Thursday, December 1, 2016

Go for a walk. Look around! You never know what you'll find

Hello, everyone.

Today we strolled down our own street, past the tall, untended hedge of oleanders, toward something we were curious about up the road.
As we walked, we looked around--and saw a completely unknown (to us) plant in the said oleander bushes.  It was a lush green (so green that I am surprised the cutter ants haven't taken it all!) leaf, with the veins all running from the base at the stem to the outside. And there were brown papery-skinned blobs on it, and fallen on the ground around it. It had already climbed most of the way to the top of the oldeander, too, and if you know oleander that isn't a mere 3 foot bush (1 meter for my metric zone readers) but more like a 12 to 20 foot one. (erm, 3 1/2 m to 6 m approximately)

Here are some photos of it (I love the camera in my new-ish Samsung Galaxy 5!)

DH held up the stem for it's glamour shot--see the baby bulbils on the stem

One that fell on the ground

We carried one home. It's on a 4 inch tile.

And I cut it open, too.
The first web search didn't help. That might be because the brown things weren't fruit. Who knew? But then I tried the old reliable Valley plants list. That turned up a possibility: Dioscorea_bulbifera.
When I searched again with this name, the pictures matched. It turns out this plant is one of the Evil Invasive Species of Florida! It can grow to 60 feet tall and overtake tall trees, killing them with the shade of its leaves, and reproduces wildly with the aid of its aerial bulbils.

It's also one of the yam family, and its tubers contain components that can be used in the manufacture of birth control pills. (Not that this has any bearing on anything, it's just interesting trivia.) Apparently it's cultivated in Panama, at least some varieties which are allegedly edible.

Encouraged by this info, I cut it in half and discovered that it does look like a potato inside. Hence its common name of Air Potato. And when I licked it, it did have a sort of bitter, pharmaceutical afternote. I don't think I'd like to eat it. Perhaps it would improve if  it were grated and flushed with plenty of water and then boiled. But we're not so desperate that we need to try such tricks. (And if we were, I'd try it with the acorns of our Chinkapin Oak instead. Flushing out the acorn tannins is actually something the North American Indians did to make oak acorns edible.)

So the thing I took away from this was, you never, never know what you will see on a walk. Even on on a paved, in-town road in your own neighborhood!