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
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.
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|
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|
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 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
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