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The Many Faces of Taro

  • Subject: The Many Faces of Taro
  • From: "mossytrail" <mossytrail@hctc.com>
  • Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2008 21:13:04 -0800

I recently visited Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. 
I saw some very large, sagittate aroids there, and asked
what they were.  "Taro," was the reply.

Later, I got a fuller explanation.  As my native guide and I
walked along a roadside, we saw four species, which he
explained to me thus:  Colocasia esculenta, the
green-petioled variety, he called "Tahitian taro;" the
purple-petioled form, he did not know the name.  Alocasia
macrorrhizos, he called "wild taro," saying that in former
times, it was used for food, but no longer.  Xanthosoma sp.,
he called "Hawaiian taro."  And Cyrtosperma chamissonis, the
kind I had originally seen, he called simply "taro," and
said it was the local variety.

In my several days there, I found that Cyrtosperma was the
most widely grown kind, in swampy mountain forests as well
as villages.  Green-petiole Colocasia was next.  The other
three were seldom seen.  Cyrtosperma seemed to grow equally
well in sun or shade, provided the soil was sufficiently
muddy.

Too bad I never had the opportunity to taste that local
"taro."

Jason Hernandez
Naturalist-at-Large
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