Dioscorea communis

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Black bryony
Tamus communis.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Dioscoreales
Family: Dioscoreaceae
Genus: Dioscorea
D. communis
Binomial name
Dioscorea communis
(L.) Caddick & Wilkin
  • Tamus communis (L.)
  • Tamus cretica L.
  • Tamus racemosa Gouan
  • Smilax rubra Willd.
  • Tamus cordifolia Stokes
  • Tamus edulis Lowe
  • Tamus norsa Lowe
  • Dioscorea canariensis Webb & Berthel.
  • Tamus canariensis Willd. ex Kunth
  • Tamus parviflora Kunth
  • Tamus baccifera St.-Lag.
  • Tamus cirrhosa Hausskn. ex Bornm.

Dioscorea communis or Tamus communis is a species of flowering plant in the yam family Dioscoreaceae and is commonly known as black bryony, lady's-seal or black bindweed.[2]


It is a climbing herbaceous plant growing to 2–4 m tall, with stems that twine anticlockwise.[3]: 102  The leaves are spirally arranged, heart-shaped, up to 10 cm long and 8 cm broad, with a petiole up to 5 cm long. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The flowers are individually inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, 3–6 mm diameter, with six petals; the male flowers produced in slender 5–10 cm racemes, the female flowers in shorter clusters. The fruit is a bright red berry, 1 cm diameter. Its fairly large tuber is, like the rest of the plant, poisonous.


Dioscorea communis is native and widespread throughout southern and central Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia, from Ireland to the Canary Islands, east to Iran and Crimea.[1][4][5][6][7][8]


Dioscorea communis is a typical plant of the forest understory, from the sea to the mountains, usually in dense woods, but it can also be found in meadows and hedges.


All components of the black bryony plant, including the tubers, are poisonous due to saponin content, so it is not typically used internally; however, it has been used as a poultice for bruises and inflamed joints. It has been suggested that black bryony be used topically with caution, due to a tendency for the plant to cause painful blisters.

Studies have isolated calcium oxalate deposits and histamines in the berry juice and rhizomes, which may contribute to skin irritation and contact dermatitis associated with black bryony.[9]

Black Bryony is highly poisonous and should not be ingested at all at least when raw.[citation needed] When cooked, young shoots are commonly eaten in southern France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Croatia.


The rhizome contains phenanthrenes (7-hydroxy-2,3,4,8-tetramethoxyphenanthrene, 2,3,4-trimethoxy-7,8-methylenedioxyphenanthrene, 3-hydroxy-2,4,-dimethoxy-7,8-methylenedioxyphenanthrene, 2-hydroxy-3,5,7-trimethoxyphenanthrene and 2-hydroxy-3,5,7-trimethoxy-9,10-dihydrophenanthrene).[10]



  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.
  2. ^ "Dioscorea communis". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  3. ^ Blamey, M.; Fitter, R.; Fitter, A (2003). Wild flowers of Britain and Ireland: The Complete Guide to the British and Irish Flora. London: A & C Black. ISBN 978-1408179505.
  4. ^ Altervista Flora Italiana, Tamaro, Dioscorea communis (L.) Caddick & Wilkin includes photos plus European distribution map
  5. ^ Govaerts, R., Wilkin, P. & Saunders, R.M.K. (2007). World Checklist of Dioscoreales. Yams and their allies: 1-65. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  6. ^ Dobignard, D. & Chatelain, C. (2010). Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 1: 1-455. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
  7. ^ Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-40170-2.
  8. ^ Flora Europaea: Tamus communis distribution Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Inverleith Row, Edinburgh, EH3 5LR, United Kingdom(2008).
  9. ^ "Black bryony (Tamus communis, Dioscorea communis) - Mango's Market".
  10. ^ Kovács, Adriána; Forgo, Peter; Zupkó, István; Réthy, Borbála; Falkay, György; Szabó, Pál; Hohmann, Judit (March 2007). "Phenanthrenes and a dihydrophenanthrene from Tamus communis and their cytotoxic activity". Phytochemistry. 68 (5): 687–691. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2006.10.028. PMID 17166530.

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