Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Dioscorea transversa


Native Yam

midiny to Eorra people, wanka-parlu to Paakantyi people


This vine has twining stems (2-4 m long) growing out of a tuber. Although the cylindrical tuber is rarely more than 10 mm in diameter, it grows deep into the soil. The heart-shaped leaves die back during the winter. The yam has separate male and female plants. Male flowers produce pollen and occur on spikes 3-6 cm long; female flower spikes are usually 10-20 cm long with tiny (2 mm), greenish flowers.

Where it is found

The Native Yam occurs in New South Wales on the northern and central coast and on the northern tablelands, chiefly in warmer rainforest and moist open forest north from the Sydney area. It also occurs in Queensland and the Northern Territory.


  • A liquid made from the vine has been used in the treatment of skin cancer (Cherikoff & Isaacs 1990).

Yams are root vegetables found in loamy soil as well as on sand-dunes in far western New South Wales around Menindee. After a good season of rain they are plentiful. After finding the vegetation on the surface you then did underground to a foot deep to gather all the juicy roots. The roots can be eaten straight away, after brushing all the soil off.
Beryl Carmichael

Further information

Click here for further information on Dioscorea transversa.

Dioscorea transversa tubers
The leaf and papery fruits of the Native Yam (Dioscorea transversa) signal a delicious tuber growing underground. Photo: David Hardin in the Laurieton district north of Taree.

Dioscorea transversa tubers
Tubers revealed after much digging! Native Yams (Dioscorea transversa) are eaten raw or roasted and have a flavour similar to that of a potato. Photo: Tony Rodd in the Newcastle district.

Dioscoria transversa: vine with leaves and fruit, yam, habit.