Wild Taro Research Project


Blogs: 7
images: 2
FAQs: 1
Files: 1
Groups: 1
Location: Japan
Work interests: Crop Wild Relatives (CWR), plant domestication, crop history, biodiversity, ethnobotany
Affiliation/website: National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan
Preferred contact method: Any
Preferred contact language(s): English, German
Contact: Dr Peter J. Matthews, Project Leader: pjm [at] minpaku [dot] ac [dot] jp
Favourite publications:

Travel in FY 2018

By Research Cooperative, 2019-04-12
Travel in FY 2018

In FY 2018 year Dr Matthews joined counterparts in Bangladesh, China and Vietnam for expeditions to Sylhet, Yunnan, and Hue vicinity. He was also able to carry out a brief pilot survey of wild taro populations in the Chao Praya delta area of Thailand, in the vicinity of Bangkok city. RA Etsuko Tabuchi and Dr Matthews visited the Ethnobotany Laboratory of Dr Chunlin Long, at Minzu University, and prepared DNA samples for analysis with the help of his students. The sequences obtained for three chloroplast loci (ACE16, ACE26, ACE39) and one nuclear genome locus (PhyC) are now being analysed.

A combined field report for the field surveys in Bangladesh and Thailand is planned (these surveys were supported by a JSPS grant to Tsukuba University in collaboration with Dr K. Watanabe).

Photo: Wild taro on the river bank, Hue city, Vietnam (PJ Matthews and Nguyen Van Dzu)


Posted in: Fieldwork | 0 comments

Travel in FY2017

By Research Cooperative, 2018-04-14

In the period April 2017 to March 2018, PJM was able to visit China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam for fieldwork and research discussions.

The main fieldwork areas were Mekong and Red River deltas, Vietnam, and a transect from Guilin to Guangzhou along a tributary of the Pearl River, China.

Wild taro populations were common in each of these river areas, but in each case there were important differences in ecology and uses. From Guilin to Guangzhou, we may have crossed a northern limit for the natural spread of taro, as it is in this region that the winter frost line marks the boundary between tropical and temperate vegetation zones.

Samples collected will be analysed in collaboration with Dr Nguyen Van Dzu (Department of Ethnobotany, Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources, Hanoi) and Dr Chunlin Long (Ethnobotany Laboratory, Minzu University, Beijing).

Posted in: Fieldwork | 0 comments

Fieldwork reports

By Research Cooperative, 2018-02-03

Fieldwork takes many forms... sometimes it is what we see while on holiday, while visiting another country for a meeting, or while walking near our own home, wherever that may be.  

And sometimes - if we are lucky - it is actual funded fieldwork.

The last kind is best for focused observation in a particular area and time, for an ethnographic, ecological, or other field science study. The other kinds are nevertheless useful, for serendipitous discovery, for thinking, and for discussion.

In this project blog, we can report on all kinds of fieldwork, in relation to the subject of taro, and wild taro especially. Recently (2016-2018), I have travelled in China, India, and Vietnam.

I will say more about these trips as time permits.

Posted in: Fieldwork | 0 comments

Literature research

By Research Cooperative, 2018-02-03

Our project requires an integration of literature across many disciplines.

One way to do this efficiently may be to make the process of literature research public, using the topic focus forums of the Research Cooperative.

Here is my first example. I will add others as time permits:

TOPIC: Gesonula, the taro grasshopper

Posted in: Literature | 0 comments

Economic Aroids Workshop at IBC, Shenzen, 2017

By Research Cooperative, 2017-05-02
Economic Aroids Workshop at IBC, Shenzen, 2017

The Economic Aroids Workshop will be an 'Associated Meeting' of the XIX International Botanical Congress (IBC) in Shenzen  ( see listing here, ST-24 )


Peter J. Matthews (National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka)

Chunlin Long ( Minzu University of China, Beijing; and Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming)

Date: 24 July, 2017

Time: 11:00 am -13:00 pm

Venue: main conference center.


