Dioscorea elephantipes seeds

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Dioscorea elephantipes
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Dioscorea elephantipes, elephant's food, turtle Back seeds


Dioscorea elephantipes is referred by common names are elephant's food, turtle Back, hottentots’ nBread, Hottentot Bread, Back plant and Turtle shell. The synonyms are Dioscorea elephantutus, Dioscorea Montana, rhizemeys Montana, tamus elephantipes, Testudinari elephantipes and Testudinari Montana. It belongs to family Dioscoreceae and genus Dioscorea.

It originated from the arid land of Cape but has been growing in other places as well. It has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. They are grown indoors. For optimal growth, it needs to be planted in very coarse soils with very good drainage. The plant needs a little amount of water to irrigate; only when there is a presence of green matter. It grows in the shade under thicket vegetation naturally. It is adapted to a wide range of habitats that include weathered rock, stony slopes and bushes. It normally grows in places with extreme temperature of 40 degrees Celsius and above but can tolerate low temperatures of -4 degrees Celsius.

The plant grows slowly during winter and can climb other plants. It has a large stem which is partially buried. Grows to a size of more than 3m in circumference and attain a height of 1m above the ground. It is rich in starch, thus having the name Hottentots’ bread. Have cocky plates on the outside that are thick and hard. It bears slender, leafy and climbing shoots. Bear greenish yellow flowers during winter. The male and female flowers grow in different plants; therefore on need both male and female plants for reproduction. It losses leafs in summer and goes to the dormancy period. The leaves shape like the heart. The plant caudex does not need prolonged exposure of sunlight and needs to be grown in a semi-shaded position. Pollination is carried out by the bees and bumble bees. The seeds are produced from September to October, but before collecting the seed, one need to ensure that the seed capsule is dry.

The Khoisan used it in baking starchy bread which was like a trunk. Before taking it as the food, it needs to be processed to remove toxic compounds. It has been used in the manufacture of contraceptives and cortisone from steroidal saponins extracted from the plant. It has been used for beautification in various homes and places. Like other plants, it has environmental functions and is therefore good for biodiversity. The flowers provide nectar for the pollinators. 

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