Family: Euphorbiaceae

These shrubs and trees, mostly from tropical America, are grown quite widely as ornamentals in many tropical climates, but in most of the US would need to be grown as young foliage plants under glass. In some parts of the world, several species, most notably M. esculenta, are grown commercially for the starch from their roots, used to produce the grain, tapioca. Some species, however, are poisonous. All species are monoecious, and all produce a milky sap. The alternate leaves are usually palm-shaped and deeply divided. The flowers have no petals and are borne in axillary clusters.


M. dulcis, sweet cassava, is a shrub which has fiddle-shaped leaves and sweet, tuberous, edible roots.

M. esculenta, cassava, manioc tapioca, is a shrub, reaching to 3 m (10 ft), grown primarily for its commercial uses. It has soft, pithy stems and large, leaves, deeply divided into narrow, finger-like segments. Its roots contain a large amount of poisonous prussic acid, but this is destroyed by the cooking process. M. dulcis contains very little prussic acid.


Grow in a warm greenhouse or conservatory in a large pot or tub of sandy, soil-based potting compost. Ensure good light but shade from direct sun. Propagate from cuttings or by division.


Zone 10 and above.

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Mangosteen      Maranta