Tacca leontopetaloides (L.) Kuntze

First published in Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 704 (1891)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Tropical Old World to Pacific. It is a tuberous geophyte and grows primarily in the wet tropical biome.


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/44392847/44503085

LC - least concern

Extinction risk predictions for the world's flowering plants to support their conservation (2024). Bachman, S.P., Brown, M.J.M., Leão, T.C.C., Lughadha, E.N., Walker, B.E. https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.19592

Predicted extinction risk: not threatened. Confidence: confident

J. R. Timberlake, E. S. Martins (2009). Flora Zambesiaca, Vol 12 (part 2). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Type India, fig. in Amman, Comment. Acad. Sci. Imp. Petrop. 8 211, t.13 (1736) (see Merrill in J. Arnold Arbor. 26 92, 1945).
Morphology General Habit
Erect herb to 2 m, annual from a fleshy tuber, leaf and flowers produced together during the rainy season
Vegetative Multiplication Rhizomes
Rhizome cylindric, tough, produced at apex of previous season’s, with a narrower rhizomatous branch bearing the new tuber; tuber ovoid to globose, sometimes flattened or irregular, up to 4(10) cm in diameter
Morphology General Indumentum
Indumentum restricted to small, flattened translucent projections on veins of leaf lower surface and capitate glandular hairs on the style base
Morphology Leaves
Leaves usually 1–3 per plant; petiole to 1.3(1.8) m long, erect, terete, longitudinally ridged, usually solid, narrowing towards apex; blade trifid, compound, to c.90  60 cm, thin and stiff, with three leaflets to 40 cm long, pinnately divided into lobes, sometimes also palmately branched, lobes variable, often dimorphic in appearance and/or larger towards rachis apex, margins entire or with shallow, rounded lobes; cataphylls 2 or 3 inserted on rhizome, erect, clasping petiole and scape bases, 4–21 × 0.8–3 cm, ovate-acuminate to very narrowly oblong, membranous when dry
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences 1(2) per plant, scape erect, 30–170 0.3–1.5(3) cm, hollow, longitudinally ridged, umbelliform; inflorescence bract 4–8, forming an involucre with floral buds, erect to spreading at anthesis, shape and size variable but not dimorphic, 8–30(44)  7–29 mm, oblanceolate or obovate to ovate, elliptic, narrowly elliptic or lanceolate, green with purple margins and apices, sometimes more extensively pigmented, persistent; floral bract numerous, to 250        c.1 mm, filiform, pendent, usually dark purple, paler to white towards apex, partially persistent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers 10–40, pale green to white, yellowish or brown, usually with variably distributed purple pigmentation, pedicel 9–25 × c. 1 mm (larger in fruit); Tepals differentiated into 2 whorls of 3 (outer narrower), thick and fleshy, fused at base and forming a 3–4 mm deep bowl-shaped torus
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens Filaments
Filaments 2–2.8 2–3 mm, anther dorsifixed, partially surrounded by a 1–2.6 0.8–2.7 mm broadly oblong to broadly oval hood
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary obconic to obovoid with 6 longitudinal ridges; style erect, 1.7–2.3 mm long, base expanded and conical-Fruit berry-like, 20–30 17–29 mm, pendent, only 2–7 flowers per umbel developing, globose to ovoid, green but becoming orange at maturity, dark brown when dry, base usually rounded
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds many, 4–6.2 × (2.5)2.9–3.9 mm, ovoid to ellipsoid, sometimes longitudinally flattened, longitudinally striate, red-brown when dry, surrounded by a thin fleshy aril not visible when dry.
Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique. Widespread in Subsaharan Africa west to Senegal and south to Zimbabwe; also in Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tropical Asia to the Pacific.
In a wide range of ecologys from forest to grasslands, rocky places, termite mounds, dunes and beaches, often found on sandy soils; sea level–1500 m.
Flowering in December and January; fruiting from January onwards.
Conservation notes Widespread species; not threatened, although local forms or cultivars that merit conservation may exist.
Tacca is easily identified when fertile by the umbelliform inflorescence with an involucre of inflorescence bract and filiform floral bract. When in a vegetative state it may be confused with Amorphophallus abyssinicus (A. Rich.) N.E. Br., but T. eontopetaloides has a longitudinally ridged petiole while that of A. abyssinicus is smooth
It may have been brought from Asia in prehistoric times with Dioscorea alata and bananas. A phylogeographic study using material from across the species’ range could be used to discover its area of origin.

Taccaceae, F. N. Hepper. Flora of West Tropical Africa 3:1. 1968

Vegetative Multiplication Tubers
Ovoid tuber several inches across
Morphology Leaves
Tuber usually giving rise to one or two erect leaves 2-4 ft. high
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
An inflorescence 3-6 ft. high
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Bracts
Involucre greenish
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers yellowish with inner bracts thread-like, purplish
In thickets and amongst grass.


The tubers are edible although bitter, and contain steroidal taccalonolides. They are grated, washed and cooked for a long time or turned into flour. Records from N Malawi suggest that the tuber is cooked and pounded to obtain a milk substitute. Although now eaten mainly in times of famine, it may have been more widely cultivated in the past. Elsewhere in Africa, its uses include being a fibre source and a cure for oedema. See Burkill (Useful Plants W Tropical Africa, ed.2, 5 183, 2000) for a detailed account of its uses as a food, in medicine and rituals in Africa and beyond. As a cultivated plant, it is questionable whether T. leontopetaloides is native to Africa


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