Friday, July 12, 2013

Name That Plant: Swamp Edition

Yesterday, while running along the boardwalk of Theodore Roosevelt Island I noticed stands of this especially large and healthy looking plant:

When I got home and did some Googling I learned that apparently I had found a variety of Elephant Ear Plant, though I wasn't able to figure out the exact genre. Apparently the plant is traditionally found in the tropics, but the swamp like area of the park and our typical high humidity, high heat temperatures of summer, seem like a fit for this guy.

As is typical (for me) with plant identification, it's unclear as to whether or not what I found was edible. There's some evidence to suggest it both is and isn't. There's also evidence to suggest that the plant is edible, yet it contains sap that will sting if handled.

Taro root, a common food, comes from a Elephant Ear Plant. Though I'll probably go to Whole Foods next time I need to pick up some, rather than Theodore Roosevelt Island. Still, it is awfully tempting to investigate (with gloves!) the plants on the island to see if I can fully determine what I was running past. Any Virginia/DC/Maryland natives have a clue as to what I was looking at?

More Info.


  1. It's edible, Ben. We cook with those leaves back in the Philippines. We used to eat it perhaps on a weekly basis. And they are grown in swamps there too. Here's one recipe that's pretty popular. Very spicy, curry-like. As you can see, I don't make this one at home.

  2. Jen - thanks!

    Mmmm....shrimp with optional heads, yum!

    Next time I'm in the park, I'll have to see about discretely collecting some. Then you can teach me how to cook it ;-)

  3. This reminds me of when we were in Florida, and my Filipino friends found some 'malunggay' (moringa) trees on campus. No one else seems to give it a mind, but when my friends are craving homeland dishes, they would prune those trees at night. ;)

  4. That's an awesome story!

    I'm so conditioned by Boy Scouts to "leave no trace" that the very act of harvesting even a single plant gives me the willies. I feel like I'm shoplifting or something.