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Taxon: Dioscorea alata L.

Genus: Dioscorea
Family: Dioscoreaceae
Nomen number: 14175
Place of publication: Sp. pl. 2:1033. 1753
Typification: View record from Linnaean Plant Name Typification Project of the Natural History Museum of London.
Name verified on: 12-May-1995 by ARS Systematic Botanists. Last updated: 09-May-2011
Species priority site is: Natl. Germplasm Repository - Miami (MIA).


A declared aquatic or terrestrial noxious weed and/or noxious-weed seed in these U.S. states (see state noxious weed lists), with links to state information or web documents:
ªAquatic. *Terrestrial. °In seed.
noxious weed information from Invaders Database System for northwestern U.S.

Common names:

  • greater yam   (Source: World Econ Pl ) – English
  • Guyana arrowroot   (Source: Pl Book ) – English
  • ten-months yam   (Source: Dict Econ Pl ) – English
  • water yam   (Source: Hortus 3 ) – English
  • white yam   (Source: Hortus 3 ) – English
  • winged yam   (Source: Websters Dict ) – English
  • yam   (Source: World Econ Pl ) – English
  • grande igname   (Source: Dict Rehm ) – French
  • igname ailée   (Source: Dict Rehm ) – French
  • igname de Chine   (Source: Pl Res SEAs 9:90.) – French
  • geflügelter Yam   (Source: Dict Rehm ) – German
  • wasser Yamswurzel   (Source: Zander ed17 ) – German
  • inhame   (Source: D. Groth, p.c. 2005) – Portuguese (Brazil)
  • ñame blanco   (Source: Dict Rehm ) – Spanish
  • ñame de agua   (Source: Dict Econ Pl ) – Spanish
  • tabena   (Source: Dict Rehm ) – Spanish
  • storjams   (Source: Vara kulturvaxt namn ) – Swedish

Economic importance:


Distributional range:

    Eastern Asia: Taiwan
    Indian Subcontinent: India; Nepal
    Indo-China: Myanmar; Thailand; Vietnam
    Malesia: Borneo; Indonesia - Celebes, Java, Lesser Sunda Islands, Sumatra; Malaysia; New Guinea; Philippines

      Naturalized: (links to other web resources are provided for some distributions)
    Northeast Tropical Africa: Ethiopia
    East Tropical Africa: Tanzania
    West-Central Tropical Africa: Cameroon; Central African Republic; Gabon; Rwanda; Zaire
    West Tropical Africa: Benin; Mali; Togo
    South Tropical Africa: Angola; Malawi; Mozambique; Zambia
    Western Indian Ocean: Comoros; Madagascar; Seychelles
    China: China
    Australia: Australia
    Southeastern U.S.A.: United States - Florida, Georgia
    Northwestern Pacific: Micronesia
    South-Central Pacific: French Polynesia - Society Islands; Pitcairn
    Southwestern Pacific: Fiji; Niue; Samoa; Tonga
    Caribbean: Dominican Republic; Jamaica; Puerto Rico; Trinidad and Tobago
    Mesoamerica: Belize; Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Nicaragua; Panama
    Northern South America: French Guiana; Guyana; Suriname; Venezuela
    Brazil: Brazil
    Western South America: Colombia; Peru

