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Invasive Species: Chinese Yam
*Detected in Michigan*
Report this species to:
Use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) online reporting tool
- Or - download the MISIN smartphone app and report from your phone - MISIN.MSU.edu/tools/apps/#home
- Pointed, heart-shaped leaves that are often indented on the sides, opposite or alternate.
- Slender vines that spiral counter-clockwise.
- Bulbils or air tubers present from June to September, resemble very small potatoes.
- Small white or greenish-yellow spikes of flowers that smell similar to cinnamon.
Photo courtesy of Troy Evans, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bugwood.org.
Chinese yam "air potato." Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org.
Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org.
Habitat: This deciduous vine can be found along roadsides, fence rows, stream banks, ditches and rich, mesic forests. While it tolerates anything from full sun to deep shade, it prefers intermediate light.
Native Range: Asia.
U.S. Distribution: Chinese yam has spread to 16 southeastern states since its introduction in the 1800’s and has been recorded in some locations in Michigan.
Local Concern: Chinese yam can grow up to 16 feet in height, engulfing surrounding vegetation along the way. While this vine dies back in the winter, it grows and reproduces quickly enough to reduce plant diversity and threaten native ecosystems.
Other Common Names: Cinnamon vine, air potato.
Native look-alikes and how you can tell them apart from Chinese yam:
- Native Yam: Vines spiral clockwise, no aerial tubers.
- Greenbrier: Lacks bulbils, has blue/purple berries.
- Field bindweed: Lacks aerial tubers.