Dioscorea elephantipes (elephant's foot or Hottentot bread; syn. Testudinaria elephantipes), is a species of flowering plant in the genus Dioscorea of the family Dioscoreaceae, native to south west South Africa, but also rediscovered in Northern Cape Province by an expedition collecting seeds for the Millenium Seed Bank Project. It is a deciduous climber. It takes the name "elephant's foot" from the appearance of its large, partially buried, tuberous stem, which grows very slowly but often reaches a considerable size, often more than 3 m (10 ft) in circumference with a height of nearly 1 m (3 ft 3 in) above ground. It is rich in starch, whence the name Hottentot bread, and is covered on the outside with thick, hard, corky plates. It requires significant processing before being eaten to remove toxic compounds. Primarily a winter grower, it develops slender, leafy, climbing shoots with dark-spotted, greenish-yellow flowers in winter (May or June in habitat) The flowers are dioecious, with male or female flowers occurring on separate plants.
In cultivation in temperate areas, D. elephantipes can tolerate temperatures to -4°C in habitat. It was granted the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 2002.
The large tuberous stem of Dioscorea elephantipes at the botanical garden of Villa Durazzo-Pallavicini, Genova Pegli.
- "Dioscorea elephantipes (L'Her.) Engl.". April 2005.
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