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Sphenostylis stenocarpa - (Hochst. Ex A.Rich.) Harms

Common Name African Yam Bean
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Brachystegia woodland, riparian and lakeshore bushland, grassland, roadsides, often in rocky places and on termite mounds, at elevations of 10 - 1,500, occasionally 2,000 metres[308 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Guinea to Ethiopia and south to Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Sphenostylis stenocarpa African Yam Bean

Giessen / Fulda Library
Sphenostylis stenocarpa African Yam Bean

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African Yam Bean, Sphenostylis stenocarpa, is a tropical, fast-growing climbing vine growing up to 2 m in height from a tuberous rootstock. Its leaves are comprised of three leaflets each of 14 cm long and 5 cm wide. The flowers can be pink, purple, or greenish-white, occurring in the axils of the leaves. Seed pods are flat and smooth. This species has no medicinal uses. However, it is cultivated as food source particularly for its pods and roots. Immature seedpods and the seeds are cooked and used as a vegetable. The roots, high in protein, can also be consumed either raw or cooked. Similarly, the leaves are also cooked and consumed as a vegetable. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria that form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Sphenostylis stenocarpa is a PERENNIAL CLIMBER growing to 2 m (6ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.


Dolichos stenocarpus Hochst. Ex A.Rich. Vigna ornata Welw. Ex Baker


Edible Uses

Immature seedpods - cooked and used as a vegetable[300 ]. The pods are up to 25cm long and 15mm wide[300 ]. Seeds - cooked[300 ]. Rich in protein, they are boiled and eaten as a vegetable, or added to soups etc[301 ]. The seed is about 9mm long[300 ]. Root - raw or cooked[300 ]. The white fleshed roots can be cooked like potatoes, which they resemble in taste[301 ]. They are rich in protein[301 ]. Leaves - cooked and used as a vegetable[300 ].

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

Other Uses

Other Uses: None known

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen;  Management: Standard;  Regional Crop;  Staple Crop: Protein.

A plant of the tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 2,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 23 - 29?c, but can tolerate 15 - 35?c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 1,200mm, but tolerates 800 - 1,400mm[418 ]. Requires a dry period when flowering[300 ]. Prefers a position in full sun[418 ]. Grows best in a fertile, sandy soil[300 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6, tolerating 4.5 - 7[418 ]. Although perennial, the plant is usually treated as an annual in cultivation[418 ]. Harvesting of the seedpods can commence about 5 months after sowing, and continue for another 2 months[300 ]. Tubers mature 7 - 8 months after sowing[300 ]. Optimum yields of the seed is 2 tonnes per hectare, and of the tubers 4 tonnes[418 ]. Plants are probably day length sensitive[300 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200 ]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.


Seed - sow in situ[300 ]. Division of tubers[300 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Adagora barracha, Amalumbwe, Chinkhoma, Diegemtenguere, Girigiri, Ground Squirrel’s bean, Igname haricot, N'taco, Nkhoma, Norouko, Nsama, Odudu, Pempo, african yam bean, akitereku, girigiri, haricot grimpant, haricot igname, igname haricot, kotonosu, kulege, okpo dudu, pomme de terre du mossi, sese, sfenostilo, wild yam bean, yam bean, yam pea.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, East Africa, Ethiopia*, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Southern Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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


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(Hochst. Ex A.Rich.) Harms

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.

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