Saturday, August 13, 2011

Colocasia Esculenta - Elephant Ears

It's no secret that Sue is the gardener at our house. I am the beneficiary of all her efforts to make our yard look so beautiful. These elephant ears are a perfect example. They have grown about 2 feet in just a few short months. Of course the hot weather, with temperatures over 100 degrees for weeks, along with high humidity and daily thunderstorms have helped. They are now as tall as I am.

I have always loved these exotic looking plants, as they remind me of the jungle, both the ones I saw in the Tarzan movies as a kid, and the ones I trekked through as a young adult. They are beautiful in my yard, something to be appreciated from an aesthetic point of view. But out in the real world this is a very useful plant.

Aside from the obvious food source it offers some animals, it is also home to insects as they flit around, doing what comes naturally. But there are other uses as well, some of which apply to humans.

For instance, I once used an elephant ear leaf as a rainhat, slanting it upon my head so the rain would flow from front to back, both shading my eyes and keeping me semi-dry all at once. Natures poncho. And although I have never had to - they can be used to gather water during a rainfall. Such a beautiful and useful plant.

Growing up in Brooklyn we had window boxes on our window ledges. Our preferred plant was the geranium, usually in bright red. To this day I cannot look at a geranium without thinking of 1310 Avenue R in Brooklyn. We had the only window boxes in our 70 family apartment building. That was one of my father's hobbies. He also cultivated Bonsai trees, which fascinated me no end.

But the elephant ear, Colocasia Esculenta, is a plant with takes over 2,000 forms. In some countries they are considered part of the Taro family, with the roots being a prized source of food. In my yard however, I don't need them for food, or even a rainhat. I just like looking at them and letting my mind wander.

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