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RE: [Aroid-l] Cyrtosperma merkusii--the story

  • Subject: RE: [Aroid-l] Cyrtosperma merkusii--the story
  • From: "Julius Boos" ju-bo@msn.com
  • Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2006 22:55:47 +0000

From : 	FLFireman1@yahoo.com <flfireman1@yahoo.com>
Reply-To : Discussion of aroids <aroid-l@gizmoworks.com>
Sent : Friday, September 29, 2006 2:16 PM
To : Discussion of aroids <aroid-l@gizmoworks.com>
Subject : [Aroid-l] Cyrtosperma Merkusii

Dear Eric,

Where in Florida are you located?? (Thanks for your other 'forward' on this, Steve)
I guess at the risk of others on this list screaming 'BORRRRRINGGGGG!!!", I`ll come out and share a few notes about this wonderful aroid with you. Information gleaned over years from reading many great books, papers, from friends, etc. is hereby shared.
It is pictured in David Fairchilds book, Great Gardens of the East, where he says at the time he considered the African aroid Lasimorpha senegalensis (at about 8 ft. tall) to be the largest aroid in the world (this was in the days before we knew much about the giant Amorphophallus sps!), and was told of this other giant aroid that occured in a swamp somewhere (I believe he said) in the Islands of Indonesia or on nearby Islands. He found it, and there is a photo of him standing on a beach holding a cut leaf. From memory the leaf is about 17 ft. tall!
If you browse the IAS/Mobot site, you can see 'yours-truly' proudly standing by my effort at growing this plant, a mere 12 ft. or so tall.
It is cultivated by people on certain coral islands in the Pacific region, small Islands where the soil is too bad or non-existant and the water too saline for the cultivation of 'regular' taro, Colocasia esculenta, which is THE staple carbo. food of Islanders throughout most of the Pacific region, nor other starches/foods such as breadfruit. From what I have gleaned, it supplys the only starch where there is but fish and coconuts to survive on. To grow it, a pit is dug in the coral rock, and a basket containing a sucker of this plant together with chopped coconut fiber, leaves, etc. is lowered into the pit, where water percolates into it. Though the water has some salinity, this plant can tollerate it. My guess is that they must fertilize it w/ fish offal, human waste, etc., and must also 'cultivate' it by removing the many off-shoots/suckers it produces around its base. It then grows over a period of up to 7 years to a huge size, at which point it is harvested, the resulting corm/tuber (='chuba'!! :--)) can weigh up to 70 lbs., and is considered almost a form of currency and denotes the wealth of the owners/chiefs. It is said that a woman`s 'worth' as a wife on these Islands is determined by her ability to prepare food/dishes from this corm. I read that it was terribly starchy and tasteless, a 'not-true' charge I have also heard leveled at Colocasia esculenta= taro/poi way too many times. A friend who lived in Indonesia (an American!) told me that he grew it around a natural lake on his land. He reported that it was one of the best tasting starch-type crops he had ever tasted! I`m certain that some of the friends on this list who have tasted my shepherd`s pie made w/ mashed Colocasia esculenta topping, or my eddoes (C. e. antiquorum) in 'devil sauce' would take bets on which may taste better!
It occurs in several cultivars throughout its natural range, the all-green one that you saw at Fairchild Garden is a good match for the one pictured w/ David Fairchild, and there is another cultivar also locally available which we are beholden to our own Alan Galloway for, as he collected it during one of his trips to Asia, but as yet can not recall exactly where. Many years ago he very kindly gave his last survivor of it to me as a very small plant, sickly from the cold weather up at his place, and I managed to get it going down here, and my dear friend Craig Morell is responsible for mantaining a few over these MANY years when my fortunes in plant growing waxed and waned. This cultivar is a beautiful plant with pink-brown colored petioles, and a slightly different shaped leaf blade, and does not seem to grow to be as large as the one you saw at Fairchild Gardens. Dr. Alistair Hay wrote that he believed that C. merkusii was a just a selection or cultivated 'form' originating from the wild Cyrtosparma ferox, I hope to test this theory by eventually sending dried leaf samples of both to Dr. Goncalves in Brazil for DNA testing.
Both clones, and many other wonderful related aquatic aroids, are available from my friends Enid and Sam (the parents with the BEAUTIFUL new baby boy 'Jesse' at the show!!) at Natural Selections, all for a nominal price.
Growing aquatic aroids is easy, my article 'Experiencing Urospathas' in an older issue of "Aroideana" outlines a method I developed by trial and error for growing all of these sometimes difficult aquatic/swamp aroids.
I hope that this info. is of help, that I have not bored any of our readers, and that I have not taken up too much of anyone`s time.

Good Growing,


I found this beautiful plant growing in the giant
greenhouse at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in the
fountain/pond area, and was completely amazed by it.
Ive found little to no information on the net on it.
Other than being labeled Giant Swamp Taro and its use
as a food item in its place of origin.

Anyone out there care to share some light on how to
grow this species and better yet who has any available
for sale or trade?


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