Colocasia

Colocasia esculenta in the west bed at the mansion in Mississippi on 8-1-11, #68-28.

Taro, Elephant Ear, Etc.
Colocasia
kol-oh-KAY-see-uh

According to The Plant List (2013 version), the Colocasia genus consists of only 8 accepted species along with 54 synonyms (plus an additional 31 infraspecific names). Only five species have been unresolved due to lack of adequate information. The Colocasia is a member of the Araceae Family which consists of 117 accepted genera plus 8 that are unresolved. There are 3,368 species names plus an additional 111 accepted names of infraspecific rank. There are a total of 4,613 synonyms and 1,348 names that are still unresolved. This information was found on The Plant List which was updated last in 2013 which I found out is no longer being maintained. I still refer to The Plant List as it is the only source of certain information that I like to know. The Wikipedia list 10 accepted species, adding Colocasia fontanesii and Colocasia lihengiae which The Plant List says both are synonyms of Colocasia antiquorum… In my opinion, The Plant List was a great endeavor by many botanists, horticulturalists, and other organizations. Before I found out The Plant List was no longer maintained I thought it was strange at how slow they were to make updates. Other websites, such as Wikipedia and Dave’s Garden, Llifle Encyclopedia of Living Forms) made updates and it began to make The Plant List appear a little whacky! It does make one somewhat confused, though, when you are blogging and a plant, such as the Black Stem Taro is either a Colocasia antiquorum OR Colocasia fontanesii. SO, which is it? It has been considered both and neither one at certain times. I am not even going to say which species the Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ (aka ‘Tea Cups’) is because I have no clue… When name changes occur, I can easily update the blog, I am anxiously waiting for The Plant List to be updated next. I sent an email to the editors of The Plant List and I received a reply from a man from Kew. He is the one that told me that The Plant List was no longer being maintained and said it was because of lack of funds. He also gave me a link to a new website that was initiated by Kew (part of The Royal Botanical Gardens) called Plants of the World Online. The Missouri Botanical Gardens (which maintains Tropicos) along with Kew and other organizations were the main contributors to The Plant List. They have their own databases they maintain and now Kew has another venture… Data is still being uploaded and they hope it is completed by 2020… GEEZ!!! I still use The Plant List because I got so used to it plus there are accepted names have changed that are not on the new website yet.

My first experience with Colocasia didn’t begin until the spring of 2009 when Suzanne and I bought two Colocasia esculenta bulbs. I planted one next to the front porch and one in the backyard of the mansion. I also bought several other Colocasia plants from Wellspring Gardens in the spring of 2009 and 2012 (plus one from Brent and Becky’s). From then until the spring of 2017, the only Colocasia I had were the descendants of the original Colocasia esculenta bulbs from 2009. In 2017, I bought another a Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ from a local greenhouse.

Colocasia esculenta from a top sized bulb with Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ purchased as a starter plant in the spring of 2009. There is also a Colocasia esculenta ‘Tea Cups’ behind the C. ‘Black Magic’. The Colocasia ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Tea Cups’ were planted there on May 1 when the C. esculenta bulb was just beginning to sprout. SO, you can see the difference between buying top-sized bulbs, or even larger plants compared to buying small, inexpensive starter plants even after 4 months. This photo was taken on September 3, 2009.

Plant Delights has many cultivars available for a price, but you don’t have to spend that much. Brent and Becky’s, Brian’s Botanicals and even McClure and Zimmerman (just to name a few) have many to choose from that are less expensive. Try Ebay, there are always a lot there and you can find great deals! Just remember you get what you pay for. You can purchase top-sized bulbs for less than large plants in some cases, especially with Colocasia esculenta, and you would be much better off. Rarely will you find bulbs of any Colocasia other than the straight species. Others are available from tissue culture or someone’s offsets. Inexpensive plants usually mean they are starter plants that will be VERY SMALL, but they won’t stay that way. Given the right conditions, some species and cultivars will grow surprisingly fast.

There is a lot of very useful information on the internet about Colocasia and other members of the Araceae Family. You can read all you want and enjoy looking at them growing in yards here and there, but you don’t truly appreciate them until you grow them for yourself.

I am not going into a great detail about the Colocasia genus because there is already a lot online about them written by people who know far more than I do. I will tell you that growing Colocasia as big-leaved companions is very addictive. You may be content just growing Colocasia esculenta, but there are many other species, hybrids and cultivars available. Once you really get into growing Aroids, you will get the fever and the only cure is to grow more.

I don’t claim to be any kind of an expert on Aroids, I just enjoy growing big and unusual plants. The following pages are dedicated to the few Colocasia species and cultivars I have since 2009. I hope you enjoy.

Colocasia antiquorum/fontanesii-Black Stem Taro

It can get a bit frustrating when one website says Colocasia antiquorum is the accepted name and another says Colocasia fontanesii is the accepted name. I am talking about plant databases and not websites of companies selling them.

Colocasia esculenta

 

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’

 


Colocasia ‘Bikini Tini’

 

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Ruffles’

 

Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ (aka. ‘Tea Cups’)

‘Coffee Cups’ is actually the “official” name and ‘Tea Cups’ is apparently an industry name. There are several websites that offer both either because they don’t know any better or maybe they don’t think the consumer does. Now you know…

Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum ‘Black Beauty’

 

Colocasia gigantea

 


Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’

 

Of course, the page is STILL under construction because I have no intention of stopping. I will continue growing Colocasia as companions and start trying new species and cultivars once again.
I hope you enjoy this page as well as the other pages about my Colocasia companions. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, I would love to hear from you.

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