Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Dioscorea elephantipes (L’Hérit.) Engl.

Frost-tender, slow-growing, deciduous, climbing perennial with a partially buried, pyramidal, heavily fissured woody tuber, blue-green, heart-shaped leaves and dark-spotted, greenish-yellow flowers in summer.  [RHSE, Hortus]. 


Horticultural & Botanical History

‘From the uncouth massive appearance as well as colour of the rootstock, our plant has acquired at the Cape of Good Hope the appellation of “Elephant’s Foot”; in other respects, it very much resembles the common black Bryony (Tamus communis) of our hedges.  The stem, which is about the thickness of the little finger at the base and twining, requires support, by the help of which we have seen it reach the height of about eight feet.  Found in the neighbourhood of Cape Town by Mr. Masson, by whom it was introduced into the Kew Gardens in 1774, where a male plant bloomed in 1783.’  [BM t.1347/1811].  ‘The finest specimen of this is said to be in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; its age is unknown.’  [Gard. Chron. 1853].  BR f.921/1825. 


History at Camden Park

Listed only in the 1850 catalogue. 



Published Jan 20, 2009 - 05:19 PM | Last updated Sep 30, 2011 - 05:12 PM

The image depicts the swollen tuber, foliage and tiny white to yellow flowers.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.1347, 1811.

Dioscorea elephantipes (L’Hérit.) Engl. | BM t.1347/1811 | BHL


Family Dioscoreaceae
Region of origin

South Africa, Cape district

  • Testudinaria elephantipes Salisb.
  • Tamus elephantipes L’Hérit. 


Common Name

Elephant’s foot, Hottentot bread

Name in the Camden Park Record

Testudinaria elephantipes 


Confidence level high