The Elephant yam - A striking aroid used as food, fodder and medical
Amorphophallus paeoniifolius (Alismatales - Araceae) is a large aroid, which is found throughout Asia. In the wild it is ruderal in habit and grows in a very wide range of moist, semi-shaded to open, secondary and disturbed forests, shrublands, scrubs and grasslands. It is also cultivated as an ornamental for its striking compound foliage and unusual and dramatic flowering and fruiting structures.
The plant produces a single inflorescence (flowering spike) crowned with a bulbous maroon knob and encircled by a fleshy maroon and green-blotched bract. After the growing season, this dies back to an underground storage organ (tuber).
Commonly known as Elephant yam, it is one of the staple food plants of tropical Asia, and is extensively cultivated for its edible tubers, which are the third most important carbohydrate source after rice and maize in Indonesia. They are also consumed widely in India and Sri Lanka, although elsewhere they are seen as a famine crop, to be used when more popular staples, such as rice, are in short supply.
Elephant yam has medicinal properties and is used in many Ayurvedic (traditional Hindu) preparations. Severals studies have been done on the properties of this plant. Several experimental studies have been done on the properties of this plant, showing that tuber extract has real antioxidant activity and inhibition of hepatic cell proliferation in cancer, however this has only been proven in experimental protocols with mice.
Other common names: Elephant foot yam, Whitespot giant arum, Stink lily, Telinga potato.
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Photo credit: ©tpholland | Locality: cultivated - Par, England, UK (2012)