Discorea Elephantipes - Elephants Foot
It is a deciduous climber. It takes the name "elephant's foot" from the appearance of its large, partially buried, tuberous stem, which grows very slowly but often reaches a considerable size, often more than 3 m (10 ft) in circumference with a height of nearly 1 m (3 ft 3 in) above ground. It is rich in starch, whence the name Hottentot bread, and is covered on the outside with thick, hard, corky plates. It requires significant processing before being eaten to remove toxic compounds.
Primarily a winter grower, it develops slender, leafy, climbing shoots with dark-spotted, greenish-yellow flowers in winter (May or June in habitat) The flowers are dioecious, with male or female flowers occurring on separate plants.
Its natural habitat is the arid inland regions of the Cape, stretching from the centre of the Northern Cape (where it occurs around Springbok), south to the Clanwilliam & Cederberg area, and eastwards through the districts of Graaff Reinet, Uniondale and Willowmore, as far as Grahamstown.
It was recently rediscovered in a section of the Northern Cape Province by an expedition collecting seeds for the Millennium Seed Bank Project.
In this area, it is most common on rocky north & east-facing slopes, in quartz or shale based soils.