Innovators are full of questions.Nature has answers.


  • Strategy

Corky tuber stores water: Hottentot bread plant


Hotentot bread plant / Andrew Massy.. / LicensePD - Public Domain

The desert Hottentot bread plant stores vast amounts of water in a large, underground corky tuber.

"Swollen roots are used by a great number of plants as storage tanks. Beneath the sand, they are out of sight and not easily found by thirsty animals living on the surface. Hottentot bread is the name given to a yam that develops an immense underground tuber that may weigh as much as seven hundred pounds and fully justifies its specific name of elephantipes -- elephant foot. Every desert -- in Australia and South America, in the Sahara, the Gobi and Madagascar -- has such plants. And in every one, an ability to recognise the leaf of a tiny sprig standing unobtrusively in the sand as an indication of a buried water store was once the traditional life-saving knowledge of nomadic people." (Attenborough 1995:269)
About the inspiring organism
Med_hotentotbreadplant Dioscorea elephantipes
Dioscorea elephantipes (L'Hér.) Engl.
Common names: Hottentot-bread, Elephant's foot

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: (Underground) water storage containers that resist leaks and bacterial growth.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Water storage

Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.
Learn More at Google Scholar Google Scholar  


Login to Post a Comment.

No comments found.