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Dioscorea mexicana



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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in English:

Barbasco, Colic Root, Elephant Foot, Hottentot-Bread, Mexican Yam, Turtle Shell, Wild Mexican Yam

Common Names in Japanese:

Wairudo Mekishikan Yama

Common Names in Spanish:

Barbasco De Camote, Barbasco De Placa, Cabeza De Negro, Cuculmeca (El Salvador)


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Family Dioscoreaceae

Herbs twining or woody vines , rarely erect , small herbs. Rootstock rhizomatous or tuberous . Stem twining to left or right , pubescent or glabrous , sometimes prickly. Leaves alternate or opposite, petiolate , simple or palmately compound , basal veins 3--13, interstitial veins reticulate; leaflets of palmately compound leaves often ovate or lanceolate. Flowers usually unisexual (when plants dioecious, rarely monoecious), sometimes bisexual , solitary, clustered, or in cymules , these in a spike, raceme , or thyrse , these sometimes grouped into panicles. Male flowers: perianth lobes 6, in 2 whorls, basally connate or free ; stamens 6, sometimes 3 reduced to staminodes or absent, inserted on perianth or receptacle; ovary rudimentary or absent. Female flowers: similar to male ones; staminodes 3, 6, or absent; ovary inferior, 3-loculed, ovules usually 2 per locule (more than 2 in a few small genera), placentation axile ; styles 3, free. Fruit a capsule, berry, or samara. Seeds with a membranous wing or not; endosperm present; embryo small.

About nine genera and 650 species: widely distributed in tropical and temperate regions , especially in tropical America; one genus and 52 species (21 endemic, two introduced ) in China.[1]

Genus Dioscorea

Herbs twining . Rootstock rhizomatous or tuberous , variable in color, shape , chemical constituents, and depth in ground . Bulblets axillary or absent. Leaves alternate or opposite, petiolate , simple or palmately compound , basal veins 3--9. Flowers unisexual (plants dioecious, rarely monoecious), arranged spirally in axillary, usually elongate spikes or racemes , or in small cymules in ± spikelike thyrses , these often several together, sometimes gathered into a terminal or axillary panicle by reduction of subtending leaves. Male flowers: stamens 6, 3 sometimes reduced to staminodes or absent. Female spikes 3.5--10 cm, few flowered. Female flowers: staminodes 3, 6, or absent. Capsule 3-winged, dehiscent apically at maturity. Seeds with a membranous wing .

More than 600 species: widely distributed in tropical and temperate regions ; 52 species (21 endemic, two introduced ) in China.

Dioscorea is a genus of great economic value, including important food plants. Several species are widely cultivated in many cultivars (including Dioscorea alata D. esculenta D. japonica and D. polystachya), while other, wild species are valuable famine foods. Other species are sources of drugs both in traditional Chinese and Western medicine (notably D. nipponica and D. zingiberensis which are major sources of steroid precursors) .[2]

Physical Description


Size: 10-12' tall.


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Culture: Space 12-15" apart.

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade.

Moisture: Drought Tolerance: High

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11. (map)


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Publishing author : Scheidw. Publication : Hort. Belge iv . 99 (1837).

Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 21-Jun-2005

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Dioscorea

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 47 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

D. alata (Purple Yam) · D. altissima (Dunguey) · D. bulbifera (Aerial Yam) · D. bulbifera var. bulbifera (Air Potato) · D. cayenensis (Yellow Guinea Yam) · D. cayennensis (Yellow Guinea Yam) · D. cirrhosa (Dyeing Yam (Philippines)) · D. communis (Lady´s-Seal) · D. composita (Yam) · D. convolvulacea (Yam) · D. cylindrica (Wild Yam) · D. deltoidea (Wild Yam) · D. discolor (Ornamental Yam) · D. dumetorum (Bitter Yam) · D. elephantipes (Elephants Foot) · D. esculenta (Chinese Yam) · D. floribunda (Yam) · D. floridana (Florida Yam) · D. glabra (Chinese Yam) · D. hemicrypta (Dioscorea) · D. hispida (Intoxicating Yam) · D. japonica (Glutinous Yam) · D. kamoonensis (Kamoon Yam) · D. macrostachya (Yam) · D. macrostachys (Elephants Foot) · D. mexicana (Barbasco) · D. nummularia (Yam) · D. oppositifolia (Chinese Wild Yam) · D. pentaphylla (Five-Leaf Yam) · D. pilosiuscula (Bulbous Yam) · D. polygonoides (Mata Gallina) · D. praehensilis (Bush Yam) · D. prazeri (Wild Yam) · D. preussii (Preuss' Dioscorea) · D. purpurea (Podicherry Sweet Potato) · D. quaternata (Fourleaf Wild-Yam) · D. rotundata (Guinea Yam) · D. sagittata (Five-Leaved Yam) · D. sagittifolia (Wild Congo Yam) · D. sansibarensis (Zanzibar Yam) · D. septemloba (Seven-Lobed Yam) · D. spiculiflora (Yam) · D. sylvatica (Wild Yam) · D. tokoro (Mountain Yam) · D. tomentosa (Thorny Yam) · D. trifida (Indian Yam) · D. villosa (Colic Root)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 22, 2007:



  1. Chih-chi Ting & Michael G. Gilbert "Dioscoreaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 24 Page 276. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. "Dioscorea". in Flora of China Vol. 24 Page 276. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
Last Revised: 2014-05-07