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Dioscoraceae, Dioscorea mexicana

November 26, 2008

I found this peculiar vine growing on isla Cebaco, off the Pacific coast of Panama. It looks very closely related to Dioscorea elephantipes, but thank you to a reader I think it may be Dioscorea mexicana. As you can see in the photos, it has this very odd knobby, woody, stump. The vine, which you can see better in the second photo, can be seen growing out of the right hand side of the stump. These odd protrusions are reminiscent of a dinosaur. Unfortunately I didn’t get photos of the leaves. I did, however, collect a few nodes of the vine itself (in addition to the stump) and am expecting it to sprout back soon, as it appears to be a fairly resilient plant. .


5 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    December 25, 2008 10:08:47 am

    Hi, could this be one of those yams (Dioscorea). I know of one that looks like the one in your photo. It is D. elephantipes, which has a woody base just like the one ou featured.

  2. carla permalink
    January 17, 2009 10:08:25 am


    I have a similar woody stump, with vines, growing in my yard in Volcán. I acquired it from a backyard in Hato Chamí in the Ngobe-Buglé Comarca.

    The people said that it is mostly a weedy plant with somewhat annoying thorns. However, the flesh in the stump can be pounded and thrown in a stream to stun fish for easy picking. Any unharvested fish recover.

    They also told me that it is deciduous if it doesn’t get water, but can maintain its greenery in favorable conditions. The fellow then proceeded to pry the thing out of the hard ground with a stick, breaking the few roots it had. Once planted at home, the first sprouts came with the first rains.

    I didn’t know this was Dioscorea until seeing your photos. Thanks!

    D. elephantipes is not listed as occurring in Panama in the Catálogo de Plantas Vasculares de Panamá; D. mexicana occurs throughout the country from sea level to 2000 m.


  3. June 16, 2012 10:08:33 pm

    we grew 5 Dioscorea elephantipes from seed and they are 2 years old now and developing nice caudex’s. I wonder what the foliage would look like on your variant?

    • June 16, 2012 10:08:30 pm

      It eventually sprouted and grew quite vigorously…I’ll see if I have a leaf photo somewhere.. I’ve never seen the seed, curious what it looks like, and the seedpod… There are a few interesting species. Not native to Tasmania is it? I wonder if it grows from cuttings?

      • June 16, 2012 10:08:07 pm

        No, most certainly not native to Tasmania…we were on an “exotics” bent when we first started horticultural studies 3 1/2 years ago and were always pushing out the boat to try new and more interesting techniques and trying to grow interesting things…not boring natives for us! We grew Pachypodium lamerei; Beaucarnea recurvata; Dioscorea elephantipes and all sorts of cold climate shrubs. We found a nurseryman here who is as passionate about conifers as we are and amassed a small fortune in rare and precious kinds and then we inherited Serendipity Farm and life took a distinct turn to the left! Now we are trying to put into practice everything that we learned but are finding that traditional horticultural studies leave out EVERYTHING that is any good for the earth…sigh… as penniless hippies we can’t just up sticks and head to the hills to learn from guru’s and permaculture masters and have to glean what we can from the net and that is why sites like yours are so precious to us. The seeds were not tiny (if I remember correctly) and we only got 6 seeds and 5 of them grew. They must be quite viable as at that stage we had gone from NO plant experience whatsoever to 6 months of horticultural study and so we were not all that familiar (just incredibly keen lol) with growing from seed…our ethos was “just give it a go!” and Steve has a lovely Sequoia gigantea that he grew at the time that we are going to plant at the front gate as a memorial to horticulture…the persistence of ignorance and the drive to succeed when you have buggery bollocks all money! Heres to third world conditions in a first world country! lol 🙂

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