Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Wild Yam - Dioscorea villosa   L.
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Dioscoreaceae
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DistributionThe present map includes all specimens determined as D. "villosa." Many of these will likely be annotated to D. quaternata in the future, especially in the Mountains and Piedmont. The text below refers specifically to taxon "villosa" and not to "quaternata."

RI and NY to MN and KS, south to FL and TX. Apparently mostly in the Coastal Plain.
AbundanceUncommon to infrequent in the Coastal Plain, perhaps frequent in the Sandhills. Possibly absent from the Mountains and Piedmont, but if present, is certainly scarce, as most to nearly all records seem to refer to D. quaternata. NatureServe's Global Rank is only G4G5, as opposed to G5 for D. quaternata. As a result of the Global Rank of G4G5, and the realization that this species (strict sense) is limited in NC mostly to the Sandhills and Coastal Plain, the website editors suggest a rank of S4?, and that might be too liberal at that.
HabitatFloodplains and swamp forests (cypress-gum, maple-gum, etc.), mostly often associated with blackwater systems; blackwater streamheads and ecotones.
PhenologyFlowering late April-June; fruiting September-October.
Identification"Yellow Yam" differs from Fourleaf Yam (D. "quaternata") in its non-whorled basal leaves (they may be close to each other but are not truly whorled). That other form has whorled basal leaves (usually 4 leaves, but can be 5-7). Also, the entire stem of Fourleaf Yam is smooth vs. pubescent or smooth in Yellow Yam. Gleason (1952) states that fruits of Fourleaf Yam are a bit larger, but gives no measurements. In the field, the leaves and stems of Fourleaf Yam appear glaucescent vs. plain green of Yellow Yam.
Taxonomic CommentsTaxon editors believe that D. quaternata should be split from D. villosa, and NatureServe considers both taxa as good species. See the D. quaternata species account. D. villosa includes D. hirticaulis Bartlett.

Other Common Name(s)Yellow Yam. "Yellow Yam" is generally the common name used for the "villosa" taxon, if and when it is split back out from D. "quaternata" -- the Fourleaf Yam.
State RankS5
Global RankG4G5 [G5]
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFAC link
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B.A. SorrieWalthour Moss Foundation, wet streamhead shrubland, early June 2012, male flowers. MoorePhoto_natural
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