The convenors will present a brief overview of economic aroids (Fam. Araceae) and research on these plants, and then introduce the "Wild Taro Research Project" . We will invite cross-disciplinary collaboration for an exploration of the natural and cultural history of taro ( Colocasia esculenta ), other economic aroids, and their wild relatives.

As a 'roundtable' workshop, all participants will be invited to consider and discuss ways in which historical, ethnobotanical, ecological, taxonomic, and genetic approaches can be integrated in order to (i) learn about crop history, (ii) identify priorities for crop development, and (iii) protect wild crop relatives and their habitats.

Note: Anyone attending IBC and working with Araceae is herewith invited to give a short presentation at this workshop. Please contact: Peter Matthews (researchcooperative at gmail dot com).

To link to the present announcement, please use the URL


or copy this text link:

Economic Aroids Workshop, IBC 2017

Posted in: Meetings | 1 comments

PJM (Dr Matthews) will attend IBC 2017 in July, and will present a poster for Session T6-10 Capturing biodiversity for food security (organizer: Robert Henry, University of Queensland, Australia).

The poster title will be:  Perception gaps that may explain the status of taro as an “orphan crop”, despite global distribution and value as a starchy root crop and green vegetable.

The date and time for this session are 13:30-15:30 pm, July 28 (Friday), and the talk titles are:

Application of Genomics to Enhanced Utilization of Cereal Diversity

Robert Henry (University of Queensland)
T6-10-02: Genetic Dissection of Starch Biosynthesis Diversity for Grain Quality Improvement in Rice

Qiaoquan Liu (College of Agriculture, Yangzhou University)
T6-10-03: Large-scale plant genomics studies and CNGB’s effort in food nutrition development

Shifeng Cheng (BGI-Research)
T6-10-04: Conservation of Oxalis tuberosa, "oca", in Ecuador: an iconic Andean tuber

Hugo Romero-Saltos (Yachay Tech (School of Biological Sciences and Engineering))
T6-10-05: Diversity of edible aquatic plants from Thailand

Pranee Nangngam (Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Naresuan University)
T6-10-06: Utilizing pulses diversity for ensuring food and nutritional security in Asia and Africa

Rajeev Varshney (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT))


Posted in: Meetings | 0 comments

Project proposal - purpose of research

By Research Cooperative, 2017-04-13

Taro, Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott, is a root crop and leaf vegetable found in tropical to temperate regions of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.

Throughout lowland Southeast Asia, wild populations of C. esculenta grow along roadsides, ditches and canals, and on the banks of ponds, streams, and rivers (Fig. 1).

Fig1_JSPSproposal_2016 copy.jpg

  Figure 1  In N. Vietnam, C. menglaensis Yin, Li, & Xu (left), and C. lihengiae Long & Liu (centre) carry the same chloroplast genome as wild C. esculenta in a natural lowland swamp (right) but have species-specific, nuclear genome ITS sequences (Matthews, Ahmed & Nguyen, 2016 “Sympatry of Colocasia esculenta (taro) and its wild relatives in Southeast Asia” Paper presented at 8th World Archaeology Congress, Kyoto, 28. Aug.-2. Sept. 2016).


These rarely studied wild populations are widely used as free sources of food for local people and fodder for local pigs. They actively invade the open habitats created by human activities, spreading vegetatively and by seed, and may represent the most abundant wild vegetable source in Southeast Asia.

To test old and new domestication models (Fig. 2), we will:

(i) map the distribution of wild populations of C. esculenta ,

(ii) record their morphological diversity

(iii) collect leaf tissue samples for DNA analysis, and

(iv) compare the wild populations with cultivated C. esculenta and wild Colocasia species using DNA tests for past hybridization.

models v2 copy 2.jpg

Figure 2  Domestication models: I. Old : linear process, one species (without hybridization). II. New : hybridization & introgression among multiple species, then spread to lowlands, use, selection, and domestication (= ‘floodplain weed theory’ of Smith, 1995, applied to C. esculenta ).

To conduct the research, convene related meetings, and prepare publications, we will establish an international “ Wild Taro Working Group ” composed of local counterparts and others with relevant expertise and interests.

Posted in: Planning | 0 comments