Dioscorea bulbifera (L.) L.

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Dioscorea bulbifera

Photo: Jos Stevens
Ferme Randu, southwest Katanga Province, DRC

Dioscorea bulbifera

Photo: Jos Stevens
Ferme Randu, southwest Katanga Province, DRC

Dioscorea bulbifera

Photo: Jos Stevens
Ferme Randu, southwest Katanga Province, DRC

Dioscorea bulbifera

Photo: Jos Stevens
Ferme Randu, southwest Katanga Province, DRC

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Synonyms: Dioscorea anthropophagorum A. Chev.
Dioscorea latifolia Benth.
Dioscorea sativa sensu Baker
Helmia bulbifera (L.) Kunth
Common names: Air potato (English) Air yam (English) Bitter yam (English) Cheeky yam (English) Potato yam (English)
Status: Native
Hairless climber with left-twining, unarmed stems, growing from an irregularly ovoid to subglobose, perennial tuber, sometimes absent. Bulbils usually present in axils, 0.6 - 3 cm in diameter and subglobose to ovoid in non-cultivated forms, flattened, angular and to 10 cm long in the cultivated forms, grey-brown to purplish-brown, verrucate. Leaves alternate, entire, apex acuminate, up to 3 cm long but never thickened, flanges often present at petiole base as a pair of membranous projections which clasp stem, to c. 5 mm in diameter, usually pale green, sometimes translucent. Male inflorescences simple or compound, flowers sessile, turned toward inflorescence apex in both genders; tepals sub-erect at anthesis, pale green in bud; male flowers on opening and at anthesis pale pink, turning maroon-purple. Capsule oblong to oblong-elliptic in outline, 1.5 - 2.5 cm long, apex not triangularly acute but rounded to subtruncate.
Notes: Vegetatively very similar to D. asteriscus but easily distinguished by the male flowers which are sessile and pointing towards the apex of the inflorescence in this species while shortly pedicellate and pointing outwards in D. asteriscus.
Derivation of specific name:
Habitat: In various types of forest and woodland, including mopane.
Flowering time:Feb - Mar
Worldwide distribution: Widespread in tropical Africa and Asia. Also sometimes cultivated.
Botswana distribution:
Growth form(s):
Endemic status:
Red data list status:
Insects associated with this species:
Spot characters: Display spot characters for this species

Mapaura, A. & Timberlake, J. (eds) (2004). A checklist of Zimbabwean vascular plants Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 33 Sabonet, Pretoria and Harare Page 90.

Milne-Redhead, E. (1975). Dioscoreaceae Flora of Tropical East Africa Pages 9 - 10.

Strugnell, A.M. (2006). A Checklist of the Spermatophytes of Mount Mulanje, Malawi Scripta Botanica Belgica 34 National Botanic Garden of Belgium Page 79.

White, F., Dowsett-Lemaire, F. & Chapman, J.D. (2001). Evergreen forest flora of Malawi Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Page 96. (Includes a picture).

Wilkin, P. (2001). Dioscoreaceae of South-Central Africa Kew Bulletin 56(2) Pages 379 - 381.

Wilkin, P. (2009). Dioscoreaceae Flora Zambesiaca 12(2) Pages 119 - 120.

Other sources of information about Dioscorea bulbifera:

Our websites:

Flora of Caprivi: Dioscorea bulbifera
Flora of Caprivi: cultivated Dioscorea bulbifera
Flora of Malawi: Dioscorea bulbifera
Flora of Mozambique: Dioscorea bulbifera
Flora of Zambia: Dioscorea bulbifera
Flora of Zimbabwe: Dioscorea bulbifera
Flora of Zimbabwe: cultivated Dioscorea bulbifera

External websites:

African Plants: A Photo Guide (Senckenberg): Dioscorea bulbifera
BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library): Dioscorea bulbifera
EOL (Encyclopedia of Life): Dioscorea bulbifera
GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility): Dioscorea bulbifera
Google: Web - Images - Scholar
iNaturalist: Dioscorea bulbifera
IPNI (International Plant Names Index): Dioscorea bulbifera
JSTOR Plant Science: Dioscorea bulbifera
Mansfeld World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops: Dioscorea bulbifera
Plants of the World Online: Dioscorea bulbifera
Tropicos: Dioscorea bulbifera
Wikipedia: Dioscorea bulbifera

Copyright: Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten, Petra Ballings and Meg Coates Palgrave, 2014-24

Hyde, M.A., Wursten, B.T., Ballings, P. & Coates Palgrave, M. (2024). Flora of Botswana: Species information: Dioscorea bulbifera.
https://www.botswanaflora.com/speciesdata/species.php?species_id=115380, retrieved 20 July 2024

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