Dioscorea esculenta (Lour.) Burkill

Last updated: 18 May 2015

Scientific Name

Dioscorea esculenta (Lour.) Burkill


Dioscorea aculeata Roxb. [Illegitimate], Dioscorea fasciculata Roxb., Dioscorea papillaris Blanco, Dioscorea papuana Warb., Dioscorea spinosa Roxb. ex Hook.f. [Illegitimate], Dioscorea tiliifolia Kunth, Dioscorea tugui Blanco, Oncorhiza esculentus (Lour.) Pers., Oncus esculentus Lour. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Ubi torak, kembili, kemarung [2][3]
English Lesser yam, chinese yam, asiatic yam [2], the lesser yam [3][4]
China Tian shu, ci shu yu, you ci gan shu [4]
India Siruvalli kilangu (Tamil); tippa tiga (Telugu) [4]
Indonesia Ubi aung (West Java); ubi gembili (East Java); kombili (Ambon) [2]; gembili, sudo, huwi butul, huwi jahe, huwi kemayung, huwi kemayang, huwi landak, huwi taropong, huwi checker [3]
Thailand Man-musua (Central); man-chuak (Northern) [2][3]
Laos Hwà katha:d, man 'o:nz [2]
Philippines Tongo (Tagalog); aneg (Ibanag); baribaran (Bikol) [2]
Cambodia Dâmlô:ng sya [2]
Vietnam C[ur] t[uwf], khoai t[uwf], t[uwf] gai [2]
Papua New Guinea Mami (Pidgin); taitu (Motu); kalak (Yatmei); diba (Hanuabada)[2]
France Igname des blancs, igname de chine [2] [4]
Germany Chinesischer yam   [4]
Spain Batata de china [4]
Portugal Inhame, inhame-de-são [4]

Geographical Distributions

Dioscorea esculenta is native to Thailand and Indo-China, and may have originated there. It also grows wild in northern India, Burma (Myanmar) and New Guinea, but it is not known whether these are escape from ancient cultivation or real relicts of its natural distribution area. Within Southeast Asia, the main direction of pre-historic spread has been out of the continent of Asia through the Philippines, then south and south-east and ultimately towards the south-west. After 1500, it spread throughout the tropics. [2]

Botanical Description

D. esculenta comes from the family of Dioscoreaceae. It is herbaceous, pubescent, often prickly and climbing annual. [2]

The tubers are 4-20 per plant and thrust downwards from a corm where on the stolons measure 5-50 cm long. The mature tubers are shortly cylindrical, sometimes lobed and measuring 8-20 cm x 2-5 cm. The skin is brown or grey-brown, thin and often rough with indurated bases of rootlets. The flesh is white. [2]

The stem is cylindrical, twining to the left, prickly at the base and less to upwards. The bulbils are absent. [2]

The leaves are arranged alternately, simple, cordate, measuring 10-15 cm x 10-17 cm, acuminate and with 9-13-nerved while the secondary veins are regular but not conspicuously ladder-like. The petiole is 1-1.5 times as long as the blade and often with 2 prominent spines at the base. [2]

The inflorescence is unisexual. The male inflorescence is solitary in distal leaf axils, usually carrying one flower at a time along the axis but up to 70 or more in total while the female inflorescence is on down curved spike-like racemes, solitary from the upper leaf axils and measures up to 40 cm long. [2]

The fruit is a reflexed capsule (very rare) and measuring 27 mm x 12 mm. [2]

The seed is winged all round. [2]

The roots are thorny in wild plants, often thornless in cultivated plants, fibrous and mostly confined to the top 1 m of the soil. [2]


At present, the cultivation of D. esculenta is the most important in Southeast Asia (especially in New Guinea), Oceania, the Caribbean and China. [2]

Chemical Constituent

No documentation

Plant Part Used

No documentation

Traditional Use

No documentation

Preclinical Data

No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of D. esculenta (Lour.) Burkill [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Dioscorea esculenta (Lour.) Burkill[homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2015 May 19]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-240117
  2. Dioscorea esculenta (Lour.) BurkillIn: Flach M, Rumawas F, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 9: Plants yielding non-seed carbohydrates. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher; 1996.
  3. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 1. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR; 2002. p. 273.
  4. Philippine Medicinal Plants. Tugi. Dioscorea esculenta Lour. [homepage on the Internet]. c2014 [updated 2013 Apr; cited 2015 May 18]. Available from: http://www.stuartxchange.com/Tugi.html