Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott

Etymology Genus After the Greek word for Egyptian Lotus root
Species Edible
Family Araceae
Synonyms Alocasia dussii Dammer, Colocasia acris (R.Br.) Schott, Colocasia euchlora K.Koch & Linden
Common Names Cocoyam, Taro, Kalo
Status Exotic: Casual
Form Herb
Native Distribution Tropical Asia


Commonly found in open secondary forests and waterlogged areas, Colocasia esculenta is a herb with large arrow-shaped smoky-green leaves with its arrow-tip pointing downwards. The petiole is sometimes tinted with purple, and it does not touch the V-shaped leaf base.

A very similar species which occupy the same habitat, Alocasia macrorrhizos, can be differentiated with its much larger leaves, the arrow-tip of the leaves usually pointing upwards, and the petiole reaching the V-shaped leaf base.

Interesting Facts:

Cocoyam or Taro is widely cultivated for its edible underground storage organ or corm. It is abundant in starch though cooking is required to remove the oxalate crystals within (Tim, 2017). While its natural range was said to be in South and Southeast Asia (Ibrar, 2014), it has a long history of cultivation also in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, with evidence of its presence as far back as 28,000 years in the Solomon Islands (Loy et al., 1992). This crop was introduced to Hawaii more than 1,000 years back, where it became a staple food source, and associated with certain cultural beliefs and social importance (Cho et al., 2007).

Colocasia esculenta (left) vs its larger cousin Alocasia macrorrhizos (right).

Close-up showing its downward pointing arrow-head leaves.

The extracted corm.


Cho JJ, Yamakawa RA, Hollyer J (2007) Hawaiian kalo, past and future. Sustainable Agriculture, SA-1. Hawaii, USA: College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Accessed on 28-Nov-2018.

Tim D (2017) Domesticatory Relationships in the New Guinea Highlands. In: Ten Thousand Years of Cultivation at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Australian University Press, Australia. 511 pp.

Ibrar A (2014) Evolutionary Dynamics in Taro (Colocasia esculenta L.). Phd Thesis. Massey University, New Zealand.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2018-11-29 / Modified: 2019-08-27