Passing by West Summer Street, a person cannot help but recognize the large elephant ears growing at the residence of Sherry Gamble. Gamble stated, “I have had them for two years. Last year, I planted them in back yard, dug them up and they made it through the winter. I planted them out front this year and could not believe how big they had gotten.”
Gamble shared several people have complimented them when driving or walking by, stating, “Several people stopped by to take a look when Farmers Elevator had its 100-year celebration, and said they could not believe one plant was so tall.”
Gamble doesn’t have any tips to give on her beautiful plants, sharing, “I haven’t done nothing special, just water when it got hot. That’s all, but I do have three elephant ears in backyard and they are only 2 feet tall compared to the much taller ones in the front.” Gamble explained, “I just love them. They are so beautiful.”
The Elephant Ear, also known as Colocasia, is a tropical plant that grows up to nine feet tall and sprouts large, arrow-shaped leaves that resemble the ears on an elephant. To grow these stunning plants, it is recommended to plant the bulbs in the early spring with the right soil conditions. Caring for them properly with frequent watering and fertilizing to watch them flourish. When it gets cold outside, gardeners should dig up the bulbs to store them and plant them again next spring.
Elephant ear plants grow from a swollen stem similar to a bulb but known as a corm. They are herbaceous perennials in warm climates. Elephant ears’ species name, esculentia, is the same term that gives us the word “esculent,” meaning edible. In fact, elephant ears are an important food source in warm climates around the world.
The corm, or root, of elephant ear is commonly known as “taro” or “coco yam,” a common food source in Hawaii and other tropical regions. Taro constituted the staff of life for the Hawaiians when Captain Cook arrived in the islands in 1778. At that time, an estimated three hundred thousand people in the islands lived chiefly on poi (a fermented or unfermented taro paste), sweet potato, fish, seaweed, and a few green vegetables and fruits. Those choosing to use the edible plant for a food source should be aware that all parts of elephant ear plants can upset the stomach if ingested without being properly cooked first. Also, the sap can be a skin irritant.