Dioscoreaceae / Yam
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Medical 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. Drugs like birth control pills are affordable due to this genus. The steroids in the plant could explain its possible effectiveness in some herbal remedies.
Similar Species: Fourleaf Yam (Dioscorea
quaternata) has many or all leaves in whorls, is much branched and has larger flowers.
Florida Yam (Dioscorea floridana) may have several flower clusters at each leaf axis and the male flowers are in panicles. It is found in scattered locations on the coastal plain from South Carolina to Florida.
One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.
This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.
Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Monocots / One Seed Leaf