Tacca leontopetaloides is a species of flowering plant in the yam family Dioscoreaceae. It is native to the Island Southeast Asia but has been introduced as canoe plants throughout the Indo-Pacific tropics by Austronesian peoples during prehistoric times. They have become naturalized to tropical Africa, South Asia, northern Australia, and Oceania.
Plant Morphology : Growth Form: It is a perennial herb consisting of an underground tuber-like stem (rhizome) from which up to 3 long-stalked leaves arise. Foliage: Its many-lobed leaves have leaf blades that are broadly drop-shaped, egg-shaped, or oblong-egg-shaped. Each lobe is up to 70 by 120 cm. Flowers: Its flowering shoot has a long stalk up to about 2 m tall, and bears up to 40 drooping flowers at the top of the stalk. There are about 10, light to dark green, leafy bracts, and many purple or dark blackish-brown, thread-like bracts that are found close to the flowers. Fruits: Its fruits are mostly round berries, up to 3.5 by 1.5–2.5 cm, pale orange when mature, and contain many seeds. Its ribbed seeds are yellowish-brown, flat, round, and 3–5 mm wide. Its seeds are also covered by a white, spongy covering.
Polynesian arrowroot's facts
Did you know?
Even this plant is edible, the untreated root is considered to be toxic.
Polynesian arrowroot's Behavior & Ecology
Native range: Tropical Africa, South and Southeast Asia and northern Australia. It grows in coastal vegetation, and on sandy beaches, usually below 200 m altitude.
Polynesian arrowroot's Relationship with Humans
The root is a rich source of starch. It can be eaten roasted, or the starch can be extracted. The tubers have eyes, a pale-yellow skin and dull-whitish flesh, and are usually bitter and almost inedible when raw. The starch, called Tahiti (or Fiji) arrowroot, is easy to extract and is used in breads or soups, it can be mixed with papayas, bananas and pumpkins, flavoured with vanilla and lemon, and cooked into poi. Good washing is essential because of the presence of the bitter substance (taccalin) which is said to be poisonous. To obtain the starch, the tubers are peeled, grated, and the resultant pulp washed in water several times, finally in a sieve or cloth. The aqueous starch solution is collected and the starch grains allowed to settle out, collected and dried in the sun. In cultivated plants the tuber can be 5 - 10cm long, with unconfirmed reports saying that it may reach the size of a coconut
Polynesian arrowroot habitat
This species is a tuber geophyte which grows in grasslands, in forests, on banks, in the shade or in full sun.
Polynesian arrowroot threats
There are no known direct threats for this species. Possible general threats for this species might include habitat loss, unsustainable exploitation and harvesting of the species.