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Tapioca Plant

July 2005

QuestionCould you please identify the plant in the attached photo? I dug it up several years ago from an old house place in Georgia when we lived there. The fruit turns a light color and is about the size of a fifty cent coin. The main trunk will get about fifteen to twenty feet tall if I keep the suckers trimmed. The overall shape is like an umbrella and very eye-catching when it gets some size on it by mid summer. It dies back to the ground each winter, but sprouts back from the roots. The woody parts are hollow.


AnswerThe plant in question is commonly called a tapioca plant. Since your plant over winters, I would assume it is Manihot grahamii or the hardy tapioca. The edible tropical plant is Manihot esculenta, but would not over winter north of zone 9. Other common names for this plant are cassava. M. esculenta is grown for its enlarged starch-filled tuberous roots. This woody perennial can grow quite large in one season, even though it does die back to the ground each year. It has a very tropical feel to it. The plant does well in sun to partial shade. There is a variegated foliage one that is quite nice, but would not be winter hardy.

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