Aug 14 2011
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)