En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - October 16, 2005

From: Nashville, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native, invasive, poisonous Chinese yam
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I found a vine in my yard [central Indiana] which I believe is Dioscorea oppositiflora and I wanted first to confirm my identification and second to find out about edibility [especially of the airborne tubers] and uses. It has single and paired tiny potato like tubers in the leaf axils. the leaves are deeply veined and a deep lobed elongated heart shape. It is fall and I have not observed the inflorescence. Apparently there are several species [subspecies?] of Dioscorea? Thanks.

ANSWER:

Chinese yam or Cinnamon vine (Dioscorea oppositiflora, syn. D. batatas) is a non-native vine introduced from China into North America as an ornamental. Both the tubers and the bulbils (the tuber-like growths in the leaf axils) are edible if cooked. However, the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina database lists the uncooked tuber as toxic. Your description doesn't conflict with that of D. oppositiflora, but we can't absolutely identify a species by description alone. Certainly, we wouldn't want to try doing this if it is something you intend to eat. Note of caution: Get a positive identification of your plant before you eat it!

Although it is attractive, D. oppositifolia (along with two other members of the Genus Dioscorea, D. alata and D. bulbifera) is a fast growing and aggressive vine that is considered an invasive weed in the southeastern United States. For an extensive discussion of the biology, uses, invasiveness, and control measures for D. oppositifolia see this article from The Nature Conservancy.
 

More Non-Natives Questions

Invasiveness of non-native gooseneck yellow loosetrife in Maine
May 12, 2005 - I live in Maine, and purple loosestrife is invading our habitat. It outcompetes native species. Does gooseneck loosestrife have the same damaging qualities?
view the full question and answer

Male or female Jatropha curcas from Brownsville TX
August 16, 2012 - How do know the sex of a young Jatropha C. plant? how many weeks before you can tell a boy/girl plant ?
view the full question and answer

Replacement for non-native wisteria in Temecula CA
December 08, 2009 - We recently moved into a house that has a Wisteria bush that has taken over the patio cover. I wish to take it out because it is so messy and looks bad when it is dormant. I am trying to figure out ...
view the full question and answer

Division of impatiens grown in a pot
December 08, 2007 - I have an impatient and it is growing out of the pot. I was wondering if it were possible to divide it somehow and have two medium size plants.
view the full question and answer

Cat eating yucca stalks in England
May 07, 2013 - Is it safe for my cat to eat yucca as she is being sick and its hard to stop her
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center