Is elephant ear sap poisonous? That is a common question people ask. First, understand that “Elephant Ear” is a common name for numerous perennial tropical plants, including:
They share this common name because of their large, attractive heart (or elephant ear) shaped leaves. Most are members of the Araceae (arum or aroid) family of plants.
Even though the tubers and leaves of some of these plants can be eaten with the correct preparation, it is generally safest to assume that all parts of plants nick-named Elephant Ear are toxic because, in most cases, they are.
In this article, we will discuss the toxicity of Elephant Ear sap, stems, leaves, and tubers.
- Elephant Ear Toxicity Q&A
- What Does Elephant Ear Look Like?
- How Toxic Is Elephant Ear Sap?
- What Happens If You Eat Raw Elephant Ear Leaves Or Stems?
- Are Elephant Ear Flowers, Berries, And Seeds Toxic?
- Where Do Elephant Ear Plants Grow?
- Is Elephant Ear Invasive?
- What Should You Do If You Come In Contact With Or Ingest Elephant Ear Sap?
- What Makes Elephant Ear Sap Poisonous?
- How Is It Possible For The Tubers Of Elephant Ear To Be Edible?
- Is It Safe To Grow Elephant Ear In Your Home, Yard, Or Garden?
- More Growing Elephant Ears
Elephant Ear Toxicity Q&A
What Does Elephant Ear Look Like?
Many different sorts of plants use the common name, Elephant Ear, and there are variations from one variety to another. But, generally speaking, all the plants that go by this moniker are impressively large (3’ to 5’ feet high) and have big, heart-shaped leaves atop tall, thick, sap-filled stalks.
If you encounter Elephant Ear in a natural tropical setting, you may see its blooms.
Most plants kept in domesticity do not bloom, but those in the wild may produce light green, yellow or white spathes surrounding a finger-like spadix (aroid inflorescence). These transitions produce round yellow or green berries, each containing several seeds.
How Toxic Is Elephant Ear Sap?
The sap of these plants is rated at toxicity levels 1 to 2. This means that exposure to the sap is likely to cause a skin rash. It is also quite dangerous for sap to come in contact with the eyes.
What Happens If You Eat Raw Elephant Ear Leaves Or Stems?
Ingesting the sap-filled raw leaves and stems can cause a rash in and around the mouth and throat, along with vomiting or diarrhea. In case of severe allergic reactions, ingestion can cause swelling of the airways.
Are Elephant Ear Flowers, Berries, And Seeds Toxic?
Yes, the flowers, seeds, and all parts of the plant are potentially toxic to people, pets, and even wild birds.
However, unlike many plants that produce berries and seeds that are toxic for mammals but safe for birds, the fruit and seeds of Elephant Ear plants are unsafe for avian consumption.
Luckily, wild birds tend to avoid them since they taste terrible naturally.
Where Do Elephant Ear Plants Grow?
Xanthosoma comes from tropical America. Other types of Elephant Ear come from the Pacific Islands, New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, southern Asia, and Australia. In these areas, they are often farmed for their edible tubers.
In nature, they grow in a jungle environment. In domesticity, mature plants are often grown as bedding plants, in containers, and planters in public settings, such as malls and office buildings. Young plants may be kept as houseplants in smaller pots.
Is Elephant Ear Invasive?
These tropical plants can become quite invasive in tropical wetlands, so you may encounter them growing rogue in places like Florida and Louisiana.
What Should You Do If You Come In Contact With Or Ingest Elephant Ear Sap?
It’s best to avoid contact with the sap by wearing disposable plastic gloves when handling and pruning these plants. Also, wash up after performing maintenance tasks on Elephant Ear plants.
If you accidentally get some of the sap on your skin, wash it up quickly and thoroughly, and you should be fine. However, monitor the area of contact for 24 hours if you develop a rash. If you do, contact your doctor or nurse helpline for advice.
If you have a sudden allergic reaction, get sap in your eyes, or if the sap is ingested, call your local emergency number (e.g., 911 in the USA).
Another helpful number you may wish to post by or program into your phone in the USA is the toll-free National Poison Help Hotline: 1-800-222-1222.
What Makes Elephant Ear Sap Poisonous?
All parts of Elephant Ear plants contain a non-essential amino acid known as Asparagine [Asparagine], along with oxalate, oxalic acid, which can cause skin irritation and is toxic when ingested at high levels.
It is important to understand that these plants’ raw stems and leaves are, for the most part, not intended to be eaten and do not taste good. Hence, it is very unusual for any person or animal to consume enough of either to cause serious harm.
How Is It Possible For The Tubers Of Elephant Ear To Be Edible?
Not all plants that go by the common name Elephant Ear have edible tubers. The tubers of some varieties, such as Colocasia esculenta and Xanthosoma sagittifolium are used as a staple food in tropical settings.
Still, they can only be eaten after being cooked for a very long time to break down the oxalic acid. Other varieties cannot be eaten under any circumstances, and no amount of cooking will make it so.
The leaves of Colocasia esculenta and Xanthosoma sagittifolium are edible when cooked correctly. Still, it is essential to identify these plants accurately before embarking on a potentially sickening and dangerous culinary adventure.
Is It Safe To Grow Elephant Ear In Your Home, Yard, Or Garden?
Even though all parts of all plants going by the common name, Elephant Ear, are toxic, you shouldn’t be terrified of growing them.
As mentioned, the raw vegetation typically tastes terrible. It causes a burning sensation, so it is unlikely that curious kids, pets, and wildlife will consume enough of it to cause any real harm.
To avoid allergic reactions to the sap, just wear protective gear (gloves and protective goggles) when pruning and handling these plants, and wash up thoroughly afterward.
Place your Elephant Ear plants off the beaten path to minimize chances of passersby brushing against them, breaking stems, and coming in contact with the sap.