Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: White Yam, Winged Yam
Dioscorea alata

Family: Dioscoreaceae
Genus: Dioscorea (dy-oh-SKOR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: alata (a-LAY-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Dioscorea rubella

7 members have or want this plant for trade.

Vines and Climbers

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

12-15 in. (30-38 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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to view:

By Michaelp
Thumbnail #1 of Dioscorea alata by Michaelp

By Michaelp
Thumbnail #2 of Dioscorea alata by Michaelp

By Michaelp
Thumbnail #3 of Dioscorea alata by Michaelp

By Michaelp
Thumbnail #4 of Dioscorea alata by Michaelp

By Michaelp
Thumbnail #5 of Dioscorea alata by Michaelp

By Michaelp
Thumbnail #6 of Dioscorea alata by Michaelp


2 positives
No neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Campfiredan On Mar 9, 2007, Campfiredan from Alachua, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

Tastes great. Grows wild in North Florida (too wild for some, it is considered invasive here). I just dig up the large tubers from where it grows wild and peel, cube, and boil them like monster potatoes. Mashed with butter they taste exactly like the real thing. Eat the invaders! Can be quite difficult to dig if it is growing in tree roots - look for it growing on the side of a ditch where it is likely to be more shallowly rooted.

Don't get it confused with D. bulbifera (aka "Air Potato") which grows in the same wild habitats. That one is quite bitter and the bitterness is so hard to remove it isn't worth the work. The edible D. alata has dark brown banana-shaped aerial bulbils (when it has them) while the inedible D. bulbifera has tan round ones that look like potatoes.

Since it is listed as invasive, if you cultivate D. alata I suppose you should grow it in a container on a trellis over landscape fabric - then burn the vines and roots and be very careful where you put the ashes :-) -or try to find one of the variants that do not produce the aerial bulbils. On the other hand D. trifida is not listed as invasive and may be the better choice for Floridians.

Negative jnana On May 18, 2005, jnana from South Florida, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

Winged Yam is considered a highly invasive plant by the FEPPC. It is listed as a Category I of most invasive plants in Florida.

Negative xyris On Aug 18, 2003, xyris from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Very invasive in central Florida. I have dug hundreds of pounds of tubers out from an area that was full of it where I was expanding my garden. The tubers still would sprout after six months of being held on wooden racks above ground level. They couldn't be put in compost as they would have taken that over as well. Finally, it seems I have it under control after three years of working at it. In my area, it can grow over 50 feet in a season, maybe more. I don't recommend it for anywhere south of latitude 29 degrees.

Positive Michaelp On Oct 7, 2002, Michaelp from Glendale, UT (Zone 5a) wrote:

This Plant forms bulbs at the leaf stem base for reproduction/these bulbs will all grow, almost 100% [it produces no viable seed here] /the first year the plant is slow growing .The root must not freeze,so must be mulched to protect it in freezing weather.The tubers can get huge some over 30 lb,as they will get bigger each year .Provide suport for it to climb on.The tubers are very good to eat.They must be cooked to destroy toxins.More food value than potatoes.Also verry filling.
feb/8/04-I just dug up some of the root tubers,
the first year tubers of this species averaged 3lbs.I only dug up one of the 2nd year root tubers and that took me a 1/2 hour the tuber weighed 23 lbs-I have never seen this rapid rate of growth in any species.
Feb/14 /04-I canned some of the 23 lb yam-7 qts and about 1/2 done,I tasted one of the jars of yams,and it is better tasting than Irish Potatoes-although not as sweet as a good red Irish Potato--and I love Potatoes.
I processed them @15 lbs for 90 min -added 1 tsp. salt- filled the jar to 1 inch head space--added water to cover Yams-and every thing seems fine--they are extreemly filling.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Alachua, Florida
Orange Springs, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida

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