The starchy tuber, which is partially buried, grows slowly; however, in time, the tuber can reach heights of more than 3 feet and width of up to 10 feet. With proper care, tortoise plant can live as long as 70 years. Native to South Africa, tortoise plant is drought tolerant and does fine in extreme heat. The plant may survive a frost but a hard freeze is likely to kill it. If you decide to try your hand at growing this fascinating plant, be sure to ask for the plant by its scientific name – Dioscorea elephantipes. The Dioscorea genus includes other unique plants such as Chinese yam, air potato and water yam.