Family: Fabaceae (Bean or Legume family)
Height: 1-5 m (3-16 ft)
Apios americana Medik.
Stems: twining or sprawling. It can have hair or be hairless (glabrous or pubescent).
Flowers: the flowers are borne on the axis where the leaves come off the stem. They are set in a loose or tight racemes which is a uniformed cluster of flowers on a stem. Individual flowers are shaped like a helmet for the Spanish conquistadors with the top banner is colored with a whitish top and brown-red to pinkish-red finish. The side wings are a deeper brownish red and curve downward. The keel protrudes in between the bottom side lobes and is a creamy white to brownish red color.
Leaves: alternately arranged with 5-7 stalked leaflets (sometimes only 3 on younger plants). Leaves can be pubescent or glabrous. The leaflets are rounded at the base and 2-10 cm (0.75-4 in) long.
Fruits: legume that is straight or sometimes slightly curled reaching 5-10 cm (0.2-0.4 in) long and having a dark brown, wrinkled surface.
Comments: also called wild potato, groundnut has been prized for its edible tubers which are best picked in the late fall through early spring. These tubers can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds can be cooked like peas and eaten. Without fruit, groundnut can often look like hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteatea), but groundnut usually has more than three leaves (five to seven).
Etymology: The genus, Apios, comes from the Greek word for "pear" and americana is due to its locality in North America.
SOURCES & FURTHER RESOURCES:
Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. pp. 216-217.
Kindscher, K. 1987. Edible wild plants of the prairie: an ethnobotanical guide. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. pp. 46-53.