Education - Plants

Arrow Arum LeafArrow Arum (Tuckahoe)
(Peltandra virginica)

Kingdom:  Plantae
Division:  Magnoliophyta
Class:  Liliopsida
Order:  Alismatale
Family:  Araceae
Genus:  Peltandra
Species:  virginica

Characteristics: Arrow arum leaves are arrowhead-shaped and are typically 10 to 12 inches long and 5 to 6 inches wide. The leaf underside is whitish with three prominent veins. Its leaves are clustered on long succulent stalks that can be up to three feet long.

Arrow arum flowers are small and light yellow, on a fingerlike spike. The flower spike is surrounded by a bract, or spathe, that is usually yellowish green. The fruits are primarily dispersed by water, although animals also play a role.

Habitat: It is a plant of still or slow moving waters: ponds, swamps, marshes, and the banks of streams. It grows in areas of extreme light or shade.

Range: Arrow Arum is found throughout the United States except for in the Rocky Mountain states.

Native American Uses: The Arrow Arum rootstalk is rich in starches and was dried and then used to make breads and soups. The root is also rich in starch and likewise required thorough cooking in order to destroy the oxalic acid. Groups that utilized Arrow Arum included the Nanticoke, Powhatans, and the Seminoles.

Colonial Uses: The cooked roots were eaten as a source of starch; however this was not a widespread process due to the difficulty of preparation.

Modern Uses: Tuckahoe is toxic containing calcium oxalate crystals that discourage herbivory. The microscopic crystals cause severe swelling and a horrible burning sensation when they puncture the membranes of the mouth and throat. Swallowing can be fatal. Calcium oxalate can be destroyed by very long cooking or heating and drying.