonia.
Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN