Saturday, July 25, 2009


Based on leaf pattern, I figured it was just another kind of Wisteria. When the blossoms came about, I was totally confused--again! :-) Here is the Groundnut, Apios americana, aka A. tuberosa. It's not only native to the area, but was held in great value by the Native Americans and European settlers.

From Walden:

"Digging one day for fish-worms I discovered the ground-nut (Apios tuberosa) on its string, the potato of the aborigines, a sort of fabulous fruit, which I had begun to doubt if I had ever dug and eaten in childhood, as I had told, and had not dreamed it. I had often since seen its crimpled red velvety blossom supported by the stems of other plants without knowing it to be the same. Cultivation has well - nigh exterminated it. It has a sweetish taste, much like that of a frost-bitten potato, and I found it better boiled than roasted. This tuber seemed like a faint promise of Nature to rear her own children and feed them simply here at some future period. In these days of fatted cattle and waving grain-fields this humble root, which was once the totem of an Indian tribe, is quite forgotten, or known only by its flowering vine; but let wild Nature reign here once more, and the tender and luxurious English grains will probably disappear before a myriad of foes, and without the care of man the crow may carry back even the last seed of corn to the great corn-field of the Indian's God in the south - west, whence he is said to have brought it; but the now almost exterminated ground-nut will perhaps revive and flourish in spite of frosts and wildness, prove itself indigenous, and resume its ancient importance and dignity as the diet of the hunter tribe. Some Indian Ceres or Minerva must have been the inventor and bestower of it; and when the reign of poetry commences here, its leaves and string of nuts may be represented on our works of art."

From Useful Wild Plants:

"Narratives of white travelers in our American wilderness bear abundant evidence to the Groundnut's part in saving them from serious hunger. Being a vegetable, it made a grateful complement to the enforced meat diet of pioneers and explorers; and Major Long, whose share in making known the Rocky Mountain region to the world is commemorated in the name of one of our country's loftiest peaks, tells in his journal of his soldiers' finding the little tubers in quantities of a peck or more hoarded up in the brumal retreats of the field mice against the lean days of winter. They may be cooked either by boiling or by roasting."

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Boston, New York, 1897. 370-1. Web. Google Book Search. 24 Jul 2009.

Saunders, Charles Francis. Useful Wild Plants. New York, 1920. 3-4. Web. Google Book Search. 24 Jul 2009.


  1. When I was a child and read in my books how people once survived by "eating groundnuts", I had always assumed that they were just picking fallen nuts off of the ground... I progressed to thinking that then these nuts were actually ground (as in coffee beans). I was so surprised finally learn, years later, what groundnuts really were after finding these precious little blossoms on one of my walks. We have a huge groundnut vine that has wrapped itself around one of our blueberry bushes at the entrance to our dock. I have never attempted to dig up any of the tubers, fearful that I would kill the lovely vine. However, there are multiple chipmunk holes in the ground around it- wonder if they have been stealing tubers for their winter cache? The flowers have quite a sweet scent!

  2. Yes, I briefly considered digging to find a tuber but also didn't want to cause damage. You're probably right about those chipsters!

    Well, the photo larder is once again dwindling so it's off for an intensive hunt! The good news is that tomorrow's post is already lined up--I've been shooting a water-loving flower for days and finally made an ID.