Anyone here growing edible Air Potatoes? (Dioscorea bulbifera)


Hi all. I posted this query on another forum a long time ago, so I figured I’d post it here too, to see if I’d find more people.

I’m growing two edible strains of air potato, and am looking for as many varieties as I can. My experiences have so far been positive, and the invasive potential for these domestic strains has been minimal (and I have kept a sharp eye out for any volunteers). I also have other Dioscoreas (including several bulbil-bearing types), but I’m keeping the name “Air Potato” to D. bulbifera.

Plant Assassin on YouTube grew a purple bulbifera (not an Ube, which he also grew), but he hasn’t gotten back to me yet. I’m hoping he can point me in the right direction to obtain it.

Is anyone here growing edible air potato?


Some pictures of my own vines:


I’ve got a variety of Dioscorea that returns for me year after year in Michigan. My “potatoes” only get to be dime sized, and I imagine the underground part is quite developed after 5+ years.

Easy plant. Climbs well and the stems become quite wiry after a few years.



From GRIN Taxonomy:

Common names:

  • aerial yam (Source: [F Ceylon](javascript: F Ceylon)) - English
  • air-potato (Source: [World Econ Pl](javascript: World Econ Pl)) - English
  • bitter yam (Source: [F Hawaii](javascript: F Hawaii)) - English
  • cheeky yam (Source: [Econ Pl Aust](javascript: Econ Pl Aust)) - English
  • potato yam (Source: [Dict Rehm](javascript: Dict Rehm)) - English
  • igname bulbifère (Source: [Pl Res SEAs](javascript: Pl Res SEAs)) - French
  • pousse en l’air (Source: [Dict Rehm](javascript: Dict Rehm)) - French
  • Brotwurzel (Source: [Zander ed17](javascript: Zander ed17)) - German
  • Yamswurzel (Source: [Zander ed17](javascript: Zander ed17)) - German
  • hoi (Source: [F Hawaii](javascript: F Hawaii)) - Hawaiian
  • hoei-oepas (Source: [Names Watson](javascript: Names Watson)) - India
  • inhame (Source: [pers. comm.](javascript: pers. comm.)) - Portuguese (Brazil)
  • ñame de gunda (Source: [Dict Rehm](javascript: Dict Rehm)) - Spanish
  • papa voladora (Source: [F Mesoamer](javascript: F Mesoamer)) - Spanish
  • potatisjams (Source: [Kulturvaxtdatabas](javascript: Kulturvaxtdatabas)) - Swedish

Economic Importance:

  • Environmental: ornamental
  • Human food:
  • Medicines:
  • Vertebrate poisons: mammals (fide Kew Bull 56:380. 2001)
  • Weed: potential seed contaminant

Distributional Range:



  • EAST TROPICAL AFRICA: Tanzania, Uganda
  • WEST TROPICAL AFRICA: Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone
  • WESTERN INDIAN OCEAN: Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion


  • CHINA: China (e. & s.)


  • INDIAN SUBCONTINENT: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka
  • PAPUASIA: Papua New Guinea
  • INDO-CHINA: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam
  • MALESIA: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines


  • AUSTRALIA: Australia [Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia (n.)]

Cultivated (also cult.)


have to ask, you have dioscorea too?! But then again, i shouldn’t be surprised anymore and should get used to it(that you are an ultra-out-of-zone hoarder of tropical exotica)

anyway, if you should finally decide to dig it up, those bulbs are yummy( or should i say yammy). Takes a long time to cook, but worth your while. Most folks in the tropics prefer them mashed into a paste, but i like it semi-crushed, as the flesh retains its chewy and nutty texture/flavor profile which find so tasty.

forgot to add, if you’ve been growing yours in a sizeable tub for several years, you might have a monster yam there already. The ugliest of so-called root crops happen to be one of the best-tasting, and can feed a village!


those photos sure bring back fond memories of our garden in the isles, thank you!


Sounds like Chinese Yam (D. polystachya). I’m growing that one too, but I’ve had a few mishaps that have prevented me from growing a strong mature vine. I’m hoping for good growth this year.

Like other bulbil-bearers, peak production starts at the 2 year. Get enough of those little bulbils and you can boil 'em and eat 'em skin-and-all, like little potatoes. I’ve also heard that the tuber of this species makes for an excellent fluffy baked “potato”.


Thanks for the info! That’s a very broad range for this species, and a lot of names to go with it. I’m surprised GRIN didn’t mention edibility. Though rare, edible types are better known than toxic types outside the US.

The USDA used to have a collection of them, but then got rid of them, though not before compiling a document:


I’m actually the odd one in the family for liking them mashed (better than potatoes in my book). My folks boil them with salted cod for flavor, then eat them in chunks, drizzled with olive oil, served with the cod and with fried ham.


Excluding synonyms, there are 110 verified species of Dioscorea as of 2006:


i agree, it is better. It is also more versatile, as it can be cooked like potatoes as main course, but also taste pretty good sweetened as dessert


yams – here’s a humongous ugly, but delicious!



Most of those are toxic. There’s about 20 edible species, give-or-take a few (depending on classification), and I’m trying to collect them. So far, I have these actively growing:

D. rotundata, D. cayennensis, D. alata (white and purple forms), D. bulbifera (Asian and African forms), D. trifida, and D. polystachya.

I’m also waiting on the mail for D. pentaphylla and D. dodecaneura (aka. D. discolor).

Next I’ll be looking for D. esculenta (which should be available in my local Ag. Research station), D. transversa, D. nummularia, D. dumetorum, D. japonica, D. hamiltonii and D. pseudo-tomentosa.

We have the closely related Rajania cordata growing in the mountains, but they carry viruses, so unless I can get a clean one, I won’t be growing it (at any rate, the domestic yams are more highly regarded).


That thing is huge! All that from one vine?! I wonder how many years it took to grow. I think alata is like bulbifera, the tuber gets bigger yearly. Most of the others shrink the previous tuber to make a new one.


i see you’re in zone 13, but really curious, where exactly are you growing yams?
and yes, quite amazing those humongous alata’s and bulbifera’s! From what i could eke out of the pic it might be two vines with their tubers entangled, but nonetheless impressive. Actually makes my mouth water just looking at it, haha

below is my ipomoea – glamorized name for faux yam(sweet potato). It has perennated twice over two winters, growing on a round concrete vase ~2 ft across and just ~6" deep. The protruding tuber i photoshopped with dos ekis. Tempted to dig up and roast for thanksgiving, but figured it has earned its keep for having survived our freeze-dried winters. My version of presidential pardon, haha

it is my version of ‘air potato’ since have been growing it on a pedestal :smile:


The only zone 13 areas listed in the U.S. are Puerto Rico and Hawaii.