Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's the difference?
Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma

Elephant ears and Taro are names that are used for the large-leaved tropical plants. They are popular additions to the landscape and when used can be whimsical to dramatic. I've heard many different names used for these plants. I had a couple types in the yard. When I've asked, I was told the largest were elephant ears, the smallest were Colocasia. This is too general and I have found somewhat inaccurate.

Photo taken at the University of Illinois Arboretum

I've often wondered what the differences were between Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma. After many long discussions with friends and other gardeners, I finally had to do the research. It's a topic that has been covered on other sites well (and I've included the sources I've used below). The thing that is missing from all of the websites is displaying the side-by-side differences. They are fairly minor visual differences, but it is differences like these that make it easy to successfully grow these plants over and over again. Just a note that the plants don't have to follow these guidelines, so keep in mind there is variability.

The features to focus on are the direction of the leaf and the attachment point of the petiole to the leaf. Beyond that, according to walterreeves.com the definitive way to tell the difference is in the flower morphology or DNA.

Details Alocasia Colocasia Xanthosoma
SUN
WATER moist but
well-drained
high moisture high moisture
LEAF TIP
DIRECTION
upward to horizontal downward downward
PETIOLE
ATTACHMENT
at leaf notch below leaf notch at leaf notch
LEAF SHAPE heart
(cordate)
heart
(cordate)
arrow
(sagittate)


*Illustrations Copyright © 2011 Laura Hayden

The Big Ears - Spotlight on Colocasia and Xanthosoma, LariAnn Garner
Colocasia vs Alocasia vs Xanthosoma
, Walter Reeves, walterreeves.com

National Tropical Botanic Garden

1 comment:

  1. How different are the root tubers? I bought something called cocoyam, which has hairy roots with concentric circles or growth layers on it. Is it a taro (toxic if not cooked), or a Xanthosoma? I've planted one of the tubers to check on leaf pattern, but it hasn't sprouted yet.

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