What is Alocasia?

Alex Tree

Alocasia is one of the genus classifications within the family Araceae, and it is composed of tuberous perennials with broad, heart-shaped leaves. There are a total of 78 types of plants that are categorized under this genus, most of which can be found in Asia, eastern Australia, and South America. Most species are used as ornamental plants grown in pots and gardens. Certain plant species belonging to this genus are edible, and they are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.

Extreme abdominal pain may occur if a person ingests Alocasia brisbanesis.
Extreme abdominal pain may occur if a person ingests Alocasia brisbanesis.

The Alocasia brisbanensis, one type of plant that is categorized under this genus, grows in the rainforests found in eastern Australia. Known by the locals as the native lily or spoon lily, this species closely resembles the giant taro plant (Alocasia macrorrhizos), commonly found in the forests of Malaysia and Queensland. The giant taro plant is edible as long as it is cooked for a long period of time. Unlike the giant taro plant, Alocasia brisbanensis is extremely poisonous, and many have died as a result of ingesting it, usually after confusing it with the giant taro plant. People who consume it experience intense abdominal pain accompanied by a burning sensation in the mouth and tongue.

Improperly cooked alocasia fornicata may tear mucous membranes in the esophagus.
Improperly cooked alocasia fornicata may tear mucous membranes in the esophagus.

Another plant that is a part of this genus is the Alocasia fornicata. It is found in Asia and parts of northeast India. Known by its common name, baibing, this plant can grow between 2 and 3 feet (0.6 and 0.9 m) in height. In India, this plant is considered a seasonal vegetable, and it is cultivated and used in a variety of dishes. Extreme care in cooking and handling is taken when preparing it because the plant contains needle-shaped crystals of calcium oxalate, which can tear the mucous membranes found in the throat and esophagus if it is not cooked properly.

Alocasia odora is a flowering plant often found in different parts of Asia, and is commonly known as bac ha. The stems and leaves of this plant are a staple vegetable in Southeast Asia, and it is used in a variety of stir-fried dishes and soups. It is considered an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

The kris plant, Alocasia sanderiana, is an ornamental plant that is commonly found in the Philippines. Its evergreen deeply lobed, heart-shaped leaves with white veins resemble the blade of the kris, an asymmetrical dagger indigenous to the southern part of the archipelago. In the rainforests, it can grow as high as 2 feet (2 m). Cultivated Alocasia sanderiana are much smaller. Its stems measure only 2 feet (0.6 m) high, while its leaves have a maximum length of 16 inches (40 cm) and a width of 8 inches (20 cm).

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