Common Name(s): Wild taro, dasheen
Non-Native to Florida
Origin: India, southeastern Asia1
Introduction to Florida: 1910 (agriculture)2
Video ID segment (2-3 minutes / transcript below) | YouTube Link
This species appears on the following legally prohibited plant lists
UF-IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas
CATEGORY I on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s (FLEPPC) 2017 List of Invasive Plant Species
More Info: Plant Management in Florida Waters
Download a page (PDF) from Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition1
Download a recognition card (PDF) from Invasive and Non-native Plants You Should Know3
Control information: Integrated Management of Nonnative Plants in Natural Areas of Florida (EDIS publication SP 242)4
For brief control information, see Efficacy of Herbicide Active Ingredients Against Aquatic Weeds (EDIS Pub #SS-AGR-44)
Elephant ear & Taro
Central and South Americans use the tubers of elephant ear tubers in various meals. The tuber is one of the most popular foods in the country and provides a basic diet for many. The tubers can be harvested and stored for several weeks if refrigerated. Elephant ear is cultivated in many of the Central and South American countries. Taro is native to Africa and was brought as a food crop for slaves. It is also widely eaten in many areas of the Pacific.
Both elephant ear and taro are herbaceous perennials with large leaves up to 6 feet in length. The common name was given because of its large, elephant ear-like leaves. Taro can be distinguished from elephant ears by the attachment of the leaf from the petiole. In taro, the petiole attaches to the leaf several inches from the base of the ‘V’ of the leaf, while the petiole is attached directly at the base in elephant ears. The leaves are light green for elephant ear and darker green in color for taro. Both have arrow-shaped leaves with long petioles and wavy margins. Elephant ear plants can grow up to 9 feet in height, while taro is much shorter – rarely reaching 4 feet tall. Leaves are produced from corms which are underground bulblike structures. Rhizomes give rise to offshoots that extend from the corm.
Both species are found in swamps and along stream banks. The large leaves may shade and prevent regeneration of desired species. Taro is more wide spread and can frequently be observed along the shorelines of many central Florida lakes.
The first step in preventative control of elephant ear and taro is to limit planting and removal of existing plants within the landscape.
Plant native or non-invasive alternatives.
Dig out corms from the soil. Take care when cutting, as the leaves contain oxalic acid, which may cause irritation to exposed skin.
Elephant ear has no known biological control agents.
Chemicals with known control are limited. Repeated applications of glyphosate (2% solution) with a surfactant may be effective, especially if coupled with other management strategies.
University of Florida, IFAS Extension, Circular 1529, Invasive Species Management Plans for Florida, 2008 by
Greg MacDonald, Associate Professor Jay Ferrell, Assistant Professor and Extension Weed Specialist
Brent Sellers, Assistant Professor and Extension Weed Specialist
Ken Langeland, Professor and Extension Weed Specialist Agronomy Department, Gainesville and Range Cattle REC, Ona
Tina Duperron-Bond, DPM – Osceola County
Eileen Ketterer-Guest, former Graduate Research Assistant
References and Useful Links
Demers, C., Long, A. and Williams, R. 2009. Controlling Invasive Exotic Plants in North Florida Forests. IFAS Publication SS-FOR19.
University of Florida, Gainesville. 8 pp.
Langeland, K.A. and K. Craddock Burks. 1998. Identification and Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas. IFAS Publication SP 257. University of Florida, Gainesville. 165 pp.
The Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group. Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas
Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). Plant Threats to Pacific Ecosystems
Invasive Plants of the Eastern United States
USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Wild taro, dasheen – Colocasia esculenta
The wild taro is not native to Florida. Wild taro is also known as elephant’s ear. However, elephant’s ear more properly applies to another species of plant. Wild taro is one of the best-known aquatic plants; however, it is an exotic, having been imported from the Pacific Islands. It occurs in and out of the water, throughout Florida. Wild taro has medium-to-large size arrowhead-shaped leaves, with heart-shaped leaf bases. The leaves can grow to 2 feet long. They are dark, velvety-green; and water-repellent. Wild taro leaves are always peltate. That is, the leaf stem attaches, more or less, to the middle of the underside of the leaf. Leaf stems can grow to 4 feet tall. The exotic wild taro now grows all over Florida. It has arrowhead-shaped leaves. Leaf stems attach at the middle of the leaf. The stems are up to 4 feet tall.
See more information and pictures about wild taro, as contained in the Langeland/Burks book, Identification & Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas.
View the herbarium specimen image from the University of Florida Herbarium Digital Imaging Projects.
1. Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition,
by K.A. Langeland, H.M. Cherry, et al. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 257. 2008.
2. Strangers in Paradise, Impact and Management of Nonindigenous Species in Florida, Chapter 2: Florida’s Invasion by Nonindigenous Plants: History, Screening, and Regulation, by D.R.
Gordon and K.P. Thomas, pp. 21-37. Island Press, Washington, DC, 1997.
3. Invasive and Non-native Plants You Should Know – Recognition Cards,
by A. Richard and V. Ramey. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 431. 2007.
4. Integrated Management of Nonnative Plants in Natural Areas of Florida, by K. A. Langeland, J. A. Ferrell, B. Sellers, G. E. MacDonald, and R. K. Stocker. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 242. 2011.