Elephant Ear – Poisonous

Q: I have an elephant ear that has shiny, leathery leaves with stalks that are thick and tough. I had a leaf fall over and turn yellow, so I pulled it off. A little while later, my hands and arms started to sting. It felt just like nettles. Do some elephant ears have stingers on them?

A: Yikes – you’ve experienced oxalic acid burn from the sap of the elephant ear! All members of the arum family: spathiphyllum, Jack-in-the-pulpit, caladium, elephant ear, etc. have varying amounts of oxalic acid in their roots, stems and leaves. You may know that in Hawaii elephant ear roots are eaten (poi). Even so, the root must be thoroughly cooked to neutralize the acid before partaking. One of my friends once endured major injury when she cut an elephant ear stem and sap squirted into her eye. Remember your experience and be sure to wear gloves next time.