Amorphophallus paeoniifolius (elephant yam)
Illustration of Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine.
Amorphophallus paeoniifolius (Dennst.) Nicolson
elephant yam, elephant foot yam, whitespot giant arum, stink lily, telinga potato (English); suram, jimmikand (India); buk (Thailand); suweg, walur, eles (Indonesia)
Not considered to be threatened.
Secondary forest or highly disturbed areas.
Food, fodder, medicine.
Tubers of wild plants are highly acrid and can irritate the mouth and throat on ingestion due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals.
About this species
Elephant yam is a striking aroid with a flower spike crowned with a bulbous maroon knob and encircled by a fleshy maroon and green-blotched bract. The solitary leaf, which emerges after the flowering parts, resembles a small tree.
Amorphophallus paeoniifolius has been in cultivation throughout tropical Asia for centuries. The tubers are the third most important carbohydrate source after rice and maize in Indonesia. They are also consumed widely in India and Sri Lanka, although elsewhere they are seen as a famine crop, to be used when more popular staples, such as rice, are in short supply.
Elephant yam belongs to the same genus as the crowd-pulling titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum). It should not be confused with Dioscorea species, which are also known by the common name yam, but belong to a different plant family (Dioscoreaceae). In particular it should not be confused with elephant’s foot yam (Dioscorea elephantipes) from South Africa.
Elephant yam has medicinal properties and is used in many Ayurvedic (traditional Hindu) preparations. The tubers are considered to have pain-killing, anti-inflammatory, anti-flatulence, digestive, aphrodisiac, rejuvenating and tonic properties. They are traditionally used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions including parasitic worms, inflammation, coughs, flatulence, constipation, anaemia, haemorrhoids and fatigue.
Further research is needed to determine the pharmacological properties of elephant yam.
Dracontium paeoniifolium Dennst., Arum campanulatum Roxb., Amorphophallus campanulatus Decne. (Full list of synonyms available on World Checklist).