Common Name: Cassava or Tapioca
Appearance: Shrubs, or herbs with swollen root systems branching at apex of the plant.
Attractive deeply lobed leaves with 5-7 lobes, foliage can be green or variegated.
Flowers: Insignificant flowers.
Features: Milky sap, and starchy roots, which are an important source of food (e.g. cassava, tapioca). If ingested uncooked, roots are an irritant. Growing tips also eaten when steamed.
Requirements: Prefers fertile, sandy soil, roots can rot with too much moisture. Prefers warm climates but becomes deciduous in winter. Best in full sun or light shade. Dislikes strong winds.
Culture: Fertilise regularly if planted for food. Keep well watered. Prune to encourage a better shaped plant. Propagate by cuttings.
Pest & Disease: Scale and mites.
Species & Varieties:
Approximately 160 species. Several of commercial significance.
M. dulcis (Sweet Cassava) -Tuberous, edible roots, contain very little acid.
M. esculenta (Bitter Cassava or Tapioca) -Quick grower to 2.5m, edible but contains high levels of poisonous acid which needs cooking to destroy it and make it safe to eat.
Cultivar 'Variegata' is an ornamental foliage plant form.
M. Glaziovii -A source of 'Ceara rubber'.
For more information on Courses on Horticulture and Plants:
In Australia: http://www.acs.edu.au/Courses/horti.aspx
In the UK: http://www.acsedu.co.uk/Courses/horti.aspx