Wild taro: Colocasia esculenta
Wild taro has spread to various
shorelines throughout Florida and is considered an agricultural
weed in Puerto Rico and Jamaica. It is dispersed primarily by
purposeful or accidental movement of vegetative fragments.
Look for first
- large arrowhead shaped-leaves
- leaf blades dark green above, with velvety sheen
- leaf stalks (petioles) from back of blades
- yellow spathe
||Leaves: Leaf blades to 60 cm (24 in.) long and 50 cm (20 in.)
wide, arrowhead shaped, with upper surface dark green velvety and
water repellent; leaves peltate (stalked from back of blade);
petioles large, succulent, often purplish near top.
||Flowers: Inflorescence on a fleshy stalk shorter that leaf
petioles, with part of the fleshy stalk enveloped by a long yellow
bract (spathe). Flowers tiny, densely crowded on upper part of the
fleshy stalk, with female flowers below and male flowers
||Fruits: Fruit a small berry, in clusters on the fleshy
This native of India and southeastern Asia was brought from
Africa to the Americas as a food crop for slaves. By 1910, it was
introduced into Florida and other southeastern states by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture as a possible substitute crop for
Now found escaped throughout the tropics and much of the
subtropics, including Florida.
Wild taro has escaped cultivation and forms dense stands that
displace native shoreline vegetation in Florida's streams, rivers,
marshy lakeshores, canals and ditches. Often shoreline wild taro
stands break loose and form floating islands that block
navigational access and increase flooding potential in canals.
Wild taro may be confused with other plants in Florida that have
large arrowhead-shaped leaf blades, such as the nonnative elephant
ear (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) and the native arums (Peltandra
spp.). Only taro has leaf stalks attached to the back of the leaf
taro must be managed
- Wild taro populations have changed the ecology of a large
portion of shorelines along the St. Johns River and its tributaries
by crowding out native plants that are important sources of food
- Biologists have reported that wild taro infestations are
spreading in Florida's water bodies increasing from 32 percent in
1983 to 62 percent in public lakes and rivers in 2002.
- Wild taro populations are difficult to control in Florida and
quickly resprout after herbicideapplication or hand-pulling if the
entire rhizome is not killed or removed.
Wild taro tubers contain oxalic acid crystals, giving it an
acrid taste and causing irritation unless prepared properly. The
plant must be handled with care, for all parts contain the
Image Credit: University of Florida, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants