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Medicinal, culinary and unusual botanicals from Australia and around the world

Dioscorea transversa – Pencil Yam (seed)

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Dioscorea transversa, the pencil yam, is a vine of eastern and northern Australia. The leaves are heart-shaped, shiny, with 5-7 prominent veins. The seed pods are rounded, green or pink before drying to a straw brown papery texture. The edible tubers are  typically slender and long. There are two forms: an eastern rainforest and wet sclerophyll form which doesn’t have bulbils, and a northern form which occurs in open forests and has small bulbils and large in ground tubers.

The tubers were a staple food of Australian Aboriginals and are eaten after cooking, usually in ground ovens. The 1889 book ‘The Useful Native Plants of Australia records that common names included “Long yam”, Indigenous Australians from Central Queensland referred to it as “Kowar” and that ‘the small young tubers are eaten by the aborigines without any preparation.’ From Wikipedia.

Care and Cultivation of Dioscorea transversa

Sow Dioscorea transversa seeds in autumn/spring, sow seed (don’t bury too deep, just enough to keep them weighted down) under the surface of a well drained cacti/succulent mix, keeping moist until germination. You can also cycle from moist through dry and then water again to stimulate germination. Disturbing the soil can also help. Likes a full sun or part shade position and is tolerant of extreme heat and heavy frost. Extremely drought tolerant due to the water storing capacities of the tuber.

Dioscorea transversa is tolerant of a wide range of conditions and soil types. Full sun to part shade position. A climber that requires another plant to climb and trail over of a trellis. Well drained soil. In the wild the yams can be found quite deep underground so cultivation in a pot is a good idea to make harvest easier.

5 seed per packet (Kingaroy provenance)


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