Dioscorea batatas, Cinnamon Vine Question

diospyros4luna(SC zone 7b)March 17, 2005

When I was a kid the historic 1890s house we lived in (which is in the same city I live in now) had a vine with heart shaped leaves and little marble-sized tubers that formed along the vine. We used to pick them off and play with them. They were kind of slippery if you crushed them. I'm pretty sure it was a cinnamon vine (air potato vines sound like the tubers are too big and the vines too vigorous). I think at most the vines we had were 10' long, but probably shorter. They grew on a chain link fence. They seemed to stay in that one area, I never saw them anywhere else in the yard.

I went to research air potatoes (Dioscorea bulbifera) and cinnamon vine (Dioscorea batatas) because I thought my daughter would enjoy playing with the tubers the same way we did as a kid (not eating them, she's old enough to know not to eat plants in the yard). The articles I read on air potatoes said the vines can get to 70' in a single season when it is happy and that it is highly invasive in most areas of the south. The bigger tubers on air potato vine sounds cool, but I definitely don't want a 70' invasive vine.

I can't find any information on cinnamon vine's habits, though. I tried googling it but all the links were dead, I'd get a "blabblah.com cannot be found, please check the name and try it again".

Anyway, all this to say, I really want it but if it is going to turn into the new kudzu I'll be responsible and abstain. Are cinnamon vines very invasive? Also, is it likely to be what we had at the house I lived in as a kid?


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qqqq(z7 AR)

This is what I found: "(Dioscorea batatas) Cinnamon scented flowers and heart shaped leaves adorn this vigorous deciduous vine. In the mountains of northern China it produces very large, highly prized, white fleshed tubers with a nutty potato flavor. While the top dies back each November the tubers can be left in the ground for several years to keep growing. One gallon pot."

If the top dies back each year, I don't know how "vigorous" it could get. Sometimes vigorous means really vigorous though.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 4:28PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

My best guess is that the vine you remember from your childhood is the cinnamon vine and it is not invasive.

I too remember one from my childhood in Fort Worth, Texas. It died back to the ground every year and never exceeded maybe 8 or 10 or 12 feet in height. Some people called it cinnamon vine, some called it air potato or air tater, and some called it Chinese yam. I think the problem with the name is that it is a common passalong plant, and many people only know it by the passalong name!

About 15 or 20 years ago Johnny's Select Seed sold "cinnamon vine" as a small plant, and they referred to it as a Chinese yam. I almost bought one and didn't because I was afraid it wasn't the plant I remembered from my childhood and was afraid it wouldn't grow well.

Here's a link that features a photo that should look familiar to you:

Here is a link that might be useful: anniesannuals.com (cinnamon vine)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 10:20PM
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I found a site too that refers to a length of 13 feet. It does say that it may become a problem, but perhaps you could grow one in a pot to prevent spreading by root, and then be sure your daugher removes all the little seedpods each year. josh

Here is a link that might be useful: Cinnamon Vine

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 10:30PM
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jwy_va(z7a VA)

Acually, it's level of invasiveness is somewhat equivalent to that of Morning Glory, and quite managable. However it is indeed "vigorous" since it thrives without any care or fertilizer, regardless of soil, drainage, light or winter conditions in that regard.

If the root/tuber is not disturbed over several years, it grows to a quite large potato size, which is a sweet soothing herb that stimulates the stomach and spleen and has a tonic effect on the lungs and kidneys (highly prized in Chinese medicine). The tuber contains allantoin, a cell-proliferant that speeds the healing process. The tuber is also anthelmintic and digestive.

Hence, it does not propagate by its root (thus no need to restrain it to a pot). Instead, peanut-sized tubercles (produced and fell down in the fall) are the primary means of propagation -- dormant during winter and sprout in spring.

I just picked up about 200 peanut-sized tubercles this afternoon during spring yard clean-up, and if any of you want some, please let me know.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 1:08AM
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Tate_of_Kumquat(z7 MD)

I am having a horrible time with this vine; it is strong enought that is has smoothers and kills even English Ivy. The previous owner did not keep them under control and I've been trying the manual method of removing them since we moved in four years ago...and it is only getting worse. My property is on a hill, so the vines a the top produce the little potatos that roll down and infest the whole place. I'm finally giving up and going to have to kill everything in most of my ground cover areas and start from scratch.

Perhaps if you are careful, you might be able to have the vien for your daughter to enjoy, but at my place, they are enemy #1.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 9:29AM
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rizzir(z7b TN)

Read the long thread on Air Potato. Your "Dioscorea batatas" is actually Dioscorea oppositifolia which is considered highly invasive in my state, and at least as far north as southern Ohio. Plant sellers with questionable ethics much prefer to use the moniker "batatas" because that sounds more benign and enticing than "oppositifolia".

