Family: Dioscoreaceae
Habitat: Tropical Areas of America, Africa, Asia (Central China and Japan)
Cultivation: It is a plant that does not need great care: rare watering and poor fertilization. Pay attention to the variety you have bought because some have the vegetative rest period in summer rather than in winter as the majority of plants in our latitudes.
Curiosity: With the term Dioscorea it is indicated either the plant and the tuber that it produces and it is used as food by many populations of tropical areas. Other names with which these tubers are known are either igname or yam.


In this rubric we often talk of plants that are sought for  the beauty of their flowers, colors or for decorative shapes. In the case of the Dioscorea genus, however, we find a series of plants that are traditionally cultivated for food use in many areas of the planet and in recent years for medical and herbal use. The succulent lover can, appreciate them especially for the peculiarity of their forms as well as for botanical curiosity. They are herbaceous plants with thin, creeping branches which twist themselves to what they find around. They can thus reach heights up to 5 meters. In nature they are spread in dry climates, often on rocky ground. The diffusion area is very wide, practically it can be found throughout the tropical and subtropical area of the globe: for this reason there are many varieties.

The leaves are heart-shaped and with deep ribs, of green color. Flowers are of little aesthetic interest, being mostly small, with little flashy colors ranging from white to green to pale yellow. They are dioecious plants: on the same plant, there will be either only female flowers or masculine flowers. The plant is born from a tuberous rhizome rich in starch and very nourishing, which today is widely used in herbal medicine because it has a high content of phytoestrogens.( Some varieties are also used as laxatives, for treating rheumatism and other disorders).


As already written, the widespread diffusion has resulted in the development of many varieties (which we hereby report either with the scientific name and with the common name). The Dioscorea genus includes over 600 species including:

  • Dioscorea alata or big igname
  • D. batatas or igname of China
  • D. bulbifera or igname blubifera
  • D. cayenensis oryellow igname of guinea
  • D. communis ro tàmaro
  • D. convolvulacea or  climbing igname
  • D. dumetorum or wild igname
  • D. esculenta or little igname
  • D. hispida or igname with thorns
  • D. japonica or igname of Japan
  • D. nummularia or igname aplatie
  • D. oppositifolia or igname khmer
  • D. pentaphylla or red igname 
  • D. rotundata or white igname of Guinea, mainly cultivated
  • D. trifida or dressed igname 
  • D. villosa

In our shop you will find several specimens of Dioscorea selvatica: originally from the African continent, it tolerates altitudes up to 1,800 mt and has a rhizome that protrudes over the soil, with woody consistency and with various forms. For this feature is called “Elephant’s Foot Yam”, or the yam with  elephant foot.


It is not difficult to cultivate a Dioscorea in the house: they are highly adaptable plants. However, consider that some varieties are in vegetative rest in  summer, so in the beautiful season the cares must be reduced. Let’s see together the main ones. Most Dioscoree asks for exposure in full sunlight. The ideal is a place where the sun is present for a few hours a day, possibly in the morning. Hardly Dioscorees resist temperatures below zero. it is better to repair them in the house with the first frost. The rhizome works in this plant as an efficient water tank. It is better to limit the watering (no more than once a week) and suspend the watering when the plant goes in the vegetative rest period, in summer or winter depending on the variety. However, the single watering will have to be abundant. If you notice  yellow leaves it means that the plant is getting too much water. If the rhizome appears deflated, it is receiving too little.

This is not a particularly demanding plant. For fertilization, it will be enough to dilute in the water of the watering a minimum fertilizer dose (about 1/4 of the recommended dose) every 15 days in the vegetative period. Choose a draining soil, also rich in inerts (their natural habitat is rocky). Repot  as needed. Usually, for aesthetic reasons, when the plant is repotted,  the rhizome (or caudice) is left outside on the surface. However, it should always be partially buried  and that will help the plant to grow faster and better. The reproduction of Dioscorea is usually by seed. Using cuttings is not recommended either because it is difficult to rot, and because the plants that come from cuttings (generally of branch) are not able to produce rhizomes of interesting size.

Official Web Site:

Italian Blog:

Recommended Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search