Air potato

Botanical Name :Dioscorea bulbifera
Family: Dioscoreaceae
Genus: Dioscorea
Species: D. bulbifera
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Dioscoreales

Common Names :  Air potato, Varahi in Sanskrit, Kaachil in Malayalam and Dukkar Kand in Marathi

Habitat :The Air potato plant is native to Africa and Asia.

History: A native to tropical Asia, air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera, was first introduced to the Americas from Africa. In 1905 it was introduced to Florida. Due to its ability to displace native species and disrupt natural processes such as fire and water flow, air potato has been listed as one of Florida?s most invasive plant species since 1993, and was placed on the Florida Noxious Weed List by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 1999.

US Habitat: Rapid growing and occurring on open to semishady sites: extending from Florida to adjacent states. All dying back during winter but able to cover small trees in a year, with old vines providing trellises for regrowth. Spread and persist by underground tubers and abundant production of aerial yams, which drop and form new plants and can spread by water.

Description:
Air potato is a herbaceous perennial vine with broad leaves and   high climbing vines to 65 feet (20 m) long, infestations covering shrubs and trees. It has two types of storage organs,twining and sprawling stems with long-petioled heart-shaped leaves. Spreading by dangling potato-like tubers (bulbils) at leaf axils and underground tubers. Monocots.

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A distinguishing characteristic of air potato is that all leaf veins arise from the leaf base, unlike other herbaceous vines such as smilax and morningglories. Flowers are inconspicuous, arising from leaf axils in panicles 4 inches long, and are fairly uncommon in Florida. Vegetative reproduction is the primary mechanism of spread. This is through the formation of aerial tubers, or bulbils, which are formed in leaf axils. These vary in roundish shapes and sizes. In addition, large tubers are formed underground, some reaching over 6 inches in diameter.

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Edible Uses:
These tubers are like small, oblong potatoes, and they are edible and cultivated as a food crop, especially in West Africa. The tubers often have a bitter taste, which can be removed by boiling. They can then be prepared in the same way as other yams, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. The air potato is one of the most widely-consumed yam species.

Medicinal Uses:
In folk medicine it has been used to ease the pain on sprained ankles, and certain other uses that is in combination with other plants.  In healing the sprained angle, the fruit of the vine, which is brownish in color is cut in have and the insides are scraped out and put into a cloth or something that will easily let the fluid out of it we massaging the sprained ankle with it. Always massage down toward the ground and outwardly of the foot.  TCM: Indications: rid of toxin, relieves swelling, reduces phlegm, cools blood, stops bleeding.

Air potato has been used as a folk remedy to treat conjunctivitis, diarrhea and dysentery, among other ailments.

Toxicity:
Uncultivated forms, such as those found growing wild in Florida can be poisonous. These varieties contain the steroid, diosgenin, which is a principal material used in the manufacture of a number of synthetic steroidal hormones, such as those used in hormonal contraception. There have been claims[3] that even the wild forms are rendered edible after drying and boiling, leading to confusion over actual toxicity.

Invasive species:
In some places, such as Florida, it is an invasive species because of its quick-growing, large-leafed vine that spreads tenaciously and shades out any plants growing beneath it. The bulbils on the vines sprout and become new vines, twisting around each other to form a thick mat. If the plant is cut to the ground, the tubers can survive for extended periods and send up new shoots later.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Rresources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioscorea_bulbifera
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm
http://www.texasinvasives.org/plant_database/detail.php?symbol=DIBU

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