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the web of life in southern Africa

Colocasia esculenta (Elephant's ear, Taro potato, Cocoyam)

Amadoembie [Afrikaans]; Amadumbe [Zulu]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Alismatales > Family: Araceae > Genus: Colocasia

Colocasia esculenta (Elephant's ear, Taro potato, Cocoyam) Colocasia esculenta (Elephant's ear, Taro potato, Cocoyam)
Colocasia esculenta, Odzi River (near Hot Springs), Zimbabwe. [photos Bart Wursten , Flora of Zimbabwe]

This member of the Arum Lily family orginates from India and has tubers that are cooked and eaten in a similar manner to potatoes. It has been under cultivation in Southeast Asia for about 10 000 years and is now grown widely in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. It has been cultivated in suitable parts of southern Africa for centuries and was possibly first introduced here by Portuguese traders before 1500. It grows best in moist heavy soils and plants take 5-10 months to reach maturity. The tubers contain mainly starch but also have good levels of vitamin C, phosphorus and iron.



  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.
  • van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's Plants. Briza Publications, Pretoria.