Re: colocasia non-tubers (repost of original)

Dear Les:

Being foreign, as we are, to that curse of frost and ice I hope that the
following can be of some assistance.  This comes directly from "Native
Planters in Old Hawaii" by E.S. Craighill Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy,
published as Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 233, 1972, reprinted in 1978.

    Taro seeds of some varieties are fertile and produce weak plants;  but
propagation is accomplished by means of cuttings (termed "huli" in
Hawaiian), consisting of the crown of the corm around the crest of which
roots bud, with the petiole shaft cut just above the upper ends of the
channels in the petioles.  Cut below this point, the immature leaf, still
furled within the base of the petiole shaft, is apt to be exposed or its
apex cut off.  These cuttings are extremely hardy and, if cut with a
generous portion of the crown of the corm attached and kept in a damp place,
will remain alive for months.  The inference seems justified that the early
Polynesian settlers carried their taro cuttings to all parts of the Pacific
for planting -- to Hawaii, to Rapa, and to New Zealand.
    Half the secret of healthy wet taro lies in the selection and handling
of the cuttings.  An eighth to a quarter of an inch of the crown of the corm
should be left on the base of the stalk where the huli is cut.  Native
planters consider that cutting of the huli too close to the base of the
petiole is conducive to root rot.  The following is quoted from the
directions for handling cuttings given by a Molokai planter in a Hawaiian
newspaper (Ka Hae Hawaii, August 12, 1857):
    Not all kinds of huli are suitable for planting in wet patches.  If the
corm has been too closely cut off from the bottom of the huli and the huli
itself is too small, it is not good for planting.  If the taro has rotted
and only a third remains good, the huli should not be replanted in the
patch, for it will rot again and you will not get good taro.  So it is with
a huli that has blossomed, if it is found on an old parent stalk.  etc, etc,
    (there is a passage here about dealing with rot -- which is not of our
immediate concern)
    The cutting from the crown of a corm is termed "huli makua", or parent
cutting.  After planting, as the new corm develops, suckers bud from its
sides, pierce the soil around the parent plant and form a cluster of small
taros --- referred to as 'ohana.  These suckers, broken off and left in the
soil when the parent taro is harvested or transplanted, are termed huli
'oha.  etc. etc. etc.....
    It is important that the cuttings put out a vigorous growth of rootlets
(huluhulu) around the base of the stalk before they are planted.  After
cutting, therefore, they should be tied in bundles and laid in a shady place
for a week or more.  If they are to be kept for a longer period they may be
stuck in the ground in compact lots in the corner of a patch, in soil that
is damp but not flooded.

The foregoing is just a small portion of a very long discussion on the
growing of Colocasia esculenta.  From this I believe you can gain an
understanding for handling those plants with tubers over the winter months.
As for those without tubers (i.e., without food storage) my personal
recommendation would be to grow them through the winter in a window with
southerly exposure and hope for tuber production next year.  However, if you
have multiples some cultivars or species lacking tubers, you may want to
experiment with a few of the "extras" by cutting back the petioles as
recommended above and storing them in damp vermiculite over the winter while
checking on them occasionally to be sure they are not rotting.  I hope this
has been of some help and wish you best of luck and a warm winter!
Scott A. Lucas
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
P.O. Box 80
Papaikou, HI   96781
-----Original Message-----
From: Lester Kallus <>
To: <>
Date: Tuesday, December 02, 1997 10:25 AM
Subject: Re: colocasia non-tubers (repost of original)

>Sure, here's a copy of the original post:
>It's that time of year and I'm digging up my colocasias and alocasias
>before the frost for a change.  Usually I try to dig through frozen, thawed
>and now-mushed leaves to find tubers. Anyway, it makes me realize that
>there's a great variation in tuber formation in these plants.
>Perhaps the best example is the plain Colocasia esculenta.  Some of these
>have the typical cone shaped tuber at the base of the stalk. This is even
>true for some of the smaller plants.   Others look like roots coming out of
>the base of the petiole with no tuber at all.
>C. antiquorum illustris, C. fontanesii, C. "Burgandy stem" and C. "Blackie
>alias Black Magic alias Black leaf alias Voodoo alias whathaveyou" formed
>no tubers at all.  They have roots coming out of what looks like the base
>of the massed petioles.
>So the question is: for those Colocasia that formed no tuber, is there a
>way to safely store them out of the soil over the winter? shall I just save
>several inches of "base of petioles" in vermiculite? I'd rather not have to
>purchase these over again and so will grow smaller pieces of them over the
>winter if I have to. With the limited space, though, I'd rather store them
>in a bag.
>I'd appreciate any help.
>At 11:15 PM 12/1/97 -0600, you wrote:
>>Please repost the question regarding "Colocasia non-tubers."  Taro is an
>>important commercial crop here in Hawaii and I may be able to provide
>>assistance.  Unfortunately, I seem to have been sleeping at the gun as I
>>missed the question when it was originally posted.
>>Scott A. Lucas
>>Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
>>P.O. Box 80
>>Papaikou, HI   96781
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Lester Kallus <>
>>To: <>
>>Date: Monday, December 01, 1997 11:41 AM
>>Subject: Re: colocasia non-tubers
>>>No responses yet.  I recall have read a similar question once before and
>>>one answered that one.  Well perhaps you and I will be answering this for
>>>everyone else shortly.  I've photographed all of my tubers and untubers
>>>haven't gotten around to adding the images to my website yet.  Next
>>>I'll keep track of which ones sprout and which don't.  I'll post results
>>>and perhaps that will answer our question.
>>>What I'd love to hear from the academicians here, though, is the purpose
>>>the tuber if the "untubers" also germinate.
>>>         Les
>>>At 12:50 PM 12/1/97 -0600, you wrote:
>>>>I read your post but never did see an answer to your question regarding
>>>>tubers for your Colocasia esculenta. I, too, dug mine and have found the
>>>>same roots coming from around the stem. If you don't mind, what answer
>>>>you get? I went ahead and dug mine and they are laying in my basement
>>>>drying. I don't know if this is good or not. I garden in Southern
>>>>zone 6. My e-mail address is:
>>>>If you get time to answer me I'll appreciate it. Thanks,

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