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10/27/17- Climbing Yams

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

It is officially fall, ya’ll! October is almost gone and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it. Many of us will be sitting down to a whopping dinner comprised of turkey, green bean casserole, yams and a whole lot more! Speaking of yams, I could not think of a more appropriate time to talk about climbing yams, an invasive species that has a large impact on our area. DISCLAIMER: these are not your grand mamma’s yams!

Arriving from (you guessed it) Asia in the early 1800s, climbing yams spread like wildfire throughout the region. Most people blame naïve gardeners for their expansion, who ultimately planted the vine as an ornamental probably because the plant itself has very unique characteristics. For one, the leaf of the vine is heart/triangle shaped with smooth margins. They are dark green but will turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. The vine itself can cover trees and shrubs, reaching heights of nearly 65 feet! Although interesting, this was not the characteristic that cranked most gardener’s tractor. It was the dangling yams that hung from the vine! Those yams amazed gardeners and became the “trendy” species to grow. Little did they know, as soon as the yams dropped off onto the ground, a whole new vine would be born. This continued for years and years and now the species is deemed an invasive species. Water and Air yams are found mostly in Florida while Chinese yams extend throughout the southeast region of the United States. Chinese yams are often referred to as Cinnamon vine because of the cinnamon fragrance the yam gives off. The vine and leaves will die back in the winter, but this does not hinder its stamina. Chinese yams can cover a small tree in just ONE year. New vines use old vines as a ladder, thus creating a vicious cycle of cinnamon smelling yams. Today, Chinese yams are used for people experiencing stomach and spleen issues. It is also used in many traditional Chinese medicines as well.

Thanks to a few gardeners that were intrigued by a yam, Chinese yams are now a part of our forests here in Alabama. Although unique and intriguing, this species will choke out native vegetation quick, fast and in a hurry! It is best to get rid of this species if you see it on your property. Unless you are experiencing stomach/spleen issues, I would stick to eating the yams served at thanksgiving, not the ones you might find in the woods.

By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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