Read this very informative article:


    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 1:57PM
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angelfairy(Z-8 S.AL)

I've been growing this vine on my 10 acres for over 10 years with no control problems. Laziness in controlling is the only problem I can see in the most southern zones. AF

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 11:55AM
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I have also been growing the Cinnamon Vine for about 18 years, mine seem to be growing 50' plus in some areas of my farm, I keep 2 vines along my front porch post that grow together to form a "canopy" but I have found that the Cinnamon Vine can get out of hand if left unattended, I still find some that have popped up from seeds where I have had vines in a few years, the seeds have dropped off. But, personally I just LOVE the fragrance that the vine puts off, to me I woudl love to be able to bottle it into a perfume. I have never eaten the tubers....never even thought of it...
Just my input on the Cinnamon Vine... LOL

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 9:48AM
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What time of year does this vine produce the potatoes?Do they fall off or have to be picked?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 8:26AM
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I anyone wants to get rid of some babies. I will take them and pay you for shipping them.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 8:11PM
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Please do not grow Dioscorea batatas, also called Dioscorea oppositifolia, and Chinese Yam. It is terribly invasive, and if you ignore it, it will take over your yard and spread to your neighbors, who won't thank you for it. It is impossible to keep it from being released to the environment, where it covers native plants, and smothers them like kudzu. If you live in Illinois, it is illegal to own the plant, or transport it, and it should be banned in all other states as well. Enormous efforts are being spent to get rid of it, particularly in the southern states.
Instead of becoming part of the problem, why not become part of the solution. Volunteer in your area, where there are those who are trying to eradicate it and other species that are rapidly taking control. You will find that it takes many years of dedicated effort to get rid of a single population of Cinnamon Vine/Chinese yam, and you might realize the damage it can do to raise it. Each state has lots of interesting native plants, but we are systematically destroying that with introduced invasives. Will we ever learn?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 3:26PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

This vine is a curse. I have it covering everything on my long driveway. Someone gave it to me three houses ago. It moves with other plants that you dig up and take to your new yard. Don't ever plant this thing. I am a plant lover not really particular. It will out invade Hall's honeysuckle.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 3:25AM
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this vine is listed as one of 20 top food plants by plants for a future. i also will pay for shipping if anyone has some. hopefully in new england the tubercles won't survive the winters (altho they haven't been so cold lately). but they are free food! ( i am sooo into edible weeds). does anyone eat the tubercles?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 2:47PM
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I live in Boston and have grown Cinnamon vine for two years. Only one vine survived the winter. It was next to the house. I planted some saved tubercles this year. The vines have grown 10-12 feet this year.

honeybunch - I have plenty of tubercles that I could send you.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 11:02AM
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topsiebeezelbub(z7 Al)

DON'T PLANT IT!!! I wish I could turn back time like superman to the day my mother brought this deamon-monster to my yard. The big air potato vine is not hardy and will freeze out, but not the small evil potaoes...you can hear them falling like a hail storm and all will root and grow...ARRRRRW!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 10:51PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Didn't know how to post photos before. It is invasive. This area is my long driveway. It survives drought, freezes and ice storms - not the leaves the millions of little potatoes in the ground and the roots.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 3:18PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 3:27PM
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If you want to grow yams just for fun, for the foliage or (if your growing season in long enough) edible tubers, then go to a Latin American or Asian grocery and by a yam and plant it. Not a sweet potato "yam" (Cubans would call "boniato") but a Dioscorea yam (Cubans would call "name," if I recall correctly). These will not survive winters even in South Carolina where I have grown them. I think even North Florida was too cold for them commercially. Seventy years ago they were grown commercially a bit in Central Florida. But you can grow them for fun elsewhere, and perfectly safely (I think), not as an envirinmental pest.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 6:06PM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

I planted a single plant in 2000 in poor soil and the plant has spread over confined area. I do not consider this an invasive in my zone 5 location. I dug tubers that were the size of potatoes this weekend. I peeled them and cooked them in a stew as I would do for potatoes. I really enjoyed the taste. I hope to have this plant around for many years since it is attractive and tasty.

I read with concern that the tubers can be irritating before they are cooked due to calcium oxalate present. Does anyone have personal experience with this irritation?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 9:07PM
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pattypan(z6b CT)

can anyone tell me if cinnamon vine twines clockwise or counterclock wise, and whether it makes a difference. i think i have cinnamon vine and not air potato, but i can't see the difference in pictures. i do want to eat the tubercles and yams. thanks !!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 2:08PM
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After harvesting my first chinese yam plants, I collected hundreds of little potatoes and planted them all along a fence deep enough so they can hopefully survive the winter and sprout out the next year.

In the first season, the tubers only get to around 3/4 inch in diameter by 9 inches long like a carrot so I could have waited longer, but I collected the smaller pieces to plant back into the ground so they can produce even more. I believe that they should be left in the ground for perhaps 3 good seasons if you expect to get 2-3 inch sizes nice fat roots. I'm impressed at how deep these guys can grow.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 7:38PM
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pattypan(z6b CT)

after 3 years i've dug up one plant to find roots about 3/4" thick. they broke off because under my 8" of soil is rocky subsoil. i'm giving up on the yams, but the tubercles are prolific and edible. tossed in oil and baked they are fairly good taste-wise. i can't find any thing more about them online. here are the problems: after 3 years the largest tubercles were almost an inch long. i don't know if they get larger on older plants, or if this was a great season. but they were vastly outnumbered by small ones. the small ones shrivel up by the time the large ones are cooked. so i segregated by size- too time consuming ! and try to pick them ? many more fall off, and all of these seem to sprout the next year ! i was weeding them out all summer. so i'm careful not to throw any outside the garden area. i love free food, but this may not be the best plant to have in ct.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 4:40PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I can't believe people are planting this. I would rather have thistles.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:14PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Thanks Helen. If it's worse than thistles, I'm not going to take the chance! I did have an area in mind that is completely isolated from all other soil by over 15' of driveway. Might put a dwarf speading bamboo there.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 5:52PM
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