Canna edulis is a perennial plant that can grow up to 3 feet tall and produces beautiful red flowers. Canna edulis is native to South America, Central America, the West Indies, Mexico, and the southern United States. The species has also been naturalized in most of Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Canna edulis is also known as Indian shot, African arrowroot, Edible Canna, Purple arrowroot, and Sierra Leone arrowroot. Canna edulis is also believed to be a synonym for Canna indica.
Canna edulis is the only edible species of Canna and has been cultivated as a food source for thousands of years. Although Edible Canna is mostly cultivated for ornamental purposes now, the rhizomes of the plant are still commonly consumed in Southeast Asia. The starch from the roots is also sometimes commercially marketed as “arrowroot”.
The small rounds seeds of Canna edulis are very dense and hard. In fact, Canna edulis seeds can be shot through a piece of wood and still survive to germinate. During the 19th century the seeds were used by soldiers when they ran out of bullets. The seeds are also used as beads in the creation of jewelry. Canna edulis seeds are also used as a component in the musical instruments Kayamb and the Zimbabwean Hosho.