Taro True Seeds - TTS

Something I got into growing in Hawaii, and in Taiwan, was Taro. It became a bit of a bizarre obsession.

Now I live in Poland, where as far as know, no taro is really being grown. Perhaps somebody is somewhere, but I haven’t heard about it yet. More than likely it would be grown as an ornamental rather than for food. Colocasia esculenta can be beautiful after all, and out of the thousands of variations out there a lot of them don’t necessarily taste that great. They also tend to scare people away with the high oxalate-itch factor, and lack of insight in preparation methods.

As I learned in Hawaii, however, it is all about the intentions. The use of any variety really goes deep into the realm of “It depends.” Hawaiian varieties tend to have very high acridity (oxalate), which is what causes the stinging sensation on the throat and tongue if improperly cooked. Cooking for longer periods of time, or in a pressure cooker in this modern era, takes care of the problem. Mashing down cooked corms with a stone pestel creates a texture that can be uniquely stretchy and pasty - sometimes even said to be rubbery, but in a good way. And the fermentation process can also create a form of medicinal high quality sustenance. As a bonus many of the Hawaiian cultivars are not only highly palatable and medicinal, but also strikingly beautiful.

Mashing taro into a the traditional Hawaiian Pa’i 'ai, which is the stage before Poi.

The varieties I came across in Taiwan were usually very different. They are mostly bred for very low oxalate, and cook down within only 20 minutes or so, as opposed to a couple of hours for the typical Hawaiian variety. They aren’t as ornamental looking, and there isn’t nearly as much diversity of flavors, textures, or physical appearances. The corms when cooked tended to be very light and fluffy, as opposed to dense and sticky. Although some of the more traditional varieties found in places such as “Orchid Island”, which is a small island just outside of the main island, do supposedly have comparable traits to the Hawaiian cultivars. I did not really end up having the privilege of growing them out and playing with the different preparation methods, though. Right before our move to Poland I was gifted some starts of a traditional “Lanyu” variety, which I was able to keep alive into the next phase of the journey.

Another Transition

When making our move in the very beginning of Winter 2023 I did manage to bring a half dozen varieties with me, including the newly gifted “Orchid Island” variety. I put them into buckets with a garden soil and biochar mix, and placed them inside the house on the window sill, where the temperature never dropped below 15 C. I wasn’t sure if they would make it through the extended period of colder temperatures and lack of daylight, but as of this writing - about a week into the official start of Spring - almost all of the taro are still alive. There are 6 varieties. They are certainly not thriving, and a few of the baby starts did not make it, but at least 1 of each variety made it through the most difficult period. I now feel very confident in being able to get them far enough along to perpetuate each variety.

For most taro varieties anything below 15 C pretty much stops their growth. Frosts will kill them. Some Taro cultivars can take over a year to mature, while there are others which can be harvested for food within as little as 6 months. My main goal right now is not to produce food, but to keep these alive and regenerating until a certain level of adaptation and selection is achieved.

One of the main challenges with taro is that they rarely produce true seeds. In Hawaii the vast majority of selection has, supposedly, taken place over many human generations through the process of “somatic mutation”, where on a rare occasion a baby clone showed different traits than the mother plant, and was subsequently chosen to continue as a new variant. Hawaii used to have over 300 varieties unique to the islands, but with changing land use patterns and culture, about 3/4 of these varieties have been lost.

“Elepaio”, a popular edible Hawaiian variety that is often beautifully variegated, and occasionally produces an all white leaf.

“Piko Lehua Api’i”, a Hawaiian variety that even a blind person can see, with its characteristic crinkled texture on the underside of the leaf blade.

“Uahiapele”, another Hawaiian variety with ornamental characteristics, but also considered to be of medicinal quality.

Is Growing From Seed a Solution?

If you ask google about taro seeds, what you will find at the top of search results is:

“All forms of taro are grown from tubers, not seed.”

This is a fallacy. Ornamental taro breeders are able to chemically induce flowering, and seeding, in order to create new hybrid versions.

The hybridization of Taro in Hawaii has become a very sensitive and controversial topic.

There was one instance when someone on social media shared about their own plants flowering, and eventually crossing and producing viable seeds, which sprouted, and getting excited about it, but other heirloom growers stepped in and asked for the babies to be destroyed out of concern of contaminating the purity of the few existing heirlooms, many of which are also on the verge of extinction. In this instance, tragically, the seedlings did end up being discarded.

As far as I can tell - perpetuating the purity of heirlooms, while discouraging cross pollination and growing from seed, is inadvertently causing a genetic bottleneck. With a changing world the adaptation of ancient cultivars to new diseases is very slow. It is commonly advised that everything should be sterilized and kept clean in order to prevent infections, but rarely if ever is it acknowledged that genetics can play an important role. Instead the focus is on creating a healthy soil and suitable environment at best (Not easy), and a highly labor intensive with chemical inputs practice at worst.

But I degress. As a Caucasian outsider no longer living in Hawaii it is not my place to try to change cultural practices that have been - very intentionally - passed on for countless generations. There are often very good reasons for why things are done a certain way.

