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

Deer resistant plants for Trinity, TX
March 23, 2013 - I need a list of deer resistant flowers, herbs and plants that would could be planted in Trinity, Texas.
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive mimosa trees
July 15, 2006 - I have a mimosa tree. The blooms on mine are very pale while I see many other trees with bright blooms. Is there anyway to change the color of the blooms? For instance, is the color due to the PH o...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of non-native weigela and roses
June 29, 2009 - I have a Red Prince wiegala (spelling?) and while most of the branches have leaves and red flowers, there are some branches that never produced any leaves or flowers. Should I prune them? If so, can...
view the full question and answer

Best time to plant non-native Crape Myrtle in Fulshear TX
July 01, 2010 - When are the best times to plant Crape Myrtles? My husband and I have just moved to Fulshear, TX (just slightly west of Houston) and being summer, I didn't think this was the best planting period. ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with yellow lantana in Smoaks SC
June 05, 2010 - My yellow lantanas are about five years old - big and beautiful, but beginning last year, the blooms are small and part of the tiny petals are brown or black. Can you tell me what I can do about this ...
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