Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Chinese Yam - Dioscorea polystachya   Turczaninow
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Section 5 » Family Dioscoreaceae
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DistributionMostly Mountains and Piedmont; scattered on Coastal Plain. Likely present now in most counties in the western and central counties of the state.

Native of China; in N.A. MA to MO, south to FL and AR.
AbundanceFrequent to locally common in the Mountains and Piedmont; uncommon in the Sandhills and Coastal Plain. Probably increasing and spreading in range and abundance in the state.
HabitatDisturbed woods, thickets, clearings, etc. Weakley (2018) says "seriously invasive in our region."
PhenologyFlowers from June to August.
IdentificationThis is a climber, potentially to 15 feet. Chinese Yam's leaves are shaped differently than our two native species (D. quaternata and D. villosa): each margin is concave at the transition from basal lobe to the terminal portion of the leaf (vs. continuously convex). The leaves tend to have more deeply sunken veins than on the native species. The fruits are like tiny potatoes.
Taxonomic Comments
Other Common Name(s)Cinnamon-vine
State RankSE
Global RankGNR
State Status
US Status
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B.A. SorrieBank of Ray's Mill Creek, just S of Aberdeen Lake, May 2016. MoorePhoto_non_natural
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