HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT

Family Araceae
Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott.

Scientific names Common names
Arisacontis chamissonis Schott Galiang (Bik.)
Cyrtosperma bantamense Koord. Palau (C. Bis.)
Cyrtosperma chamissonis (Schott) Merr. Palaw (C. Bis.)
Cyrtosperma cuspidilobum Schott Palauan (S. L. Bis., P. Bis.)
Cyrtosperma dubium Schott Palawan (*Bis.)
Cyrtosperma edule Schott Gallan (Engl.)
Cyrtosperma ferox N.E.Br. & Linden Giant swamp taro (Engl.)
Cyrtosperma intermedium Schott Swamp taro (Engl.)
Cyrtosperma lasioides Griff  
Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott  
Cyrtosperma merkusii var. giganteum Nadeaud  
Cyrtosperma merkusii var. intermedium (Schott) Engl.  
Cyrtosperma nadeaudianum J.W.Moore  
Lasia merkusii Hassk.  
Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott is an accepted name. KEW: Plants of the World Online

Other vernacular names
FIJI: Via, Viakana.
FRENCH: Taro géant des marais, Taro des atolls.
FRENCH POLYNESIA: 'Apeveo, Taa faa.
MALAY: Geli geli.
MARHSALL ISLANDS: Buroro, Kaliklik, Iaraj, Iaratz, Iarej, Wan.
NEPAL: Mane.
PALAU: Brak.
TAHITI: Moata, Maota.
TONGA: Pula'a.
OTHERS: Pulaka.

Gen info
- Cyrtosperma is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae.
- The genus has undergone considerable taxonomic changes in the 1980s, and is not considered native only to Southeast Asia and some Pacific Islands.

- Etymology: Genus name Cyrtosperma derives from Greek kurto-sperma, meaning curved seed, referring to the shape of the seed.
- Subfossil leaf fragments of giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis) were recovered from archaeological contexts dating as early as A.D. 1451. (16)
- Giant swamp taro is the largest of the root crop plants known collectively as Taro, which are cultivated throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
- Giant swamp taro may be field stored for very long periods - up to 30 years or more - and, as such, has been used as emergency crop in times of natural disaster and food scarcity.  (1)

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.

Giant swamp taro may reach heights of 4–6 metres, with leaves and roots much larger than Colocasia esculenta. The sagittate leaves are up to 6' 7" (2 meters) long by up to four feet (120 cm) in width, borne atop petioles or stalks up to 19' 6" (6 meters) in length and four inches (10 cm) wide. It is relatively resistant to disease and pests but is susceptible to taro beetle (Papuana). The corm, which can reach weights of 80 kg or even 220 pounds (100 kg) with a diameter of up to 39 inches (1 meter) and equally long, is starchy and cream or pink in colour, with a taste similar to sweet potato, though it is drier in texture. (13)

- Native to the Philippines.
- 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.
- Also native to Borneo, Caroline Is., Cook Is., Fiji, Gilbert Is., Jawa, Malaya, Marshall Is., New Guinea, Samoa, Santa
Cruz Is., Society Is., Solomon Is., Sumatera, Vanuatu.

- 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)

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

- 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.


Edibility / Nutrition
- Large rootstocks are eaten when food is scarce.
- Corms are edible: roasted, steamed or boiled.
- Used as fillings for pastries like hopia.
- 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.
- 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.

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)
• Fortified Swamp Taro Cookies: A fortified cookie from dehydrated swamp taro (ST, Cyrtospermma merkusii) combined with all-purposed enriched wheat flour was developed. Study evaluated unfortified ST, ST cookie with moringa oleifera leaves, ST with dehydrated moringa leaves and squash (Cucurbita moschata). Results showed the addition of dehydrated vegetables significantly increased the lipid, total mineral, and vitamin A content of the finished products, with a sensory evaluation that showed good market potential. (11)
• Daluga Corm Starch / Potential Food Source: Study evaluated daluga corm starch as potential food source in measures of starch yield, chemical composition, and granules morphology. Data shows daluga starch is unimodal with average size of 12.50 µM and crystalline type A. Average starch yield is 14.70%, with medium to low amylose content that assures a good mouthfeel taste. Findings support utilization of daluga starch as natural resource of food. (14)
• Nutrient and Carbohydrate Profile / Wild and Cultivated Varieties: Study evaluated cultivated and wild varieties of giant swamp taro for nutrient, phytochemical and carbohydrate profile and storage stability of its flour. Boiled cultivated and wild varieties yielded energy contents of 385.67 kcal and 377.29 kcal, respectively. Beta carotene and vitamin C contents of boiled and flour products from wild variety were significantly higher than cultivated variety. Processed products of both local taro varieties had >75% antioxidant activity. Boiled and floured cultivated taro contained significantly higher amounts of amylose, dietary fiber, and resistant starch compared to wild variety. Glycemic index of processed taro from two local varieties had a range of 64-70% (intermediate). (15)

- Wild-crafted.

Updated February 2023 / Octobeer 2018 / August 2016

IMAGE SOURCE: Photo / Araaceae : Cyrtosperma merkusii / Copyright © 2011 by Leonardo L Co (contact: benctan@berkeley.edu) [ref. DOL24984] / Non-Commercial Use / click on image to go to source page / Phytoimages.siu.edu
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott [as Cyrtosperma ferox N.E. Br. & Linden] / L'Illustration horticole, vol. 39: t. 153 (1892) / Plant Illustrations
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Gallan - Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott / Inflorescence: spadix and spathe / Shaun Winterton / Aquarium and Pond Plants of the World, Edition 3, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood Org / CC BY-NC 3.0 / click on image to go to source page / Forestry Images

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Pulaka / Cyrtosperma merkusii / Swamp taro / Wikipedia
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
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
Swamp Taro / (Cyrtosperma chamissonis) / Common names / Harley I. Manner / Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry
Cyrtosperma merkusii / KEW: Plants of the World Online
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
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
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. / Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J / 1984
Cystosperma merkusii / Useful Tropical Plants
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
Flour substitution and nutrient fortification of butter cookies with underutilized agricultural products / Jade G. Pahila, Emeliza C. Lozada, Jose Ali F. Bedano, Leticia J. Ami / Advances in Agriculture & Botanics-International Journal of the Bioflux Society, 2013; 5(3): pp 115-120

Cyrtosperma / Wikipedia
Cyrtosperma merkusii / iNaturalist
Introducing Baluga (Cyrtosperma merkusii) starch from corms collected in Siau Island, North Sulawesi
/ H W Limbe, S S Achmadi, D N Faridah / 2019 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 399 012038 /
DOI: 10.1088/1755-1315/399/1/012038
Nutritional, Phytochemical and Carbohydrate Profile of Giant Swamp Taro [Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott] / Ma Resadel O Santonia, Aimee Sheree A Barrion, Marites G Yee, Lotis E Mopera / Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition, 2022; 1(2): pp 1-7
Prehistoric Giant Swamp Taro (Cystosperma chamissonis) from Henderson Island, Southeast Polynesia / Jon G Hather, Marshall I Weislerv / Pacific Science, 2000, 54(2): pp 149-156

DOI: 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. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants

HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT