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Tacca leontopetaloides - (L.) Kuntze

Common Name Polynesian Arrowroot, Pia
Family Taccaceae
USDA hardiness 8-12
Known Hazards The untreated root is considered to be toxic in some areas[398 , 451 ].
Habitats Secondary forest and thickets, and many open situations, clearings, grassland, savannah, coconut groves, and beach vegetation (Barringtonia formation), not shunning seasonally dry areas, such as teak and eucalypt woodland[451 ].
Range Widely spread in tropical areas, either as a native plant or naturalized, from Africa, through Asia to Australia and the Pacific..
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Tacca leontopetaloides Polynesian Arrowroot, Pia
Tacca leontopetaloides Polynesian Arrowroot, Pia
Marco Schmidt[1]


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Tacca leontopetaloides, otherwise known as Polynesian Arrowroot, is a flowering plant native to tropical Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, northern Australia, New Guinea, Samoa, Micronesia, and Fiji. It is perennial, with a single stem around 1 m in height from a tuberous rootstock. The leaves are large and the flowers are in greenish-purple clusters, with long trailing bracts. The tubers are hard, brown on the outside but white on the inside. It contains starch, thus made into a flour for various uses like in breads and soups. Polynesian arrowroot is also used in traditional medicine for eye problems, diarrhea, dysentery, sores, burns, wasp stings, and ear pains. Leaf stalks are made into an excellent straw for hats, brooms, or other uses. Plants are grown from division of the small tubers or from seeds.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Tacca leontopetaloides is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Chaitaea tacca Sol. ex Seem. Tacca abyssinica Hochst. ex Baker Tacca artocarpifolia Seem. Tacca brow


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Root
Edible Uses:

The root is a rich source of starch. It can be eaten raw or roasted, or the starch can be extracted[301 ]. The tubers have eyes, a pale-yellow skin and dull-whitish flesh, and are usually bitter and almost inedible when raw[429 ]. The starch, called Tahiti (or Fiji) arrowroot, is easy to extract and is used in breads or soups, it can be mixed with papayas, bananas and pumpkins, flavoured with vanilla and lemon, and cooked into poi[301 , 429 ]. Good washing is essential because of the presence of the bitter substance (taccalin) which is said to be poisonous[451 ]. To obtain the starch, the tubers are peeled, grated, and the resultant pulp washed in water several times, finally in a sieve or cloth. The aqueous starch solution is collected and the starch grains allowed to settle out, collected and dried in the sun[429 ]. In cultivated plants the tuber can be 5 - 10cm long, with unconfirmed reports saying that it may reach the size of a coconut[451 ].


Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Polynesian arrowroot is often used in traditional medicine in the Pacific Islands[311 ]. The inside of the root is squeezed in water and applied as a rinse to injured eyes. The starch from the tubers of the plant was used as a remedy for diarrhoea and dysentery[311 ]. The root is also used as a thickener in medical preparations[311 ]. The starch from the root is rubbed onto sores and burns[311 ]. The crushed leaf stalks of the plant are rubbed onto bee and wasp stings[311 ]. The stem is roasted and the sap squeezed out and used in the form of ear drops as a remedy for earache[398 ].


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Other Uses

Other Uses The leaf stalks and flower scapes make an excellent straw which can be used as a plaiting material for hats and bonnets[454 , 459 ]. The straw is split into narrow strips then cured and dried. It is said to make an excellent, lightweight, glossy, white hat[459 ]. The leaf stalks are made into brooms[454 ]. The fresh starch extracted from the roots is used as a starch for clothes and as a glue[459 ]. Traditionally, it is employed for pasting together the thin layers of beaten bark of the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera] in making tapa cloth[459 ].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

A plant of low elevations in the moist tropics, where it is most commonly found near the sea and below elevations of 200 metres[429 ]. Grows best in a fertile, humus-rich soil in the shade of trees[200 ]. Plants can set seed three years from being a seedling[451 ]. The tuber is replaced during the year by a new main tuber which arises from a downward-growing runner-like thick rhizome at a lower level and remains dormant after the yearly death of the aerial parts of the original plant[451 ]. Tubers are harvested when the aerial parts have died off[451 ]. It usually takes about 8 months from planting the crop to harvest, but sometimes it can be as much as 10 - 12 months[429 ]. Most plants produce many starchy tubers, similar in appearance to potatoes, usually 10 - 15 cm in diameter, but they can reach 30 cm on rich soils[429 ]. They normally weigh from 70 to 340g but can reach 1 kg[429 ]. Two distinct forms have been reported from the Pacific Islands, one producing a single large tuber, the other with a number of smaller (potato-sized) tubers[429 ]. Flowering Time: Mid Spring Late Summer/Early Fall Blooms repeatedly. Bloom Color: Dark Purple/Black.


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Seed - Division of the small, tuberous rhizomes which form at the base of the plant and often remain in the soil when the larger ones are harvested[429 ]

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

arrowroot de tahiti, arrowroot de taití, batflower, east indian arrowroot, fiji arrowroot, fliktacca, gapgap, gerandi kidaran, mahoa'a, masoa, ostindisches teufelsblüte, pia, polynesian arrowroot, tacca, tahiti arrowroot, tahitian arrowroot, taka, takka, yabia.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Expert comment


(L.) Kuntze

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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