(Apios americana Medic.)

Used with Permission Thomas G. Barnes @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Barnes, T.G., and S.W. Francis. 2004. Wildflowers and ferns of Kentucky. University Press of Kentucky. ©

Groundnut (Apios americana Medic.):

  Wild Sweet Potato, American Potato Bean, Wild Bean, Sea Vines, Pea Vines, Indian Potato, American Potato Bean, Wild Potato.

  Can be found throughout the Eastern U.S. Ranging from all along the Atlantic coast West into Southern Colorado. Preferring moist soil it grows aggressively. It is a climbing perennial vine, spreading ten feet in one summer, with milky juice and leaves composed of usually 5 to 7 leaflets. Leaves are alternate, egg shaped ½ to 4 inches long and 1/5 to 2 ½ inches wide sometimes hairy.


  Forms from July to October in clusters in the leaves the flowers are unique. The center ranging from white to pink or reddish brown. The two sides looking somewhat like wings range from brown to a lavender. The fruits are dry, straight or slightly curved, narrow, and 3/16 to 3/8 in long. The fleshy legume fruits are ¼ to ½ in diameter and indehiscent (the fruit coils back after opening), usually with 1 seed. The seeds are oblong or square, dark brown, with wrinkled surfaces.


  The rhizome or underground stems grow 2 to 3 inches below the ground. Swellings that form tubers (the groundnuts), can be as small as a peanut or as large as a apple.


  Groundnut has been a staple in the diets of most Eastern Native Americans. Although the tubers are the most important, all parts of the plant are edible. The tubers are rich in starch and contains three time the protein as potatoes. Many think the taste is very similar to that of a white potato. Although they can be harvested anytime of the year, as with any root plant the tubers are best after the first frost. Another advantage is the fact that the tubers will keep well in a cool damp location.

  •  Eaten raw
  •  Boiled, fried, or mashed same as potatoes
  •  Dried and ground into a flour, flour used as any flour
  •  Seeds are cooked and eaten like peas.


  Containing a number of desirable nutrients, including protein, niacin, thiamin and phosphorous makes the Ground Nut useful as a medicine:

  •  Oil used as a laxative
  •  Oil used as a emollient which softens and relaxes the skin
  •  Roasted eaten with sugar and milk is very good for pregnant and nursing women
  •  Eating Groundnuts helps build resistance to infections such as Hepatitis and tuberculosis
  •  Useful in the treatment of hemorrhage.
  •  Used in the treatment of diabetes


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