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A picture of a Elephant's Foot

Elephant's Foot

Dioscorea elephantipes

Also known as

Turtle Back, Olifantsvoet (Afr.), Tortoise plant

Photo by Helen_Allsebrook (All rights reserved)

Full Sun
Moderate care
Light watering


USDA zone


Minimum temperature

Expected size









  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has no fragrance

More images of Elephant's Foot

A Dioscorea elephantipes caudex plant with green leaves on a wooden table in a blue striped pot
A photo of Elephant's Foot
A photo of Elephant's Foot
A photo of Elephant's Foot
A photo of Elephant's Foot

Elephant's Foot Overview

The beauty of Dioscorea elephantipes lies in its beautiful above-ground caudex (stem). In some cases these caudexes can grow as much as 3 m in height and are divided into angled, corrugated fissures. Importantly, it is deciduous and loses its leaves in the summer. At this time it goes through a dry dormancy period where it should receive very little water, once new growth sprouts watering can begin again. This plant may sometimes be referred to as "Hottentot", an offensive term that was historically used to refer to the Khoikhoi, a member of a group of indigenous peoples of South Africa and Namibia. We do not support the usage of such a term. ZA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Western Cape.

Common problems with Elephant's Foot

Susceptible to aphids when grown under glass or indoors.

How to harvest Elephant's Foot

Generally not harvested

How to propagate Elephant's Foot


Seeds are winged and should be sown in flat seed pans in autumn. Cover with a sowing medium not deeper than 4-5 cm. Use sandy loam with very well-rotted compost, move to a sunny location.


Propagate from seed, by division or cuttings of an old tuber.



Special features of Elephant's Foot

Pot plant

Plant in a large pot with extremely coarse, well-drained soil, and water sparsely.

Drought resistant

Can go long periods without water.

Indoor plant

Keep indoors in areas with high rainfall - this one prefer dry areas!

Other uses of Elephant's Foot

Grown for their decorative leaves.



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