Adapting Taro for Poland

What I do know is that I have a passion for growing Taro, and this stems from my deep love for what Hawaii has engrained into my soul. I still wish to mainly grow the Hawaiian cultivars for their unique characteristics, flavors, and textures. I also hope to eventually aqcuire more cold tolerant varieties, perhaps coming out of Japan. For the time being I will be growing with what has survived the travels with me. My hope is that with these 6 survivors I will be able to get them to eventually flower, cross pollinate, and produce viable seeds. Maybe with future plantings Ill be able to tease out characteristics similar to some of the Hawaiian cultivars that Im truly longing for.

To breed for a frost tolerant, ornamental, early maturing, great tasting, dense and sticky Poi Taro that can readily flower and produce viable seeds… A Taro that is uniquely adapted to my own garden, growing practices, taste buds, and foundational livelihood.

Anybody willing to share seeds or starts?

Here are some of the taro survivors that have successfully overwintered inside the house on the windowsill.


This is a really interesting post and thank you for sharing!
Flowering aroids is definitely a challenge. Did your research turn up the details of how growers induce flowering in taro?
Here in the subtropics cocoyam (Xanthosoma) performs a bit better for me than taro, though I only have a single clone so even if it did flower sexual reproduction would be unlikely.
If you are determined to breed a cold tolerant staple aroid for Poland then it might be worth considering starting with a wide intergeneric hybrid using a naturally cold tolerant aroid like skunk cabbage. There are winter dormant species like Arum italicum as well, and Sauromatum venosum from the Himalayas. Amorphophallus konjac is meant to be hardy to Z5. There is a list of hardy aroids here- Aroid Hardiness List

If you cant induce flowering in taro in your area it might be possible to post fresh pollen from another source. There are some studies on viability after storage in the family- https://www.aroid.org/gallery/gibernau/aroideana/0260005.pdf

You got me wondering if I should revisit the idea of breeding xanthosoma in my climate. I might need to find a few ornamental species in the genus, or consider an intergeneric cross. I can find lots of studies on interspecific hybrids in the family but no intergenerics, but given their specialised pollination mechanisms with different types of flies for different genera I expect that nobody has tried intergeneric crosses in the families so far.


Hello Arthur,
When looking at the pictures you posted, it seems like some of the leaves show Xanthosoma, and not Colocasia. The former has leaves are attached to the petiole by the edge, the latter is attached away from the edge.

Good luck with your breeding project, it would be nice to have European Taro!

Anyone knows of the viability of stored pollen?


hi Arthur,
if we are talking about Colocasia I advise you the following varieties that could help you make landrace hardy :
Colocasia ‘Sangria’ -18°c (-0,4°F)
Colocasia 'Bikini Tini -16°c (3,2°F)
Colocasia ‘Pink China’ -15°c (5°F)
Colocasia ‘Hawaiian Punch’ -12°c (10,4°F)

after I don’t know if its hardiness temperatures are enough to stay in open ground all the time in your country. But here in France this could be tried :cold_face: :hot_face:


Ive had Taro go into flower for me in Hawaii on its own before. It was mainly the Chinese “Bun Long Woo” variety, but some of the other Hawaiian varieties also did it occasionally. I never bothered to try to collect and grow the seeds at the time because it was so discouraged, and seemed like a waste of time anyway.

I don’t recall exactly how the growers induced flowering on purpose chemically, but if I come across the info ill make sure to share it here for anybody who might be interested in following along.

From my understanding flowering can be triggered by both ideal growing environment, as well as by stress, and as mentioned before some varieties do it more readily than others. It often happens during the summertime, but can also happen right after planting, or shortly before time of harvest. One reference I looked into “The Hawaiian Planter” by Handy - mentions a couple of examples of growers being able to reproduce from true seeds in the past. Another book “The Hawaiian Forester and Agriculturalist” - mentions that some plants closely related to Taro are naturally pollinated by snails.

I wasn’t really considering crossing C. esculenta with other species. For my own practice id like to stay within this species, but that could change in the future.

Cocoyams/Xanthosoma were very popular and super easy to grow for us in Taiwan…

There are many groups of C. esculenta in Hawaii. One of them is the “Piko” group, which all have the characteristic of the Y in the top of the leaf, or the Sinus, being cut down to the point of attachment to the petiole. This is often a cause of confusion for those who are not familiar with Hawaiian taro varieties. Without question, this is definitely C. esculenta, and specifically “Piko Lehua Api’i”.


Thanks for sharing this info Stephane!

Do you have a reference that I might be able to check out for this? I have heard of some of these varieties before, but largely ignored them in them past because they were not “heirlooms”, and are mainly ornamental, rather than culinary quality.

But now after getting on the adaptive landrace train, im more willing to explore acquiring these genetics…

I don’t know if they are edible or very rich in oxalate.
You can get them here, a French nursery that always has very interesting things:

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Thanks, I learned something! I’ll follow your research. I read that Arum maculatum was eaten after processing (careaful, deadly if not treated well!). But I also would prefer a low oxalate variety.

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in the references of Colocasia that I give you we do not know if they are of the species esculenta.
In terms of nomenclature they could be Colocasia x ‘…’, a hybrid then. With which species? Are they fertile? can they bloom in our climates?
I’ve never grown this so I don’t know, but their hardiness seems amazing !

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I’ve had taro (small taro, the temperate cultivars) come back from 5F. Great project. Good luck. I hope to be able to get TTS also, just need more cultivars. Gonna buy some from Asian markets to plant this season.

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