The giant aquatic arrowhead or giant arum, water banana (Typhonodorum lindleyanum Schott, 1857) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Araceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Species T. lindleyanum.
The terms are synonymous:
– Arodendron engleri Werth;
– Typhonodorum madagasariense Engl.;
– Typhonodorum madagascariense Engl..
The term Typhonodorum is of uncertain origin, as it was not indicated by the author, however it could derive from the Greek “typhon”, meaning violent wind and “doron”, meaning gift.
The specific epithet was attributed in honor of the English botanist John Lindley (Old Catton, 8 February 1799 – Turnham Green, 1 November 1865).
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Typhonodorum lindleyanum is a plant native to the Comoros islands, Madagascar, Mauritius and Tanzania.
Its habitat is near the banks of muddy streams or in marshes where it is usually found in pure populations in lakes and freshwater marshes near the sea.
Typhonodorum lindleyanum is an evergreen, rhizomatous aquatic herbaceous plant.
It is equipped with a pseudo stem, resulting from the overlapping of the bases of the petioles, of a pinkish white color streaked and stained with dark purple; this is up to about 3 m high and has a diameter of 10-30 cm.
The leaves are shiny green, sagittate, almost erect, with a sharp apex and wavy margins, up to 120 cm long and up to 80 cm wide, on 0.5-1 m long petioles.
The inflorescence is made up of a spathe up to 80 cm long, tubular in shape at the base for about a third of the length, of a greenish yellow color externally and pinkish white internally, and for the remaining part of a yellow-cream colour, and of a spadix up to about 50 cm long ending with a sterile appendix of about 20 cm. The flowers are protogynous unisexual, with the male flowers distributed in the upper part and the female ones in the lower part, corresponding to the tubular area of the spathe, separated by a sterile area; pollination is favored by insects attracted by the smell of putrid meat emitted by the spadix.
The fruits are globose berries about 4 cm in diameter and yellow when ripe.
Inside there is a single compressed, rounded seed of about 3 cm; the development of the seed, from the moment of fertilization, has no periods of stasis, germinating even on the same plant until, already equipped with leaves, it falls into the water from the infructescence which in the meantime has curved downwards.
Typhonodorum lindleyanum is a perennial, banana-like plant that is harvested from the wild and used locally, providing a food of dubious value as well as medicines and good quality fibre. The plant is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
For its cultivation it prefers a sunny position and humid or marshy soil, even in shallow water.
It is an imposing plant with a great landscape effect, suitable for large water gardens in humid tropical and subtropical climate zones, to be grown in full sun on soils rich in organic substance with the rhizomes covered by a layer of stagnant water .
The plant reproduces by seed, to be planted immediately as soon as it is ripe, covered by a few centimeters of water.
It can also be reproduced by dividing the rhizome.
Customs and Traditions –
Typhonodorum lindleyanum is a plant known by various common names, such as: “giant aquatic arrowhead”, “giant arum”, “water banana” (English); ”oreilles d’éléphant” (French); “banana-d’água”, “tifonodoro”, “bananeira-d’água” (Portuguese); “malanga de pantano” (Spanish); “aquatischer riesenaronstab” (German).
Both the fruit pulp and all parts of the plant contain irritating substances, in particular calcium oxalate, which can cause allergic reactions; the plant should be handled with caution; the toasted seeds, after repeated boiling, renewing the water each time, are edible and consumed locally; even the rhizomes, with the same process of repeated boiling, were consumed in the past in times of famine.
All parts of the plant secrete an irritating juice that causes itching.
Other fields include agroforestry.
The leaves are used as mulch and a fiber is obtained from the leaf sheaths which is used to make heavy fishing lines. It is very simple to gently pull the wires out after abruptly breaking the sheath, as long as they are pulled out parallel to the axis. The threads thus obtained are initially an intense yellow, becoming much lighter with washing.
A variety of the plant that has reddish and blackish sheaths gives better fiber than the variety that has white sheaths.
The leaves are used for thatching.
Preparation Method –
Typhonodorum lindleyanum is a tropical and subtropical plant that is used both for the materials obtained from it and for edible or medicinal use.
The rhizomes can be eaten after being well cooked. An edible starch is obtained from these by drying the grated base of the plant over a low heat. But this starch, despite the action of the fire, causes itching in the mouth and also in the esophagus.
More commonly, the roots of plants of this family are made edible by cooking them for some time at high temperatures, often reducing them to powder and then cooking them again. This is a more effective way to destroy toxins, although even then it is not uncommon for people to experience an itchy mouth.
The tuber can be peeled and then cut into slices which are boiled and washed several times to eliminate part of the toxic substances. Then add the coconut milk and eat it all.
Alternatively, the slices can be soaked in water for two days and then dried in the sun. The dried slices are pounded into a flour that is cooked in equal parts.
The root is seen primarily as a famine food, consumed when nothing better is available.
The fruits are eaten cooked but need to be boiled for a long time, with the same measures and procedures that apply to the rhizome.
In the medicinal field, rhizome starch is considered an excellent remedy against bites from poisonous animals.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.