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

Non-native hylocereus undatus for Austin
February 24, 2012 - Can we plant Hylocereus (Dragon Fruit) here in Austin, TX? We are going to have a large xeriscape bed and want to know what all we can put in it. We are new to Texas so we have no clue what grows here...
view the full question and answer

New plant introductions in Georgia.
October 15, 2009 - Can you list 5-10 brand new plants to the marketplace this 2009-2010 season for my area in GA? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Distribution vs. Native Distribution in NPIN?
September 27, 2013 - I'm a Habitat Steward in Austin and conducting a native plant swap tomorrow, 9/28/13. I need to be able to tell people who come whether their plant is native or not. I want to use your smart phone ...
view the full question and answer

Help with non-native plants in California
January 14, 2014 - I am growing some beads of pearl in my front yard in front of a pepper tree that has been around for over 150 years. My question is what can I do to get my beads of pearl to grow without cutting down ...
view the full question and answer

White specks on unknown houseplant from Ridgeway SC
June 20, 2013 - I have an unknown houseplant that seems to have some sort of pest or disease on it. It has white snowy specks atop its leaf. I bought this purple fuzzy leafed houseplant from Walmart in Winnsboro, SC ...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center