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

Care of the non-native Aralias (Genus Polyscias)
January 04, 2008 - Today I purchased a POLYSCIAS common name "Aralia" I was told that can be happy inside, little light. Please could you inform me how to take care: feeding, fertilizing, watering needs? Does it bl...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Littleleaf Boxwood and native alternatives for Baltimore
January 06, 2005 - I am looking for a small hedge or shrub, that will look nice year round, and won't get too large. I live in Baltimore, MD. I have heard of Winter Gem Boxwood. Will this prove hardy in my area? H...
view the full question and answer

Hurricane resistant alternatives to crape myrtle
September 02, 2007 - Are there any native small to medium trees (15-25 ft) to use instead of crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia indica)? Crapemyrtles come in many colors and bend with hurricane winds instead of snapping or uproo...
view the full question and answer

Can I move my Dwarf Orange tree from California to Florida?
April 12, 2012 - I am moving from California to Florida and have a small dwarf orange tree. Can I bring it with me to Florida? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Planting wildflowers from Wichita Falls, TX
August 24, 2013 - Hi, Thanks so much for the answers you give! You've been very helpful to me in the past. I have two quick questions: 1) I have been harvesting seeds from my wildflowers. I wonder when the best time...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center