Dioscorea alata – Winged Yam

This species is a common food plant throughout the world, grows in northern Australia, and is now extending it’s range into northern NSW.  It makes an ornamental plant as well as being a good edible, with lush foliage. It grows as a perennial vine, and can grow to the top of trees if allowed, but can be trained onto a frame.  It can be used to also provide dappled shade for other plants. A great alternative to potatoes for the vegetable garden in northern areas, they need warmth and a rainy summer and dry winter to do best. Can be grown as far south as Sydney, as long as it is in a frost-free area. Normally deciduous in winter, depending on temperature, and this is a good signal to harvest the tuber, which can grow quite large.
Culinarily, they can be used for all the same purposes as potatoes, and more, including desserts. It grows from bulbils that grow on the stems, from cuttings or from pieces of the tuber. Be aware that it can be a weedy plant in certain areas, so dispose of unwanted plant material with care.

Scientific Name:Dioscorea alata
Common Name:Winged Yam
Other Common Names:Purple Yam
Plant Type:Climber, Bulb or bulb-like
Height:1 ~ 5 metre
Width:1 ~ 3 metre
Flower Colour:White, Yellow
Flowering Time:Spring, Summer
Ph Level:Acid, Neutral
Soil Type:Sandy, Loamy, Sandy loam, Clay loam, Potting mix
Plant Environment:Low maintenance garden, Coastal garden, Drought resistant
Climate Zone:Tropical, Sub-tropical, Warm temperate
Planting Season:Spring
Growth Habit:Deciduous, Spreading
Soil Moisture:Well-drained
Propagation Method:Softwood cutting, Semihardwood cutting, Bulb
Frost Tolerance:Not frost tolerant
Plant Usage:Screen
Special Uses:Edible, Fast growing
Attracts Wildlife:Mammals






Once you have found the plant that you want, the next step is to find where to get it. Visit or ring your favourite nursery to see if they have it in stock. If they don’t, they may be able to order it in for you.  Specialist nurseries are also able to give great advice, and if they don’t have the plant you want, they can often suggest an alternative to you. Below is a list of our favourite specialist nurseries, and some who do mail order. Click on the links for their details-


The Wildflower Place Erina – NSW 


Sydney Wildflower Nursery – NSW


Newcastle Wildflower Nursery – NSW


Cool Country Natives – ACT


Wimmera Native Nursery – Victoria


Zanthorrea Nursery – Perth WA


Manuka Native Nursery – South Australia


Sydney Wildflower Nursery – mail order


The Native Shop – mail order




Angus recommends Bush Tucker fertiliser for native plants.