Botanical Survey of India | Flora of India

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Manihot esculenta Crantz, Inst. Rei Herb. 1: 167. 1766. Jatropha manihot L., Sp. Pl. 1007. 1753. Manihot utilissima Pohl, Pl. Bras. Icon. Descr. 1: 55 1827, nom. superfl.; Müll.Arg. in DC., Prodr. 15 (2): 1064. 1866; Hook.f., Fl. Brit. India 5: 239. 1887.

Eng.: Brazilian Arrowroot, Cassava, Manioc, Tapioca; Hindi: Malayala-alu (in Andamans); Kh.: Phan-kah; Kon.: Portugalem-chinem; Mal.: Kappa, Kolli-kizhangu, Poola-kizhangu, Marachini; Nep.: Dori, Simal-tarul; Tam.: Aalvalli-kizhangu, Maravalli-kizhangu, Kappakizhangu.

Shrubs, 1 - 3 (- 7) m high, entirely glabrous. Leaves epeltate or subpeltate for up to 3 mm from the margin, deeply palmately 3 - 9-partite to near the base, the uppermost sometimes entire, rounded at base, 5 - 20 cm across; lobes elliptic, oblong-obovate or elliptic-oblanceolate or panduriform, caudate-acuminate or acute at apex, entire along margins, (3 -) 8 - 17 x 1 - 6 cm, chartaceous, puberulous on main nerves; lateral nerves 5 - 18 pairs; petioles 6 - 35 cm long; stipules entire, triangular to lanceolate or with 1 - 2 lobes, 5 - 7 mm long. Inflorescences terminal and pseudo-axillary, laxly paniculate or branched cymes, 5 - 15 cm long; bracts caducous. Male flowers: pedicels 4 - 7 mm long; calyx 7 - 10 mm long, campanulate, 5-lobed up to the middle; disc central, glabrous; stamens 10, free; filaments white. Female flowers: pedicels 1 - 2 cm long; calyx as in male, up to 12 mm long; disc pulviniform; ovary with 6 longitudinal ridges, 3-locular; stigmas warty, lobed. Fruits globose or ellipsoid, 3-lobed or 3-winged when young, later smooth, 2 - 3 cm in diam., muricate-rugulose, on 1 - 2.5 cm long pedicels.

Fl. July - Dec.; Fr. Sept. - March.

India: Cultivated near villages and in farms, rarely seen as an escape in wastelands near villages, up to 1700 m altitude. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Native of tropical NE. Brazil, now widely cultivated in tropical regions of Old World.

Uses. The tuberous roots are rich in starch, but poor in protein. Two forms are cultivated, Sweet Cassava and Bitter Cassava, the later containing Prussic acid and is poisonous when eaten raw, but edible after boiling and decanting the water. The tubers are exploited commercially to make starch, sago and flour. It forms one of the staple foods for many in Kerala. Plants with variegated leaves are often cultivated as ornamental garden plant.

Notes. Chromosome number: 2n = 36 (Darlington & Wylie, Chromosome Atlas Fl. Pl. 129. 1955). Abraham (Proc. Indian Sci. Congr. Assoc. 3: 73. 1944) reports natural and artificial polyploids.

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