A descriptor list for Giant Swamp Taro (Cyrtosperma merkusii) and its cultivars in the Federated States of Micronesia

Shiwangni Rao, Mary Taylor, Anjeela Jokhan


Atoll islands are the diversity hot spots for Cyrtosperma merkusii (giant swamp taro) and its traditional knowledge,
especially in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). In these atolls and islands the giant aroid is given high importance in the food, cultural and traditional systems. Despite this, a significant lack of knowledge and threat of salt water intrusion in the face of climate change exists for the aroid. To curb this issue a classification descriptor list using the taro descriptors (1999) and traditional knowledge of the FSM farmers was developed. The descriptor list was then employed to classify the many cultivars present in FSM. The list consisted of 37 morphological traits divided into plant habit leaves, petiole, inflorescence, root, corm, taste and special characteristics. Using this descriptor list 40 distinct FSM cultivars was classified, four of which were unknown to the locals namely PF1, Semesrao, Liha mwahu and Nah. The results of the classification provided some knowledge of the various cultivars and also showed that diversity did exist within the gene pool of the aroid. With further research and documentation the diversity that exist within the gene pool of the aroid can be explored and utilized to buffer the impacts of salt water intrusion, while conserving the aroid and building its knowledge base.


Giant swamp taro, diversity, descriptor, atoll, Cyrtosperma merkusii

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7751/telopea20147543