We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Dioscorea cayennensis - Lam.

Common Name Yellow Yam, Yellow Guinea yam
Family Dioscoreaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Freshly cut tubers can cause skin irritation due to the presence of raphides, which are destroyed when the tubers are cooked[ 299 ].
Habitats Not known in a truly wild situation, having arisen in cultivation.
Range Western Africa - possibly Dahomey.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Dioscorea cayennensis Yellow Yam, Yellow Guinea yam

Dioscorea cayennensis Yellow Yam, Yellow Guinea yam


Translate this page:


Yellow Yam or Yellow Guinea Yam (Dioscorea cayenensis) is a spiny vine that can be 10 - 12 m long. The leaves are pale green and heart shaped. It is a commercially cultivated for its roots that have a rough outer skin and pale yellow flesh. It is cooked and eaten as vegetable. It can also be dried and milled to produce flour. Leaves are made into tea.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Dioscorea cayennensis is an evergreen Perennial Climber growing to 10 m (32ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Wind, Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Dioscorea colocasiifolia Dalz. Non Pax Dioscorea sativa Beatson.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Root
Edible Uses: Tea

Root - cooked in various ways and eaten as a vegetable[ 300 , 301 ]. A palatable flavour with a dry, mealy flesh[ 301 ]. The roots are sometimes dried and milled to produce a flour for storing - this flour is then stirred into boiling water and kneaded to form a paste[ 299 ]. The roots have a rough outer skin and a pale yellow flesh[ 301 ].The roots are up to 3kg in weight[ 300 ]. The roots can contain up to 91% carbohydrate, the highest for any yam[ 332 ]. Protein content is low, about 2.5%[ 332 ]. A tea is made from the leaves[ 301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Other Uses: None known

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the moist, lowland tropics. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 32°c, but can tolerate 12 - 40°c[ 418 ]. Plants can be killed at temperatures of 9°c[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,200 - 1,900mm, but tolerates 900 - 3,000mm[ 418 ]. It prefers a dry season of 2 months or less[ 300 ]. Succeeds in full sun and in moderate shade[ 418 ]. For best yields, this species requires a deep, well-drained, sandy loam that is not liable to water-logging[ 300 ]. Succeeds in relatively light sandy soils[ 300 ], though the soil needs to be very fertile otherwise yields can be low[ 299 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 6.7, tolerating 5.3 - 8[ 418 ]. Daylengths of more than 12 hours are preferred during the early growing season since this encourages vegetative growth; daylengths of less than 12 hours towards the end of the growing season will encourage tuber formation and development[ 300 ]. Requiring a longer growing season than other yams, mature roots are formed in 9 - 12 months from planting[ 300 ]. The tuber has a very brief resting period and does not store well[ 332 ]. It is in fact best stored, if necessary, in the earth[ 332 ]. The tubers are formed near the surface of the soil[ 332 ] and can be carefully removed from the growing plant without disturbing it, allowing the plant to continue cropping for up to three years[ 300 ]. The tubers can be dug up as required and a common practice is to expose one side of the tuber and to cut away the distal part for consumption leaving the upper part to regenerate; hence the name 'cut-and-come-again'[ 332 ]. This practice may be repeated for upward of three years[ 332 ]. Yields of 30 tonnes per hectare have been obtained in the Caribbean[ 300 ]. There are some named varieties[ 300 ]. Although occasionally monoecious, the plant is usually dioecious, therefore both male and female forms need to be grown if seed is required[ 299 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - rarely produced, they are not normally used to propagate this species. Cuttings of tubers. Small tubers can be cut into 2 - 4 sections, larger ones into 6 - 8 sections. Each section should have 2 - 3 dormant buds. The cut tuber is often left in the sun for several hours to promote wound healing and reduce the risk of fungal infection[ 300 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

aerial yam air potato air-potato ban tarul bengo nari bhyakur bitter yam brotwurzel buk bulb-bearing yam cheeky yam diha dukarkanda dukkarkanda genthi ghar tyaur githa heggenusu hisaki hoei-oepas hoi huang yao zi huángyàozi igname bulbifère inhame kamfo kanthamul kaya pendazam khashyo khe kisi kukur tarul kunta genusu ofika oviala papa voladora pas phor potatisjams potato yam pousse en l'air ratalu sakkisak tarul teme varahi varahi kand varahi kanda varahi (rhizome) varahika?da yamswurzel ñame de gunda

Africa, Antilles, Brazil, Central Africa, Central America, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, East Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guiana, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Madagascar, Mali, New Caledonia, Nigeria, Pacific, Panama, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South America, Suriname, Togo, Trinidad, Uganda, Vanuatu, Venezuela, West Africa, West Indies, Zambia,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Dioscorea alataWater Yam, Purple yam, Greater yam, White yamPerennial Climber15.0 10-12 FLMHSM412
Dioscorea batatasChinese YamPerennial3.0 4-11  LMHSNM553
Dioscorea bulbiferaAerial Yam, Air PotatoPerennial Climber10.0 9-12 FLMHSNM420
Dioscorea deltoideaYamPerennial Climber3.0 -  LMHSNM222
Dioscorea esculentaLesser Yam, Potato Yam, Chinese Yam, Wild YamPerennial Climber3.0 8-12 FLMSNM400
Dioscorea japonicaGlutinous Yam, Japanese yamPerennial Climber3.0 7-12  LMHNM420
Dioscorea kamoonensis Perennial Climber2.5 -  LMHNM21 
Dioscorea tokoro Perennial Climber0.0 -  LMHNM22 
Dioscorea trifidaCush Cush Yam, Sweet yamPerennial Climber3.0 10-12 FLMHSNM402
Dioscorea villosaWild YamPerennial Climber3.0 5-9  LMHNM24 
Tamus communisBlack BryonyPerennial Climber3.5 4-8 MLMHSNM12 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Dioscorea cayennensis  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.