Wild Yam

Scientific Name
Dioscorea multiloba Kunth
Higher Classification
Dioscorea digitaria R.Knuth, Dioscorea diversifolia Kunth (later homonym), not of Griseb. (1842), Dioscorea natalensis R.Knuth
Common Names
Wild Yam (e)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
P. Wilkin, M. Muasya & L. von Staden
A widespread (EOO 164 885 km²) and still relatively common species in spite of extensive habitat loss and degradation across its range. It is however not yet considered to be in danger of extinction.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga
Widespread across eastern South Africa, from near Graskop in Mpumalanga to Kei Mouth in the Eastern Cape. It also occurs in Swaziland.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Forest, Grassland, Indian Ocean Coastal Belt, Savanna
Margins of riparian bush in grassland, forest margins, sometimes in swampy habitat.
This species is threatened in places by habitat loss and degradation. Around Durban and on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, some subpopulations known through historical records may now be locally extinct due to habitat loss to urban and coastal development. Coastal grasslands across KwaZulu-Natal have been extensively converted to sugarcane and timber plantations, but since this species grows along the edges of deep ravines and in scrub along drainage lines, it may have been less impacted by these threats, which affect mainly open grasslands. Riverine habitat is often densely infested with alien invasive plants, and some recent field observations indicate alien invasive plants present in the habitat of some subpopulations. Dioscorea species have known medicinal properties, and many species are collected for traditional medicine. Little is however known about the impact of medicinal harvesting on this species.

This species is known from a large number of records scattered over a wide area. Although it is somewhat localized to suitable habitat, notes on collected specimens indicate that it can be locally common. Although it is threatened in places by habitat loss and degradation, it is still common and not yet in danger of extinction.

Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Dioscorea multiloba KunthLC 2017.1
Dioscorea diversifolia Griseb.Least Concern Raimondo et al. (2009)

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Wilkin, P. and Muasya, A.M. 2015. Clarifying the Dioscorea buchananii Benth. species complex: a new potentially extinct subspecies for South Africa. PhytoKeys 48:51-72.

Wilkin, P., Muasya, M. & von Staden, L. 2016. Dioscorea multiloba Kunth. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2020/07/09

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Distribution map

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