ELEPHANT FOOT YAM

The tuber or ‘corm’ of the elephant foot yam is cooked and eaten across India. Meanwhile, its inflorescence displays a captivating strategy to attract its main pollinators: beetles, which like to feed on and lay their eggs in decaying and rotting matter. The inflorescence therefore mimics such rotting matter: first visually, with its purplish brownish colour and secondly, by emitting a strong, rotting meat smell. The flowers bloom only for about five days, and their odour is strongest at night. Interestingly, they also produce an intense heat of 30–45° C. The beetles soon realise the deception and move on, but the flower’s work is done. The beetles move onto the next flower, carrying pollen with them.

All images on this page have been obtained from Wikimedia Commons