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How to ID elephant ears!!!

Louisville, KY

OK I have been asked this alot and here goes my best example on how to ID your elephant ears. To keep it simple we are going to work on these three groups.

Colocasia
Xanthosoma
Alocasia

Colocasias are the most common. Sold as a food in Hawaii as Taro as well as all over the tropical word as a main food source. It has a thin leaf the tip points downward in all species EXCEPT Thialand Coffee cups is the first to have a tip point upward. A main point is that the back lobes are fused together meaning it has a heart shaped leaf rather than a arrow head leaf. So if IDing a colocasias first the tip points downward on the mature leaves. The leaves are not extremely thick but a bit thin. The back lobes are fused together to form a heart. Colocasias are a old world tropical so they believe. Meaning it is from Asia and surounding tropical islands.

This message was edited Nov 11, 2005 10:52 PM

Thumbnail by bwilliams
Louisville, KY

OK now for Xanthosomas. This group can be a bit tricky even for botanist. Eduardo is a botanist in Brazil working on this group now and is the best at ID all species. Xanthosomas are new world tropical meaning it is from south america. It is closely related to syngonium this maybe why they always have white sap which syngoniums share the same trait. The leaves are usually very thin and the back lobes are NOT fused together. In the following picture you can see me holding a leaf. If you notice my finger is inbetween the back lobed area and the leaf is cut down to the stem. This is seen in all Xanthosomas. So what to look for in IDing a Xanthosoma the leaves are thin. The leaves do not point upward when mature but are horazontal to downward. The sap is white. The back lobes are not fused so if you look at the leaf head on you should be able to see the stem between the lobes.

Thumbnail by bwilliams
Louisville, KY

Alocasias!! Well this group has one main constant the leaves are thick. The lobes can be fused or not fused. If the leaves point upward it is most likely a Alocasia though this is not true for all the species just some. It may take sometime but once around them you get a look and a feel for what is what. Hopefully these small tips can help. Their are bends and some breaking to the rules but in most cases it should help. I will add some photos of alocasias and other EEs to help see the differences.

This is alocasia Sarian thick leaf tips point upward. Its easy to ID as alocasia.

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Louisville, KY

this plant has thick leaves and the tips point upward. Alocasia borneo giant. This is Enids husband Sam. He's a great guy and I think Enid uses him manly for scale in her pics LOL.

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Louisville, KY

This one can fool some but the leaf is thin and the back lobes are fused. This is a blue form of colocasias.

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Louisville, KY

Sometimes the leaf may have mutations on it. This can make IDing a bit more difficult. The leaf is thin the back lobes are not fused. Xanthosoma atroverins albo marginata.

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Louisville, KY

This one has leaves that point downward the back lobes are not fused. So far it sounds like a Xanthosoma. But the leaves are extremely thick making it a alocasia nebula.

The alocasias will be the hardest to tell apart usually due to their diverse looks. But thickness to the leaves is easy to tell if you are familiar with the colocasias and xanthosomas.

Thumbnail by bwilliams
Mirpur (A.K), Pakistan(Zone 9b)

You have absolutely great collections of E.E, last one is the most beautiful.
Kaleem

Divernon, IL(Zone 5b)

Impressive photos of impressive specimens.

Niceville, FL(Zone 8b)

Thank you for explaining that so well. I have tried before but did not say it nearly as well.

Northern California, CA(Zone 9a)

Thank you so much for answering my question. i appreciate the work put into explaining all of this. GREAT thread!

Columbia, SC(Zone 8a)

That is exactly the information that I've been looking for. Thank you Brian

Winnipeg, MB(Zone 4a)

Fantastic explanation, Brian. Could you please ID mine that I had started a thread on? Pretty, please!
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/544365/
:) Donna

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

Xanthosma?

So, Brian....are only the Colocasias edible? as in Taro? What is the Black Magic Taro?

Carol

This message was edited Nov 12, 2005 7:47 PM

Louisville, KY

Colocasias are the most eaten Xanthosomas are eaten as well as are Cytrosperma Merkusii and I have heard of Macrorrhiza being eaten. But it is seldom seen as a food source. Black Magic Taro well it's a form of Colocasia esculenta. No one is sure exactly were it came from it could be a possible hybrid or a species or maybe just a mutated sucker off a regular taro. It has been around so long no one is for sure. But it does seem easy to seed which is uncommon in hybrids so it makes me wonder. Were your at Carol you should be able to find many Taro forms. The university of Hawaii has a Taro breeding program and a few other research labs are working on taros in that area. You should be able to find some interesting forms if you ask around.

(Linda) Winfield, KS(Zone 6a)

Bump

This has so much information in it I thought we might enjoy reading it again.

Linda

Sunset Beach, NC(Zone 8a)

Thanks for bumping that up, Brian.

Inverness, MS(Zone 8a)

This is very interesting. So I'm assuming mine are colocasia.

Dee

OK...probably not a good photo. I'll get a better one later.

Thumbnail by dbibb
Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL(Zone 9b)

Dee...Yes, those are colocasias.

