Food Plants International - Plant Fact Sheets Dioscorea alata - Greater Yam
Edible Portion: Tubers, Root, Vegetable, Bulbils
A yam with a long angular vine. It can climb 15 m high. The stems are square and twine to the right around support sticks. The stem does not have spines. It is often coloured green or purple. The leaves are heart shaped and borne in pairs along the vine. The leaves vary is shape, size and colour with different varieties. Leaves can be 10-30 cm long by 5-20 cm wide. The leaf stalk is 6-12 cm long. The flowers occur in the axils of the upper leaves. The male flowers are in small heads along branched stalks. These can be 25 cm long and green. The female flowers are in shorter spikes. Many cultivated varieties do not produce fertile seed. The fruit are 3-winged and 2.5 cm long by 3.5 cm wide. The seeds when they occur have wings right around them. One large but often irregular shaped tuber occurs under the ground. A very large number of different varieties occur. The tubers can vary in shape, size, colour, texture and other ways. Some varieties produce bulbils along the vine. Plants can vary in number of chromosomes.