Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 65, Issue 7, pp 1809–1828 | Cite as

From landraces to modern cultivars: field observations on taro Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott in sub-Saharan Africa

  • Ilaria Maria Grimaldi
  • Walter N. Leke
  • Israel Borokini
  • Daniel Wanjama
  • Tinde Van Andel
Research Article


Until recently, taro Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott, was considered a neglected food crop due to its low palatability and inferior value compared to other root crops such as cassava, potatoes and yams. Under the impulse of new studies on plant dispersal, and in light of the severe threats posed by pests to its conservation status, this crop has finally received more attention. However, there is still insufficient knowledge on specific cultivars and their culinary and medicinal uses, especially in Africa. We studied the agrodiversity of taro cultivars in Nigeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania. Here, we present ethnobotanical, morphological and linguistic data of 20 taro cultivars, as well as specific notes on abandoned landraces. These traditional varieties represent valuable genetic resources and can be instrumental in protecting taro from the genetic erosion caused by preference for yautia, and diseases such as the leaf blight. With this work, we call for renewed efforts to conserve this species and its landraces.


Colocasia esculenta Ethnobotany Food Linguistics Taro Traditional medicine 



The authors are grateful for their assistance in the field to Gerarda Buffa, the Soeurs de Saint Joseph de Turin, Martin Nkafu, Immaculate M Nkeabeng Leke, Ephraim Che, Xavier Ndzana (Institute of Agricultural Research for Development, IRAD-Cameroon), Mercy Wanjiru, Don Bosco missionaries Father John Gasparini and Father Simon Asira, Teresa Di Micco de Santo, Edoardo Zandri and Valerio Fulci. This research was funded by the Sealinks Project under a European Research Council Grant Agreement No 206148 awarded to Nicole Boivin, the Meyerstein Fund (University of Oxford) within the Sealinks Project and Naturalis Biodiversity Center.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Laboratory for Archaeology and The History of Art (RLAHA)University of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD)Messa, YaoundéCameroon
  3. 3.National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, Moor PlantationIbadanNigeria
  4. 4.Seed Savers Network, NGOGilgilKenya
  5. 5.Naturalis Biodiversity CenterLeidenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology (EECB), Department of BiologyUniversity of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA

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