calathea the common and generic name for certain plants of the W. Indies and S. America which have small, round tubers resembling new potatoes. These were cultivated in the Caribbean islands and Peru before the arrival of Europeans. Calathea allouia is still cultivated on a small scale, mainly in Puerto Rico. Two other species, C. macrosepala and C. violacea, have flowers which are cooked and eaten by some C. American Indians. The former may be called chufl.
Calathea roots, sometimes called ‘sweet corn roots’, have an agreeable flavour, free of the bitterness and toxins which afflict many tropical roots. A starch extracted from them is used to produce ‘Guinea arrowroot’.