Alocasia gageana Engl. & K. Krause
Sometimes confused with Alocasia odora
Formerly A. california
A Small "Elephant Ear"?
Alocasia gageana is commonly used as a landscape plant in tropical portions of the US including South Florida. A native of Malaysia, the plant is very similar to Alocasia odora which is much larger and a native of Vietnam.
A. gageana produces a thick trunk that can easily reach several inches thick. The trunks of most of ours are between 2 and 3 inches (5 to 8cm) but I have seen the same plant grow much thicker when grown outdoors instead of in an atrium. The plant often grows with very shallow root systems and can easily be pulled from the ground if the soil is loose and well drained.
The leaf size depends on which subspecies you are growing. The larger has leaves well over 18 inches (46cm) and some internet sites claim they can get as large, or larger, than Alocasia macrorrhiza. That would be big (5 to 6 foot or 150cm to 180cm leaves)! That is really big, which makes me dubious! Alocasia species are known to be highly variable and not every leaf of every specimen will always appear the same. This link explains in greater detail the scientific principle of natural variation and morphogenesis. Click here.
During the late summer, once the plant has had most of the growing season to mature, the leaves often reach 2 feet (60cm) plus. The same websites say the plant has to be quite old to obtain a truly massive size. The largest we have ever seen the plant is close to 8 feet (240cm) tall.
Another cultivar more commonly used in landscaping is substantially smaller and rarely grows more than 4 feet tall (120cm) with 15 inch (38cm) leaves. Regardless, both can grow in quite thick clumps and rapidly produce offspring. The plant reproduces by producing "pups" at the base of mature plants or from seed.
A spathe "flower" about 2 1/2 to 3 inches (6 to 8cm) tall grows from the plant each spring (see inset). An inflorescence, rather than simply a flower, as the spathe matures it turns whiter before it dies and then produces bright red berries which contain seeds. They add a great tropical look in non-tropical climates. Just bring them in for the winter. They prefer a mixture of filtered sunlight and shade and enjoy having their "feet" wet. Water this plant frequently.
The species does make an extremely impressive smaller "Elephant Ear" when used as a landscape plant. However, the term "Elephant Ear" is a poor descriptive term. That term is sometimes applied to five, perhaps six, groups of plants (genus) that include between 3,000 and 5,000 species! Those genus include Alocasia, Philodendron, Anthurium Colocasia, Xanthosoma, and a few Caladium species. So if you ask about an "Elephant Ear", which one do you mean? All of those species are quite different and often grow in very different ways.
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