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[Aroid-l] Re: Colocasia mess

  • Subject: [Aroid-l] Re: Colocasia mess
  • From: Peter Matthews pjm@gol.com
  • Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2006 11:03:15 +0900

Dear Various,

In the early 1980s I had the opportunity to look through European herbarium collections of Colocasia species.

The most often collected and clearly distinct species were Colocasia esculenta (very widespread in the wild and in cultivation), C. fallax Schott (Engler & Krause 1920) (central Himalaya), C. affinis Schott (Engler & Krause 1920) (eastern Himalaya to Thailand) and C. gigantea Hook f. (Hotta 1970) (E and SE Asia).

All four of these species are used as ornamentals and are now quite widepsread outside their natural or pre-modern historical range.

Other rarely collected species of Colocasia are less well-known taxonomically, their geographical ranges cannot be ascertained from one or just a few collection records each. These species are less likely to be found in trade (C. gracilis, C. mannii, C. virosa, and others that have been reported in recent years).

C. affinis a tender, cold-sensitive species with stolons (a tropical lowland species, or lowland and low hills).

C. fallax is a tough, cold tolerant species with stolons (i.e it seems to be atropical mountain species).

C. gigantea ranges in cultivation from tropics to warm temperate areas, and will regrow after frost or snow damage (in Japan).

C. esculenta ranges in cultivation from tropics to cool temperate areas, and will regrow after frost or snow damage (to 41 degrees N.in Japan). Wild forms in the lowland tropics and subtropics are all stoloniferous and show considerable phenotypic diversity in mainland SE Asia - in coloration, spathe morphology etc.).

Wild forms at higher altitudes (above 1000 m) in the tropics are not well known but do exist, and some bear cormels rather than stolons.

The historically recognised varieties (e.g.C. e. var. aquatilis and var. antiquorum) may simply represent fragments from a continuous range of morphological variation among wild forms in diverse habitats over a huge geographical range in Asia and the western Pacific.

It is difficult for anyone to actually cover all the ground that needs to be covered, to comprehend variation in very widespread species. Give us another hundred years or so (or 100 students and funds for 1 year).

Thanks, Peter


P. Matthews (1991) A possible tropical widltype taro: Colocasia esculenta var. aquatilis. Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, 11: 69-81.


 > Dear All,
 I'm fed up with most of the botanists. I'm trying to sell
 my plants under correct names, but... There are 2-4 names
 for plants. Now please decide wich one is correct!
This is because in the early days of Linnaean nomenclature,
many species were known only from preserved or cultivated
specimens.  There was no way of knowing which of these
specimens could have interbred, nor of how much variation
the offspring would show, so each different variant had a
separate name.  In some cases, different specimens of a
single species were put in three or four different genera --
just try sorting out the synonymy of, for example, the
California fan palm, Washintonia filifera.

 Colocasia antiquorum 'Illustris' cf. ? syn. Colocasia
 esculenta 'Illustris'
Colocasia esculenta is the species.  It has three
subspecies, C. e. esculenta, C. e. antiquorum, and C. e.
aquatilis.  Anything with one of those last two as its
species name, is properly C. esculenta.
 Colocasia esculenta (?var. ?subsp.) fallax cf. ? syn.
 Colocasia fallax ? Colocasia fallax 'Silves Splash' ?
 Colocasia esculenta 'Silves Splash' ? Colocasia fallax

Not sure whether C. fallax is a good species or not, but
since it, too, is here mixed up with C. esculenta, it is

I cannot speak of your other questions.

Jason Hernandez
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Peter Matthews (Dr)
National Museum of Ethnology
Senri Expo Park, Suita City
Osaka 565-8511, Japan
Tel. +81 6 6876-2151 (museum exchange, J. only)

Tel. +81 6 6878-8344 (Peter's office)
Fax  +81 6 6878-7503 (museum)


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