Dioscorea strydomiana

Dioscorea strydomiana is a striking yam species from South Africa described recently by collaborating researchers in South Africa and at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.

It is unusual because its stems do not climb and it has very large above-ground perennial tubers.

There are only 2 populations of about 200 individual plants known in the wild.

This species is regarded locally as a cancer cure, and is consequently under threat from over-collection by medicinal plant collectors who remove parts of the tubers.

Like almost all yams it is dioecious and has:

  • a swollen petiole base and apex
  • parallel leaf veins which diverge at the blade base and converge towards its apex

Dioscorea strydomiana was named after the late Gerhard Strydom, who, with Johan Hurter, played a significant role in the discovery of this species when he worked for the Mpumalanga Parks Board.

Taxonomy

Dioscorea strydomiana is closely related to the elephant’s foot yam Dioscorea elephantipes (L’Hér.) Engl. and Dioscorea sylvatica Ecklon, also from South and southern Africa respectively.

Both species are cultivated by succulent plant enthusiasts for their large caudiciform tubers. They differ in both floral and vegetative morphology from Dioscorea strydomiana.

Species detail

  • Dioscorea strydomiana
    Distribution

    Dioscorea strydomiana is endemic to Mpumalanga in South Africa. Discover which plants it is associated with.

  • Dioscorea strydomiana
    Conservation

    There may be as few as 200 Dioscorea strydomiana yams remaining in the wild. Find out what threatens this species and how conservation efforts can help protect it.

Images

Dioscorea strydomiana

Adult plant of Dioscorea strydomiana showing the tuber and shoot habit, with a member of the conservation survey team, Linda Loffler.

© John Burrows
Dioscorea strydomiana

Dioscorea strydomiana male flowers in axillary racemes and leaves, showing their shape and habit.

© John Burrows
Dioscorea strydomiana

Dioscorea strydomiana female inflorescences and flowers.

© John Burrows
Dioscorea strydomiana

Tuber of a young plant of Dioscorea strydomiana showing the structure of its outer layer.

© John Burrows
Author

Paul Wilkin
Team leader, Lilioid and Alismatid Monocots
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and PI, eMonocot

A word from the author

"Dioscorea strydomiana is the most exciting, unusual and threatened new yam species to be discovered for many years."

You can read more about this species in the journal Kew Bulletin: A critically endangered new species of yam (Dioscorea strydomiana Wilkin, Dioscoreaceae) from Mpumalanga, South Africa.

eMonocot logo

This information was provided by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in co-ordination with the e-Monocot project.

Natural Environment Research Council-funded initiative to create a global online resource for monocot plants.

Share this
Glossary
Caudiciform

A form of plant with a thickened base.

Dioecious

In plant populations, this refers to individual plants being either male or female.