Wednesday 18 September 2013

Elephant Ears

     As a child, growing up in southern Indiana, I didn't realize just how sub-tropical the area was.  It wasn't until living in Canada and vacationing in jungles in Costa Rica and Guatemala, then revisiting Indiana, that I started to recognize the tropical-like characteristics of my boyhood home. 
      In the forests many of the trees are covered with "grapevines", and the cacophony of night sounds made by the insects are as loud as what I heard in the jungles.  Fortunately, so far this trip I've haven't had to suffer under the heat and oppressive humidity that generally is characterizes the summer.
     All this being said, I was still surprised at seeing "Elephant Ear" plants (Colocasia) growing in my sister's yard.  Many of my paintings (hosta's and rhubarb) reveal how attracted I am to broad leaf plants, and so I was immediately attracted to these giant leaved tropicals and did a bit of online research on them.  They originated in Asia, and grow from tubers or corms, just under the surface of the soil.   On the Internet I learned that the term "taro" is referring to the tubers of the Elephant Ear plant.
     Taro is an important food in many parts of the tropics.  In Hawaii it is used to make "poi", their fermented drink.  You don't want to eat taro raw though, because it contains microscopic calcium needles that will cause irritation to your lips, mouth, and throat.  This can be eliminated, by cooking the tuber or soaking it in lime juice or another kind of acidy solution.
     Elephant Ears are considered an invasive plant in Florida and Texas, where they are pushing out native plants as they take over wetlands.  My sister doesn't have to worry about them taking over in her yard in Indiana, because they are sensitive to cold temperatures, in fact I read that they can be damaged by temperatures below +10C or 50F.  She has to dig up the corms and store them in the basement over the winter.
     There, now you know as much about the plant as I do.  They do have sort of a primordial look about them which is probably one of the things that attracts me to them.  Last year I took some really interesting close up photos of the leaves from underneath, with bright sunlight shining through them, to use on this blog today, but alas, it was raining, so you will have to be satisfied with the ones you see


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