Photo by Melody
It's time now to VOTE in our 14th annual photo contest! Voting ends November 7, so be sure to cast your votes for your favorites in each category here. Good luck to all contestants!

The Big Ears - Spotlight on the Alocasia macrorrhizos group

By LariAnn Garner (LariAnnJune 23, 2008
bookmark

This is, perhaps, the most diverse group of "Big Ears". Most EE fanciers are familiar with at least one of these, and may have one or more in their collections or gardens. Alocasia 'Borneo Giant', a notable member of the group, is among the largest of the large Alocasia species. Read on for a real "Earful". . .

Gardening picture

Big and Bigger

As Big Ears go, you won't find a group with more large-growing members than the group that includes Alocasia macrorrhizos. My experience with these plants started over 30 years ago when I saw pictures of the white variegated form of this species. Later, I came to regard the green form of that plant as the archetypical Alocasia macrorrhizos. As the years rolled on, I became acquainted with a number of other varieties or cultivars, and have now come to understand the wide diversity within this group.

While I have never seen my archetypal plant in bloom, I have since seen many of the other macrorrhizos types in bloom. Their inflorescences are distinctive and differ from those on the A. odora types in several respects. These blooms are more elongate, the spathes are smooth with a shinier look to them, and the aroma that emanates from them at anthesis is not a particularly pleasant odor, unlike A. odora blooms. One particular characteristic is that, at male anthesis, the upper part of the spathe falls or flops back and down, away from the spadix. You'll never see that happen on A. odora inflorescences.

Getting to know the gang

Some familiar species are found in this group, such as A. portei, with pinnately lobed leaves (picture below, left), and the "Black Mac", with dark petioles and main veins (see thumbnail picture above),. Alocasia portei leafOne very popular member of this group is the one known as the "Borneo Giant". This plant is not the same as the legendary Alocasia robusta but it can still attain a size that will impress your friends and neighbors. If you live in a southern climate, your plant may even develop a thick trunk like a palm tree.

As a plant hybridizer, i couldn't resist the fun of mixing these up with the Odora types. My first shot at this was when I crossed A. odora with a macrorrhizos type that had mottled to reddish petioles. What I got from that cross, I named the 'Novodora', and this was years before I found out about the Borneo Giant. My Novodora grew just about as large as a Borneo Giant, but turned out to be sterile, as most crosses between these groups turn out to be.

My next attempt was crossing A. odora with A. portei, which yielded what I named Alocasia x portora. The plants turned out to be much hardier than A. portei, but they also proved to be sterile. However, a recent cross I did between the Borneo Giant and A. portei has produced fertile offspring. This is just as I would expect from crossing two macrorrhizos types.

Alocasia macrorrhizos 'Lutea' is a stunning specimen with bright yellow petioles and main veins, and one that requires consistently warm day and night temperatures in order to attain significant size (see picture at right). Alocasia macrorrhizos Lutea In fact, this is a general rule for all of the macrorrhizos types; some are more sensitive to cool temperatures than others. As you seek these plants out, you should keep this in mind if your area is one of those where warm days and nights are not common. Consistently cool temperatures will slow the growth of these plants, frost will damage them, and a freeze will kill them. These plants need a well draining and organically rich soil medium, along with plenty of moisture. I have also found that these Big Ears benefit from being grown in large raised beds. They are heavy feeders as well so you need to keep them amply fertilized if you want to see these plants grow at their best.

See the differences

Some of the species in this group are diverse in themselves. For example, I've seen and grown several varieties of A. portei. The one most widely available on the market is from tissue culture and is markedly different from the one I used for my original Portora cross. I've even seen one exquisitely beautiful variety with very undulated leaf margins. Since most Alocasia species now available are tissue culture (TC) clones, you will do well to scout out aroid collectors and see if you can acquire different varieties that are not from TC.

All in all, you are sure to find a large Ear for your tropical corner or garden in this group.

Photo credit: LariAnn Garner, Aroidia Research


  About LariAnn Garner  
LariAnn GarnerLariAnn has been gardening and working with plants since her teenage years growing up in Maryland. Her intense interest in plants led her to college at the University of Florida, where she obtained her Bachelor's degree in Botany and Master of Agriculture in Plant Physiology. In the late 1970s she began hybridizing Alocasias, and that work has expanded to Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Caladiums as well. She lives in south Florida with her partner and son and is research director at Aroidia Research, her privately funded organization devoted to the study and breeding of new, hardier, and more interesting aroid plants.

  Helpful links  
Share on Facebook Share on Stumbleupon

[ Mail this article | Print this article ]

» Read articles about: Tropicals, Aroids, Alocasia, Elephant Ears

» Read more articles written by LariAnn Garner

« Check out our past articles!



Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Great phicks 0 22 Jun 23, 2008 2:19 PM
You cannot post until you login.


We recommend Firefox
Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Featured Companies | Submit an Article | Terms of Use | Tour | Rules | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ]

Back to the top

Copyright © 2000-2014 Dave's Garden, an Internet Brands company. All Rights Reserved.
 

Hope for America