Aug 14 2011

Little Potatoes

Published by at 7:25 am under Plants


Yesterday I found this plant blooming next to the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle State Park.

This is groundnut (Apios americana), a perennial vine with irregularly shaped reddish-brown flowers.  The vine lacks tendrils so the entire plant wraps itself around nearby vegetation.  I found it climbing Joe Pye-weed.

You might know groundnut by one of its other names — hopniss, pig potato, potato bean or Indian potato — most of which refer to its edible tuberous roots that are high in protein and look like small potatoes growing in a chain.  Each one is about the size of your thumb.

Native Americans taught European settlers that they could eat groundnut but neither of them bothered to domesticate it the way the potato was domesticated in Peru.  If they had, we’d probably be eating groundnuts today.

p.s. An attempt has been made to domesticate it.  Maybe we’ll eat it in the future.

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Little Potatoes”

  1. Tom Moelleron 15 Aug 2011 at 1:03 am

    Thanks, Kate. I have a picture of this flower from Presque Isle that I took in September of 2006. Now I am finally able to identify the plant.

  2. kellyon 17 Aug 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Any idea what this plant is? It is blooming right now in NJ. It is on a bank of a lake. It is viny with lavender and beige blooms that are delightfully pretty. There are beans forming. When I do a search for “wild beans” I find info on groundnuts, etc…, but this is a different plant than the one you are featuring here.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/certhia/3895380656/in/photostream/

  3. Kate St. Johnon 17 Aug 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Kelly, I believe the plant is Trailing Wild Bean (Strophostyles helvola).

    Descriptions & more photos of it are on these websites:
    http://www.missouriplants.com/Pinkalt/Strophostyles_helvola_page.html
    http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=sthe9

  4. kellyon 18 Aug 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks Kate. That is the plant. I have to get some reference books on edible and native plants…my next little library.

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