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Distribution of wild taro (Colocasia esculenta) in subtropical Texas, growth of young colonies, and tolerance to simulated herbivory

Moran, Patrick J., Yang, Changhai
ARS USDA Submissions 2013 v.64 pp. 18
Colocasia esculenta, biological control, corms, databases, ecological invasion, habitats, herbivores, indigenous species, invasive species, leaves, ornamental plants, plant damage, progeny, riparian areas, rivers, stolons, surveys, taro, water quality, watersheds, wild relatives, Texas
Non-native wild taro (Colocasia esculenta) is an ornamental plant that is an emerging invasive weed in moist riparian areas in subtropical and warm temperate river systems in Texas, with potential impacts on native plant species, habitat quality and water use in the Lower Rio Grande Basin. Observations from an online database and survey data indicate that wild taro is distributed or has the potential to invade at least 600 km of riparian habitat in Texas. In a five-month growth study in tanks, wild taro founder plants collected from the Rio Grande and San Marcos River watersheds increased their total weight by 2.6 to 5.6-fold, with most of this increase invested in corms, while also developing colonies containing over 20 asexual progeny arising from stolons. Plants damaged artificially with 20 hole punches per leaf recovered lost foliage and attained similar size as undamaged plants in a five week study. Wild taro has the potential to increase its distribution in subtropical riparian habitats such as the Rio Grande due to its colony growth potential and ability to recover from damage. Integrated chemical, mechanical and biological control approaches may be needed to manage populations of this invasive plant species.