1. Family: Dioscoreaceae R.Br.
    1. Genus: Dioscorea Plum. ex L.
      1. Dioscorea wallichii Hook.f.

        Dioscorea wallichii was named by Joseph D. Hooker (1817-1911) in honour of Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), a surgeon and botanist who was involved in the development of the Botanic Garden, Calcutta. The tubers of D. wallichii are edible when boiled and peeled but are buried deep under the soil so they can be hard to extract.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Dioscorea wallichii was named by Joseph D. Hooker (1817-1911) in honour of Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), a surgeon and botanist who was involved in the development of the Botanic Garden, Calcutta. The tubers of D. wallichii are edible when boiled and peeled but are buried deep under the soil so they can be hard to extract.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Dioscorea wallichii is found in India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand and China. It climbs on large shrubs or trees in mixed deciduous forest and evergreen montane forest. It also occurs in disturbed areas along roadsides and edges of cultivated areas.


    Overview: A large, hairless climber that can grow to at least 20 m long. It has one edible, cylindrical tuber (or sometimes one that is used for growth whilst new one is forming) that can be over 1 m long and 3–6 cm wide. The tuber is white when young, becoming yellow and stringy with age.

    Stem and leaves: The right-twining stem is woody and armed with spines at the base, herbaceous above and round in cross-section. Leaves are usually 8–19 x 8–21 cm and are more or less heart-shaped, with 5–7 main veins.

    Flowers: Like almost all yams ( Dioscorea species), D. wallichii has separate male and female plants. The female inflorescences (flowering structures) hang down from the vine, each one containing up to 20 flowers. Male inflorescences are also pendent, and the male flowers are green and about 1 mm long.

    Fruits: Round capsules contain flat, brown seeds, each with a thin, marginal wing.

    Threats and conservation

    Common and widespread within its natural range, Dioscorea wallichii is not considered to be threatened. It appears to be tolerant of some disturbance, judging from the areas where it is found, hence the species is listed as Least Concern.

    As with all edible species, it is desirable to monitor sustainability of use on a local level.

    Conservation assessments carried out at Kew

    Dioscorea wallichii is being monitored as part of the IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants project, which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species.

    This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.


    Tubers of Dioscorea wallichii are consumed on a local scale as a source of carbohydrates. They are eaten by ethnic groups such as the Sakai tribe, who live in the Banthad Range in Peninsular Thailand. They are also eaten by tribes in Orissa, India, during the winter months.

    In other areas of India, D. wallichii has been described more as a famine food used in times of food shortage because the tubers are hard to extract and less desirable than those of other Dioscorea species.

    In India, juice extracted from the tubers is drunk to treat jaundice.

    This species at Kew

    Pressed and dried specimens of Dioscorea wallichii are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world by appointment. The details of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

    China, India, Myanmar, Thailand
    Mixed deciduous and evergreen forest.
    Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.

    None known.



    Found In:

    Assam, Bangladesh, China South-Central, East Himalaya, India, Malaya, Myanmar, Thailand

    Common Names


    Dioscorea wallichii Hook.f. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Sep 1, 1990 McClelland [s.n.], Myanmar K000401022
    Sep 1, 1990 Haines, H.H. [2463], India K000401024
    Sep 1, 1990 Haines, H.H. [5118], India K000401026
    Nov 28, 1989 Hansen, B. [12752], Thailand K000401055
    Dec 1, 1983 Haines, H.H. [695], India K000401033
    Dec 1, 1983 Lace, J.H. [5469], Myanmar K000401035
    Dec 1, 1983 Clarke, C.B. [20369], Jharkhand K000098208 lectotype
    Dec 1, 1983 Gomez, W. [5708], Myanmar K000098209 paratype
    Haines, H.H. [693] K001142676
    s.coll [R 11067] K001142677
    Fernandes, J. [1007], India K001142678
    Haines, H.H. [693], India K000401014
    Haines, H.H. [690], India K000401015
    Haines, H.H. [CN 695 a], India K000401016
    Haines, H.H. [2452], India K000401017
    Haines, H.H. [2432], India K000401018
    s.coll [s.n.] K000401020
    s.coll [s.n.] K000401021
    Gamble, J.S. [[15375]], India K000401023
    Clarke, C.B. [42291 A] K000401025
    Keenan, R.L. [s.n.], India K000401027
    Narayavaswami, V. [611], India K000401028
    s.coll [1441], India K000401029
    Hooker, J.D. [s.n.], Bangladesh K000401030
    Keenan, R.L. [s.n.], India K000401031
    Haines, H.H. [496], India K000401032
    Meebold, A.K. [10900], India K000401034
    Fernandez, J. [1007], India K000401037
    Kerr, A.F.G. [16244], Thailand K000401040
    Wilkin, P. [912], Thailand K000401041
    Wilkin, P. [912], Thailand K000401042
    Wilkin, P. [921], Thailand K000401043
    Wilkin, P. [921], Thailand K000401044
    Wilkin, P. [921], Thailand K000401045
    Wilkin, P. [933], Thailand K000401046
    Wilkin, P. [1070], Thailand K000401047
    Wilkin, P. [1078], Thailand K000401048
    Wilkin, P et al. [1041], Thailand K000401049
    Wilkin, P. [1050], Thailand K000401050
    Wilkin, P. [1050], Thailand K000401051
    Wilkin, P. [1072], Thailand K000401052
    Wilkin, P. [1049], Thailand K000401053
    Wilkin, P. et al. [1026], Thailand K000401054
    Boyce, P.C. [808], Vietnam K000401056
    Boyce, P.C. [808], Vietnam K000401057

    First published in Fl. Brit. India 6: 295 (1892)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2014) Indian Journal of Forestry 37: 317-324
    • [3] (2009) Flora of Thailand 10(1): 1-140. The Forest Herbarium, National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Bangkok
    • [7] (2007) Kew Bulletin 62: 251-258
    • [8] Govaerts, R., Wilkin, P. & Saunders, R.M.K. (2007) World Checklist of Dioscoreales. Yams and their allies . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [11] Govaerts, R. (2000) World Checklist of Seed Plants Database in ACCESS D: 1-30141


    • [2] World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Dioscorea wallichii. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [4] Contu, S. (2009). Dioscorea wallichii. In: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2011.2. < www.iucnredlist.org> (accessed 11 March 2012).
    • [5] Wilkin, P. & Thapyai, C. (2009). Dioscoreaceae. In: Flora of Thailand, ed. T. Santsuk & K. Larsen, pp. 1–140, The Forest Herbarium, Bangkok.
    • [6] Maneenoon, K., Sirirugsa, P. & Sridith, K. (2008). Ethnobotany of Dioscorea L. (Dioscoreaceae), a major food plant of the Sakai Tribe at Banthad Range, Peninsular Thailand. Ethnobotany Research and Applications 6: 385–394.
    • [9] Edison, S. et al. (2006). Biodiversity of Tropical Tuber Crops in India. National Biodiversity Authority, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
    • [10] Sinha, R. & Lakra, V. (2005). Wild tribal food plants of Orissa. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 4: 246–252.
    • [12] Ting, C. & Gilbert, M. G. (2000). Dioscoreaceae. In: Flora of China.
    • [13] Prain, D. & Burkill, I. H. (1938). An account of the genus Dioscorea in the East, Part 2: The species which twine to the right. Annals of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Calcutta 14: 211–528.


    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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