Taro (/ˈtɑːroʊ, ˈtæroʊ/) commonly refers to the plant Colocasia esculenta, the most widely cultivated species of several plants in the Araceae family which are used as vegetables for their corms, leaves, and petioles. Thus, this article describes the “dasheen” form of taro; another variety of taro is known as eddoe or Colocasia antiquorum. Other species of taro include giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhizos), swamp taro (Cyrtosperma merkusii), and arrowleaf elephant’s ear (Xanthosoma sagittifolium).
Colocasia esculenta is thought to be native to Southern India and Southeast Asia, but is widely naturalised. It is a perennial, tropical plant primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, and as a leaf vegetable. It is a food staple in African, Oceanic and South Indian cultures and is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants. Colocasia is thought to have originated in the Indomalaya ecozone, perhaps in East India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, and spread by cultivation eastward into Southeast Asia, East Asia and the Pacific Islands; westward to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean Basin; and then southward and westward from there into East Africa and West Africa, where it spread to the Caribbean and Americas. It is known by many local names and often referred to as “elephant ears” when grown as an ornamental plant.