Colocasia esculenta, Coco Yam

Gardens & Landscapes, Invasive Species, Extension Master Gardener February 22, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Invasive Species: Colocasia esculenta, Coco Yam

Coco yam is an invasive perennial forb that originates from a large corm and can grow to 4 ft. (1.5 m) in height. Leaves, supported by petioles that are 3 ft. (1 m) long, are arrowhead shaped, up to 2 ft. (0.6 m) long and 1.6 ft. (0.5 m) wide, peltate, and velvety on their upper surfaces. Flowering seldom occurs outside the native range. Plants spread vegetatively through rhizomes. Some plants also spread through aboveground stolons. Flowers, when present, are small and densely crowded at the apex of a fleshy stalk. Fruit are small berries. Coco yam is native to Africa and was first brought to the Americas as a food crop for enslaved persons. Also, in 1910, the USDA promoted coco yam as an alternative crop to potatoes.

What are invasive species, and why should we be concerned about them? 


Taxonomy: Scientific and Common Names for This Species

Arales > Araceae > Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott

Synonym(s): elephant's ears, dasheen

Colocasia esculenta - USDA PLANTS Profile

Distribution Maps

coco yam - The reported distribution of this invasive species across the United States (Source: Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States)

Up-to-the-minute distribution maps and why they are important 

Reporting This Invasive Species

What is the best way to report the occurrence of an invasive species? 

 How to report an invasive species sighting to EDDMapS - Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System

EDDMapS - Report an invasive species to EDDMapS.

County Extension Offices - Find your county Extension office on this map provided by USDA.

How to Identify

This invasive species can be identified by looking for the characteristics described in the paragraphs that follow.

Plant

Coco yam is a perennial forb that originates from a large corm and can grow to 4 ft. (1.5 m) in height.

Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University, bugwood.org Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, bugwood.org

 

Foliage

Leaves, supported by petioles that are 3 ft. (1 m) long, are arrowhead shaped, up to 2 ft. (0.6 m) long and 1.6 ft. (0.5 m) wide, peltate, and velvety on their upper surfaces.

David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia, bugwood.org David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia,  bugwood.org

 

Flower

Flowering seldom occurs outside the native range. Flowers, when present, are small and densely crowded at the apex of a fleshy stalk.

 
Victor Ramey, University of Florida, bugwood.org bugwood.org

 

Fruit

Fruit are small berries, but plants usually spread vegetatively through rhizomes and sometimes aboveground stolons.

Steve Hurst, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database, bugwood.org David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia,  bugwood.org

 

Native Species That Can Resemble Coco Yam

Peltandra virginica, arrow-arum - Images at invasive.org

David Stephens, bugwood.org Graves Lovell, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, bugwood.org

 

- Images at invasive.org

   
bugwood.org bugwood.org

 

Additional Images for Coco Yam

coco yam - Images at invasive.org

 

Learning Resources for Coco Yam

Aquatic and Invasive Plant Identification Series: Video - University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

Plant Recognition Cards - UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

 

Additional Information, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Control and management recommendations vary according to individual circumstances. Location, habitat, weather, and a variety of other conditions are factors that help determine the best treatment choice. To find the safest and most effective treatment for your situation, consult your state's land-grant institution. If you will use chemicals as part of the control process, always refer to the product label.

United States Land Grant University System - Find your Land Grant University's College of Agriculture, University Cooperative Extension Service, or other related partner on this map provided by USDA.

Invasive Species Management Plans for Florida - University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida's Natural Areas - University of Florida

Invasives Database - TexasInvasives.org

Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) - USDA Forest Service


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.