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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Order: Dioscoreales

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons

Three of the five families are encountered in southern Africa, Dioscoreaceae (yam family), being by far the largest. Worldwide there are about 21 genera and 1037 species, of which three genera and 25 species (mainly Dioscorea) are native to southern Africa. In addition one species in the genus Tacca is cultivated in the region.

Families encountered in southern Africa


Contains the single genus Tacca with about 12 species worldwide. Tacca leontopetaloides (Tahiti arrowroot) is native to southern Africa (recorded from Zimbabwe), and Tacca chantrieri (native to India and SE Asia) is cultivated in the region.


Nine genera and 95 species worldwide (mainly tropical regions). There is one species, Burmannia madagascariensis, that is native to southern Africa.


Dioscoreaceae (yam family)

About 870 species in four genera, occurring worldwide in warm regions. Dioscorea (yams) is the only genus occurring in southern Africa, with 23 species native to this region.

Families not encountered in southern Africa

Nartheciaceae, Thismiaceae.