  • widely cultivated in paleotropics


  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. et al. 1996. Flora of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 78:1-581.
  • Aldén, B., S. Ryman & M. Hjertson. 2009. Våra kulturväxters namn - ursprung och användning. Formas, Stockholm (Handbook on Swedish cultivated and utility plants, their names and origin).
  • Arnau, G. et al. 2009. Revision of ploidy status of Dioscorea alata L. (Dioscoreaceae) by cytogenetic and microsatellite segregation analysis. Theor. Appl. Genet. 118:1239–1249. [it found evidence for diploid (2n=40), and polyploid Dioscorea alata; this study questioned the allotetraploid origin of D. alata].
  • Bhattacharjee, R. et al. 2011. Chapter 4. Dioscorea. Pp. 71–96 in: Kole, C., ed., Wild crop relatives: genomic and breeding resources, industrial crops.
  • Burkill, H. M. 1985. The useful plants of west tropical Africa. 1:655–657.
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences. 1959–. Flora reipublicae popularis sinicae.
  • Dassanayake, M. D. & F. R. Fosberg, eds. 1980–. A revised handbook to the flora of Ceylon.
  • Egesi, C. N. et al. 2002. Ploidy analysis in water yam, Dioscorea alata L. germplasm. Euphytica 128:225–230.
  • Erhardt, W. et al. 2002. Zander: Handwörterbuch der Pflanzennamen, 17. Auflage.
  • FNA Editorial Committee. 1993–. Flora of North America.
  • Flach, M. & F. Rumawas, eds. 1996. Plants yielding non-seed carbohydrates. In: Faridah Hanum, I. & L. J. G. van der Maesen, eds., Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA). 9:90.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 2010. Ecocrop (on-line resource).
  • George, A. S., ed. 1980–. Flora of Australia.
  • Govaerts, R. et al. 2007. World checklist of Dioscoreales: yams and their allies.
  • Grierson, A. J. C. & D. J. Long. 1984–. Flora of Bhutan including a record of plants from Sikkim.
  • Groth, D. 2005. pers. comm. [re. Brazilian common names].
  • Hara, H. et al. 1978–1982. An enumeration of the flowering plants of Nepal.
  • Howard, R. 1979. Flora of the lesser Antilles. 3:506.
  • Hsu, K.-M. et al. 2013. Molecular phylogeny of Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae) in East and Southeast Asia. Blumea 58:21–27.
  • Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. 1976. Hortus third.
  • Mabberley, D. J. 1997. The plant-book: a portable dictionary of the vascular plants, ed. 2.
  • Malapa, R. et al. 2005. Genetic diversity of the greater yam (Dioscorea alata L.) and relatedness to D. nummularia Lam. and D. transversa Br. as revealed with AFLP markers. Genet. Resources Crop Evol. 52:919–929.
  • Markle, G. M. et al., eds. 1998. Food and feed crops of the United States, ed. 2.
  • McGuffin, M., J. T. Kartesz, A. Y. Leung, & A. O. Tucker. 2000. Herbs of commerce, ed. 2.
  • Nemorin, A. et al. 2012. Inheritance pattern of tetraploid Dioscorea alata and evidence of double reduction using microsatellite marker segregation analysis. Molec. Breed. 30:1657–1667. [it finds evidence for autoplyploidization in the origin of polyploid, cultivated Dioscorea alata].
  • Nemorin, A. et al. 2013. Microsatellite and flow cytometry analysis to help understand the origin of Dioscorea alata polyploids. Ann. Bot. (Oxford) 112:811–819. [this study found an inheritance pattern that supports autotetraploidy; it also proposed that the origin of Dioscorea alata autotetraploids could occur through unreduced gametes resulting in intermediate triploids].
  • Nkounkou, J. S. 1993. La section Enantiophyllum Uline du genre Dioscorea L. en Afrique Centrale. Belgian J. Bot. 126:45–70.
  • Porcher, M. H. et al. Searchable World Wide Web Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database (MMPND) (on-line resource).
  • Rehm, S. 1994. Multilingual dictionary of agronomic plants.
  • Steenis, C. G. G. J. van, ed. 1951. Flora malesiana. ser. 1, 4:330–331.
  • Steyermark, J. A. et al., eds. 1995–. Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana.
  • Uphof, J. C. T. 1968. Dictionary of economic plants, ed. 2.
  • Weber, E. 2003. Invasive plant species of the world: a reference guide to environmental weeds.
  • Wilkin, P. 2001. Dioscoreaceae of south-central Africa. Kew Bull. 56:374.
  • Webster's third new international dictionary.


Check other web resources for Dioscorea alata L.:

  • Flora of North America: Collaborative Floristic Effort of North American Botanists
  • PLANTS: USDA-NRCS Database of Plants of the United States and its Territories
  • BONAP: North American Plant Atlas of the Biota of North America Program
  • AVH: Australia's Virtual Herbarium
  • ABRS: Australian Biological Resources Study Flora of Australia online
  • TROPICOS: Nomenclatural and Specimen Database of the Missouri Botanical Garden
  • Mansfeld: Mansfeld's World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops
  • ePIC: Electronic Plant Information Centre of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • AGRICOLA: Article Citation Database or NAL Catalog of USDA's National Agricultural Library
  • Entrez: NCBI's search engine for PubMed citations, GenBank sequences, etc.


  • Check for additional images
  • Google Images Images Note: Be advised that their identity may be inaccurate. Proper identification of a plant may require specialized taxonomic knowledge or comparison with properly documented herbarium material.

Abbreviations & symbols in GRIN Taxonomy

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Cite as:
USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program.
Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database].
National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland.
URL: (13 October 2015)

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