Inverness, MS(Zone 8a)

Merry..

Thanks...all I know about them is I started with 3 about 6 years ago and now I have given away tons and still have them running out my ears.

This photo was taken about a month ago...so they are much larger now.

Dee

Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL(Zone 9b)

I'm glad you're having great success with them, they add such a nice tropical look to gardens. Try some others too! There are colored stem colocasias and alocasias (although most alocasias can't take too much cold or water, but colocasias for the most part can)
Pink stems, red stems, purple stems...they're all very attractive, even if you grow them in large pots.

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

amazing pics!! thx for the 411!

Ripley, MS

Good information, thanks for explainging that.
Sandra

NE, KS(Zone 5b)

Brian, some of us think it would be a great idea to put this thread as a sticky at the top of the Aroid forum... do you have a problem with it, if Dave agrees?

Louisville, KY

No problem at all. I posted it up to help.

Pinellas Park, FL(Zone 9b)

Brian,
Thanks for the great explanation. Now I can narrow down some of my unknowns.

This message was edited Sep 10, 2007 8:28 PM

Hope Mills, NC(Zone 7b)

I've been looking throught a number of threads and I'm really confused by how many people list colocasias and alocasias as the same plant. I always thought and was taught that as you describe them the main difference is colocasia are heart shaped and point down in a more or less pendulum. Alocasia point up and are rigid. I have both. I used to have a colocasia frietek for instance, but most threads list it as a Alocasia. Its very confusing to say the least. I have a question that you might solve for me. I overwinter my tropicals in my greenhouse that maintains a heat level no lower then 45 degrees F. This has always worked well for me. My problem this year is the heat went off during subfreezing weather for about three days and completed froze and destroyed the leaves on the alocasias, I had to cut the stems off at the bulb leaving of course a open wound. I divided the plants repotted them, my question is should i completly cover the upper part of the bulb, or will they even come back. The Colocasias also suffered the same faith but I've just cleaned and packed them in bark to dry out and them I'll repot them. Any advice you can give would be appreiciated.

Bob

OC, CA & Twin Lakes , IA(Zone 4b)

Mine had grown to about 5 feet high overwintering them in my living room. I accidentally left one out in a cold snap a couple of years ago; it hurt it a lot but now it is back up to about 4 feet. I didn't do anything with it; left it in the pot and kept it warm. It looked ugly for a long time but now it is doing good.

Greensburg, PA

ID'ing Xanthosoma sagittifolium? A close look at all the pics on the Aroids forum of X. sagittifolium illustrated a structure on an un-ID'd ee I just received this fall. Think of the leaf as a capital "Y" with the ear lobes the top of the Y and the Y itself as the main leaf support structure. On these plants I have noticed that the leaf part of the lobes on the interior of the Y does not start growing from the Y join but starts a half inch or more from the Y join. My question to the experts: Is this feature one that identifies X. sagittifolium? Do I have a sagittifolium?

The pic shows a closeup of this feature, rather hard for me to describe. Note the V without foliage on the interior of the V which is the top of the Y discussed.

Thumbnail by krowten
Louisville, KY

This is a Xanthosoma it would be hard to tell if it is sagittifolium from this single pic.

Greensburg, PA

I'll get another leaf picture posted soon as the next one opens up. Only other leaf is damaged as trunk was cut back from shipping. Was told this one gets large, leaf is thin but dark green. Thanks for the info!

victoria, Canada

I have lots of photos of what I believe are Xanthosoma. Not sure what the species are though. Maybe you could help me. These were all photographed in Chiapas, MX. The really large ones are not eaten, whereas the smaller ones the leaves and tubers are eaten.

This one is eaten.

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victoria, Canada

Xanthosoma cont'd
This one is eaten. May be the same kind as the previous plant.

Thumbnail by suzanne_cook
victoria, Canada

Xanthosoma cont'd

This one is eaten, too. Note the red stalks.

Thumbnail by suzanne_cook
victoria, Canada

Xanthosoma cont'd

This one is NOT eaten. Leaves make good umbrellas, though. Apparent,y it doesn't have an edible tuber (maybe no tuber at all?)

Thumbnail by suzanne_cook
victoria, Canada

Xanthosoma cont'd

NOT eaten either. Don't know if it is the same species as the previous one or not.

Thumbnail by suzanne_cook
Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

I've used an even easier way to remember: Colocasia = stem attaches in center of leaf; Alocasia = stem attaches at edge of leaf. I remember that C and C go together: Colocasia-Center; Alocasia-Edge.

This is a generalization, but works for most Alocasia and Colocasia.

Carol

cullman, AL(Zone 7b)

not sure if its true for all Colocasias but all the ones i have the water beads off the leafs, the whole water drop stays as a ball... where as the Alocasia's the water looks as it would on any plant leaf, it just runs off the leaf there is no water ball (not sure if that makes sense).. I dont own any Xanthosoma so not sure one those...
Which ever species of ears you have they are all a joy to grow...
jen

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