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Colocasia esculenta


Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott

Family Name: Araceae
Synonyms: Alocasia dussii, Alocasia illustris, Arum chinense
Common Name: Taro, Yam, Cocoyam, Dasheen, Ubi Keladi, Eddoe, Elephant's Ear, Keladi, 芋, 芋头

Colocasia esculenta or Taro is the oldest cultivated species in the Aroid family. This edible herb reaches up to 2 m tall, produces heart shaped to arrow shaped leaves that droop downwards. The swollen stem, often called tubers are pounded into a thick paste to make a wide variety of food including the popular local dessert, Orh-Nee.


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names
Species Summary

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Monocotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Compact
Maximum Height 1 m to 1.5 m


Native Distribution Tropical Southeastern Asia, China, Japan, West Indies
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Non-native

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a large evergreen herb that grows up to 1 – 2 m tall.
Foliage Its leaves are large, smooth, heart-shaped to arrow-shaped, drooping downwards. The thick fleshy petiole is green, sometimes purple. It is attached near the centre of the leaf (peltate), measuring 25 – 80 cm long.
Stems It produces a short thick tuber that is round, elongated or cylindrical of up to 35 cm long and 15 cm wide. The skin of the tuber appears rough, fibrous with presence of ring-like scars.
Flowers Its flowers are borne on a spadix inflorescence. The inflorescence occur in solitary or up to clusters of 3. The spathe is longer than the spadix, cream to golden yellow in colour, measures between 13 – 24 cm long.
Fruit Its fruits are berry-like, yellow-brown when ripe.
Habitat Often found naturalised or native to moist forest, next to small streams, riverbanks or marshes. It can also be found along roadside ditches and disturbed areas.
Similar This species is similar to Alocasia macrorrhizos. The key differences are the leaf stalk (petiole) of Colocasia esculenta is attached near the centre of the leaf and the leaf droops downwards. Unlike the Alocasia macrorrhizos, the petiole is attached near the edge while the leaf stays upright.
Cultivation It is adaptable to most soil types including flooded conditions (up to 0.4m deep). Therefore, it is hard to overwater this plant. However, it does best in deep, loose and well-drained soil, rich in organic matter.
Etymology The specific epithet, esculenta means edible or good to eat
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Leaves, Edible Storage Organs
Food (Fruit & Vegetable): This species has been cultivated for 6,000 years as a food source. All parts of the taro plant are used in many cuisines. However, they should not be eaten raw, because they contain toxic calcium oxalate which is destroyed during the cooking process. The tubers are often pounded into a thick paste to make a wide variety of food including Singapore’s popular local desert, Orh-Nee. Poi, is a Hawaiian and Polynesian dish that is made by cooking, pounding and fermenting grated taro and coconut. The leaves and petioles are cooked as vegetables in China, Malaysia, Myanmar and Nepal.
Others: This species has phytoremediation potential, because it accumulates mercury.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Foliage
Landscape Uses Interiorscape/ Indoor Plant, Pond / Lake / River, Marsh / Bog, Phytoremediation (Ground / Water Contaminant(s))
Thematic Landscaping Water Garden, Marsh Garden

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun, Semi-Shade
Water Preference Lots of Water, Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Easy to Grow, Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Waterlogged Soils
Propagation Method Division


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Velvety / Furry / Tomentose
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Cordate)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire - Wavy / Undulate
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Cordate
Typical Foliar Area Macrophyll ( 182.25cm2 - 1640.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Monocot)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Unisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Yellow / Golden
Flower Texture(s) Smooth
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Inflorescence Type Spathe & Spadix



Yong J, Tan PY, Nor Hafiz Hassan, Tan SN. 2010. A Selection of Plants for Greening of Waterways and Waterbodies in the Tropics. Singapore: Chung Printing . 480 pp.

Image Repository



Master ID 539
Species ID 1835
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 14 October 2021.