Although I lived deep inside the city, I was able to make periodic trips into|
the country on weekends and holidays, and, yes, I did note which Aroids were
to be found.
By far the most common, as one might expect, was our old friend Colocasia
esculenta. There were fields of this food plant, but more commonly, one
would see two or three rows of it planted along one edge of a rice field; and
in parts of Taroko National Park, this species could even be seen growing
wild in the forest. In the local supermarket, one could buy an item called
"taro cake," essentially a block of processed taro granules, ready for
incorporating into a dish. Even so, taro was by far less important than rice
(which I ended up eating every day in some form).
As for wild Aroids, one of the most widespread and abundant was Alocasia sp.
(The literature I had available seemed confused as to whether it was A.
macrorhiza or A. odora). This taxon was seen throughout the island, wherever
woodland or forest remained. In Taroko National Park, I also saw
Schizmatoglottis calyptrata (whose foliage closely resembles the Neotropical
genus Xanthosoma), and the climber or hemiepiphyte Epipremnum pinnatum.
These last two, unfortunately, were not in flower at the time.
Ray Stillwell's Arisaema species descriptions were timely, and those two
issues of the Newsletter (Jan-March 2000 and April-June 2000) accompanied me
to Taiwan, where I ended up seeing two Arisaema species. By far the more
common was A. ringens, seen near the village of Hengshan (Hsinchu County); at
Yangmingshan National Park (Taipei County); and at Taroko National Park
(Hualien County). Stillwell was quite correct in calling it a "very early
flowering species;" in late January, every specimen seen had at least one
inflorescence. The larger specimens were surrounded by smaller offsets, each
of which was also in flower. The other Arisaema seen was A. thunbergii, seen
only at Taroko, and much rarer. Only one had an inflorescence (unfortunately
I could not get a photograph), while another had a small bud.
I was also able to make a trip to Lan Yu (Orchid Island, known in some
literature as Botel Tobago), off the southeast coast, during the Chinese New
Year. Here, Colocasia esculenta was the single most important food crop
being grown, to the exclusion of rice. According to Zheng and Lu (Botel
Tabaco [sic], Yami, & Plants, just published in 2000, in Chinese), Lan Yu has
a second, endemic species of Colocasia, C. kotoensis. I was able to locate
this species based on Zheng and Lu's photographs, growing in primary tropical
rainforest; in foliar charachteristics, it does not look at all like a
Colocasia, but instead resembles the classic cordate Philodendron. No doubt
floral characters were the reason it was placed in the genus Colocasia.
Although nearly every plant seen had multiple buds, only one open
inflorescence was found, the spadix covered with small gnats which one may
hypothesize are the pollinators. (How might I go about identifying the
gnats, not being an entomologist?) Also abundant in rainforest were Alocasia
sp., Schizmatoglottis calyptrata, and Epipremnum pinnatum. Arisaema was
In a few days, my photos should be ready, and I will see which ones came out.