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Family Araceae
Palauan
Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott.
SWAMP TARO

Scientific names Common names
Arisacontis chamissonis Schott Galiang (Bik.)
Cyrtosperma bantamense Koord. Palau (C. Bis.)
Cyrtosperma chamissonis (Schott) Merr. Palauan (S. L. Bis., P. Bis.)
Cyrtosperma cuspidilobum Schott Gallan (Engl.)
Cyrtosperma dubium Schott Giant swamp tao (Engl.)
Cyrtosperma edule Schott Swamp taro (Engl.)
Cyrtosperma ferox N.E.Br. & Linden  
Cyrtosperma intermedium Schott  
Cyrtosperma lasioides Griff  
Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott  
Cyrtosperma nadeaudianum J.W.Moore  
Lasia merkusii Hassk.  
Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CAROLINE ISLANDS: Muen, Fulah.
FIJI: Via, Viakana.
FRENCH: Taro géant des marais, Taro des atolls.
FRENCH POLYNESIA: 'apeveo, Taa faa.
HAWAIIAN: Maota.
KIRBATI: Babai.
MALAY: Geli geli.
MARHSALL ISLANDS: Buroro, Kaliklik, Iaraj, Iaratz, Iarej, Wan.
PALAU: Brak.
TAHITI: Moata, Maota.
TONGA: Pula'a.

Botany
Palauan has the habit of Alocasia macrorrhiza, a large plant with a very stout trunk, growing in dense clumps, . Leaves are very big, hastate, up to 1.5 meters in length. Petioles are large and stout, up to 2.5 meters long and 10 centimeters in diameter. Spathe is 30 to 60 centimeters long and oblong. Spadix is cylindric, about 15 centimeters long, 2 to 3 centimeters wide. Seeds are globose and about 5 millimeters wide.

Distribution
- In ravines along streams in Luzon (Sorsogon), Mindoro, Samar, Leyte, Palawan and Mindanao.
- In some regions planted for its edible corms or as an ornamental.
- Occurs in Java and Borneo to New Guinea.

Constituents
- Contains 62.61% moisture, 1.05% ash, 0.81% protein, 0.09% fat (ether extract), 33.87% carbohydrate, and 1.57% crude fiber providing 1,430 calories per kilo.
- Study reports the rootstock to contain 0.5% starch.
- Yellow-fleshed cultivars yielded high carotenoid concentrations, substantial amounts of zinc, iron and calcium.
- In a study of 34 cultivars, ß-carotene varied from 50 to 4486 µg/100g; yellow-fleshed cultivars yielded higher carotenoid concentrations. Mineral content of ten cultivars yielded (wet weight basis) substantial concentrations of zinc (5.4-46.1 mg/100g), iron (0.3-0.8 mg/100g) and calcium (121-305 mg/100g). (see study below) (6)
- Nutrient analysis per 100 grams of edible portion of corms of Cyrtosperma chamissonis yielded 131 calories, 0.9 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 334 mg calcium, 56 mg phosphorus, 1.2 mg iron, 0.045 mg thiamin, 0.074 mg riboflavin, and 0.88 mg niacin. (7)
- Yellow (YP) and white (WP) sections of giant swamp taro (GST) yielded 40.0 g/kg and 51.5 g/kg (dry weight), respectively of pure mucilage made up of D-glucose (44.95-78.85%), D-galactose (8.70-25.35%), D-mannose (3.20-10.45%), D-arabinose (2.45-5.20%) and small amounts of glucoronic acid and rhamnose. (see study below) (10)

Properties
- Emmenagogue, ecbolic.
- Studies have shown antioxidant property.

Toxicity
- Plant contains calcium oxalate crystals which cause very unpleasant sensations of needles stuck in the mouth and tongue. They are easily neutralized by drying or cooking or by steeping in water.
(8) (9)

Parts used
Spadix, corms.

Uses

Edibility / Nutrition
- Large rootstocks are eaten when food is scarce.
- Corms are edible: roasted, steamed or boiled.
- In the Pacific atoll islands, it is the most important staple food.
- Peeled and chopped stalks used in soups.
- Toxicity caution: Roots require hours of cooking to reduce toxicity in the corms.
- As a staple food it is an important source of carbohydrates. Although rich in carbohydrates, it is poor in other constituents.
Folkloric
- Of limited medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Decoction of spadix used as emmenagogue and ecbolic.
- In Kirbati, Catala, yellow mold from sliced and sundried corms used to treat skin infections.


Studies
Comparative Study of Alcohol Yield of Acid Hydrolyzates:
Study evaluated the potential alcohol yields from the acid hydrolysis of corms of three araceae plants: gabi (colocasia esculenta) 35.90%, palauan (Cystrosperma merkusii) 21.93%, and San Fernando (Xanthoma sagittifolium) 26.73%. There were no significant differences in the theoretical alcohol yield. Results suggest a potential of utilizing the three plant types for alcohol production. (2)
Carotenoid and Mineral Content of Cultivars: Giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma merkusii) is an important food in the mountain islands of Micronesia. Study showed the cultivars to be rich in carotenoid concentration with substantial amounts of zinc, calcium, and iron. Cultivars were acceptable in taste and production factors. Study suggests promotion for its potential health benefits. (see constituents above)   (6)
Mucilage / Antioxidant Activity: Study investigated the mucilage profile and antioxidant properties of giant swamp taro tubers. Antioxidant activity of YP was higher than those of WP; chelating ability and reducing power increased with mucilage content. Effective concentration (EC50) of mucilages (WP 1.28 ± 0.05 mg/mL; YP 1.42 ± 0.04 mg/mL) were lower than that of citric acid. YP and WP mucilages are usually excellent sources of chelating agents. (see constituents above) (10)

Availability
- Wild-crafted.

Last Update August 2016

IMAGE SOURCE: Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott [as Cyrtosperma ferox N.E. Br. & Linden] / L'Illustration horticole, vol. 39: t. 153 (1892) / Plant Illustrations

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
(1)
Pulaka / Cyrtosperma merkusii / Swamp taro / Wikipedia
(2)
A comparative study on the alcohol yield of acid hydrolyzates of gabi (Colocasia esculenta), Palauan (cyrtosperma merkush) and San Fernando (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) / #27 / Ana Maria Chupungco, Maria Teresa Delfin, Portia Grace Fernandez, Raymond Migriño, Delfin Sabido VIII
(3)
Carotenoid and mineral content of Micronesian giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma) cultivars /
Lois Englbergera, Joseph Schierleb, Klaus Kraemer, William Aalbersberg, Usaia Dolodolotawake, Julia Humphries, Robin Graham, Anne P. Reid, Adelino Lorensa, Kiped Albert, Amy Levendusky, Eliaser Johnson, Yumiko Paul, Fernando Sengebaui /Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 21 (2008) 93–106
(4)
Swamp Taro / (Cyrtosperma chamissonis) / Common names / Harley I. Manner / Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry
(5)
Cyrtosperma merkusii / Synonyms / The Plant List
(6)
Carotenoid and mineral content of Micronesian giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma) cultivars / Lois Englberger, Joseph Schierle, Klaus Kraemer, Fernando Sengebau / Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 21(2):93-106 · March 2008 / DOI: 10.1016/j.jfca.2007.09.007
(7)
Giant Swamp Taro, a Little-Known Asian-Pacific Food Crop / Donald L. Plucknete / Tropical Root Crops Symposium / Soil and Water Management Division, Office Agency for International Development, Washing- College of Tropical Agriculture, University of of Agriculture, Technical Assistance Bureau, ton, D.C., USA 20523
(8)
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. / Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J / 1984
(9)
Cystosperma merkusii / Useful Tropical Plants
(10)
Mucilage chemical profile and antioxidant properties of giant swamp taro tubers / Richard Marcel Nguimbou, Thaddée Boudjeko, Nicolas Yanou Njintang, Makhlouf Himeda, Joël Scher, and Carl M. F. Mbofung / J Food Sci Technol. 2014 Dec; 51(12): 3559–3567 / doi: 10.1007/s13197-012-0906-6

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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