Material 53

Tacca leontopetaloides


Polynesian arrowroot grows wild in coastal forests throughout much of the tropics from Africa to Australia; its status in Polynesia is uncertain and it might be one of the canoe plants introduced by the first settlers. The tubers would have been easy to transplant by canoe. It is a member of the yam family growing to 1 metre in height, with deeply-lobed leaves. The tubers are rich in starch, but contain poison which was removed by grating the tubers and repeatedly rinsing with water. The starch was also used to glue sheets of barkcloth together, in Tonga, Samoa, the Society Islands and perhaps elsewhere.


Colour photograph showing plant specimens of Tacca leontopetaloides - Polynesian arrowroot. (© Mark Nesbitt)
Tacca leontopetaloides – Polynesian arrowroot. (© Mark Nesbitt)


Common Names

Polynesian arrowroot; Niue, Society Islands, Cook Islands, Hawai‘i: pia; Fiji: yabia; Tonga, ‘Uvea: māhoaʽa; Samoa, Tuvalu: māsoā



Part Used


Colour Notes



Entry created on 28 August 2020