Botanical name: Dioscorea villosa Family: Dioscoreaceae (Yam family)
Synonyms: Dioscorea glauca, Dioscorea hirticaulis, Dioscorea quaternata
Native to North America, Wild Yam is a perennial vine which can reach a height of 10 ft. The stem is slender, rarely branched and tends to twine right to left or counterclockwise. Alternately arranged leaves are heart- shaped. The lowest leaves may appear whorled. Leaves have 7-11 parallel veins, and may be hairy on the underside. Wild yam has separate male and female flowers, yellow-green, in loose straggling clusters. Female flowers sit on top of winged green fruits. Flowering time: June-August.
Medicinal uses: Native Americans and early herbalist had many uses for this plant including the treatment of many female and childbirth related problems. It was also used to treat various gastrointestinal problems, muscle spasms, various painful conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. There seems to be no scientific evidence of its effectiveness for these conditions. Nonetheless, plants of this genus are valuable to modern medicine. Many of our modern steroids are manufactured from diosgenin extracted from them.
Identification credit: Prashant Awale
The flower labeled Wild Yam is ...