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Dioscorea elephantipes

Scientific Name:

Dioscorea elephantipes

Common name:

Elephant's Foot, Hottentots' Bread, Hottentot Bread, Turtle Back, Tortoise Back Plant, Turtle Shell




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South Africa

Hardiness Zone:



ABout the PLant

The Dioscorea elephantipes, also known as the Elephant's Foot or the African Yam, is a succulent native to Southern Africa. It is an unusual-looking plant with a swollen stem and a mass of aerial roots that give it its distinctive shape. The Elephant's Foot grows up to 1 meter in height and can spread up to 1.5 meters wide. Its stem is covered in a thick, corky bark that helps protect it from the harsh African sun. The stem has a unique texture and coloration, ranging from light green to dark brown with white stripes running along its length. The leaves of the Elephant's Foot are small and oval-shaped, growing up to 5 cm long and 2 cm wide. They are arranged in spirals around the stem and have smooth edges. The leaves are typically green but may be tinged with purple or red depending on the variety of plant. The flowers of the Elephant's Foot are small and yellowish-white in color, appearing in clusters at the end of long stems during late summer or early fall. The flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects, which help ensure successful reproduction for this species. In terms of care requirements, the Elephant's Foot prefers well-draining soil that is slightly acidic (pH 6-7). It needs plenty of sunlight but should be protected from extreme temperatures (both hot and cold). During periods of drought, it should be watered deeply but infrequently; overwatering can lead to root rot so caution should be taken when watering this species. The history of this species goes back centuries; archaeological evidence suggests that it was used as food by ancient cultures living in Southern Africa thousands of years ago. Today, it remains an important part of many traditional diets throughout its native range and is highly valued for its medicinal properties as well as its edible tubers.
The Dioscorea elephantipes succulent is best suited for bright indirect light. It can tolerate some direct sunlight, but should not be placed in a spot that receives full sun all day long. For optimal growth, it should receive medium to low light and be kept out of any direct sun during the hottest part of the day.
The ideal soil for the Dioscorea elephantipes succulent is a well-draining, sandy loam. It should be slightly acidic, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. The soil should also contain plenty of organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, to help retain moisture and provide essential nutrients for the plant's growth. Additionally, it should be kept moist but not soggy to prevent root rot.
The Dioscorea elephantipes succulent requires infrequent watering. Water it only when the soil is completely dry, and then give it a good soak. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. This succulent prefers to be slightly under-watered rather than over-watered.
The ideal humidity conditions for the Dioscorea elephantipes succulent is between 40-50%. This range will ensure that the plant gets enough moisture to thrive, while also not being too wet and leading to root rot.