Have you seen the size of the ‘tropical’ plants in the Richmond St. beds in Christopher Columbus Park? That is the question going around the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park group and recently featured on their Facebook page. FOCCP member, Meredith Piscitelli, comments, “Aloha, Hawaii comes to Boston” and shares the story that Mary Ann Esparo, FOCCP Horticulture Chair, has been corresponding with the City’s Park Department that planted the “elephant ears.” Here’s the lowdown on the tropicals:
Good afternoon Mary Ann,
I went by there the other day and I have to agree. Kudos to Tony Hennessy, my assistant superintendent, for designing and implementing those three beds. His plan is both simple and effective. I have to say I am very, very surprised to see how well those plants are doing. The soil is not exactly what you would expect a tropical plant to thrive in and I was concerned about them getting beat up by the wind and salt. I hadn’t seen them since the Impatiens went in the small beds and was happy to see what the beds looked like.
We dig the roots up in the fall and throw them into tulip bulb crates for a month or two. Then, we ‘pot’ them up and stick them under the benches in the tropical house, where they stay until they get planted. They get a little white fly, but it doesn’t seem to hurt them too much. Now and then I try some other cultivars, but none of them seem as vigorous as the plants in those beds. I would not be surprised at all if they are descended from parent plants that have been grown here for over a century. They are, I think, most commonly referred to as “ELEPHANT EARS.” They are in fact Taro, the root of which is used to make poi. The botanical name is Colocasia esculenta. I am pretty sure that they are the specie, not some named variety (cultivar).
Don’t dig them up with plans to have your own luau, unless you plan on cooking them first. There is a water soluble toxin in all parts of the plants, similar to rhubarb leaves.
I’ll be sure to pass your compliment along.
Tom Williams – City of Boston Parks Dept