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PlantFiles: Groundnut, Potato Bean
Apios americana

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Family: Papilionaceae (pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Apios (A-pee-os) (Info)
Species: americana (a-mer-ih-KAY-na) (Info)

Synonym:Apios tuberosa

49 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Edible Fruits and Nuts
Perennials
Vines and Climbers

Height:
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

Spacing:
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Danger:
N/A

Bloom Color:
Maroon (Purple-Brown)
Brown/Bronze

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer

Foliage:
Herbaceous

Other details:
Flowers are fragrant
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds
Suitable for growing in containers

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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Profile:

6 positives
3 neutrals
3 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Negative coriaceous On Jun 3, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

I've only dealt with this as a weed, when it appeared among perennials in the garden (Boston, MA Z6a). It twines around existing plants and makes a tremendous nuisance of itself. I found I could never dig out all of the tubers once they'd gotten established in the crowns of perennials. Glyphosate herbicide was the solution. That meant sacrificing many of the perennials. I wouldn't recommend growing this except in a bed by itself.

I've also seen this in a public planting of Rosa rugosa---I don't envy the gardeners.

The fragrance of this species is usually described as like that of violets. The flowers are fragrant, but I find the fragrance heavy and unpleasant, both sweet and foetid, and not at all like violets.

Negative Tgreg On Jun 3, 2014, Tgreg from New Milford, CT wrote:

This plant suddenly appeared in a garden of phlox, day lilies, and a few peonies (other spring plants that are too early for it) a few years ago. I live in CT and agree with pfg that it is a nuisance. It wraps around the phlox and chokes the top where the buds form. If you try to just pull it off, you strip the leaves and terminal bud from the phlox. You have to unwind each from the top down and then pull up. And they still come back, but maybe not until phlox have bloomed. They form entwined mats that cover all the plants as well. I have no idea how I got these nor how to get rid of them. Be careful if you choose to grow these!

Positive Gessepi29 On Mar 29, 2014, Gessepi29 from HAMPTONVILLE, NC wrote:

Love this plant. Not invasive in my zone, and looks great along side the creek in my yard.

Positive SteveOh On May 14, 2013, SteveOh from Cherry Grove, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

A delicate-looking twiner with attractive flowers and tasty tubers, Apios Americana prefers sunny, moist locations and really thrives if given something to get it off the ground. The vines never seem to grow more that 6' in my area, and will grow along the ground with reduced vigor if it has nothing to climb.

The plant does spread, but it is easily controlled as the roots are shallow. Planting in a raised bed or using plastic edging works well. Unrestrained, I can see this plant becoming a problem as the tubers store plenty of energy to continue sprouting if you only pull the stem.

Similar to asparagus or Chinese yams this perennial tuber crop produces best when left alone for the first year (or two). Harvesting in the first year after planting will likely be a disappointment. The tubers grow horizontally in a linear chain along the main root and are easily lifted with a garden fork as they are fairly close to the surface. Young tubers are round and smooth and usually golf ball sized or smaller, older tubers can get fist sized and lumpy. All are good to eat.

As pointed out in other posts, there are both diploid (seed producing) and triploid (flowers but doesn't fruit) variants, with most (but not all) Northern varieties being triploid and reproducing only vegetatively.

Tuber size and number per plant as well as number of leaflets (3, 5, or 7 some people report 9 leaflets but I've never seen that) are variable, as is the presence of flowers.

Positive guygee On Mar 13, 2013, guygee from Satellite Beach, FL wrote:

The tubers of this plant are delicious and grow prolifically in my garden. The tubers are analyzed to have a protein content of about three times that of potato. The flowers are beautiful as well. I have built an 8 foot high trellis and have had these plants growing for three years now. This species is native from Florida north all the way into Canada. The type I have are fertile diploids that yield viable seed from which I have successfully germinated new plants.

It is reported that infertile triploid types tend to dominate in the northern end of the natural range and propagation is by dispersal of the tubers only. This species was once an important food source for Native Americans and paleoagronomists believe that humans carried tubers with them in migrations to replant thus extending the range of this plant.

Negative Pfg On Jun 13, 2011, Pfg from (Pam) Warren, CT (Zone 5b) wrote:

This plant is a nightmare in my garden, the bane of my existence, growing unchecked for years before my arrival. The pods have imbedded themselves deep in the root crowns of Siberian Iris and Daylilies, grow up everywhere and weigh the foliage down into an unsightly mess. I've cleared out beds and dug down- it re-roots from tne whisper of a shred of root...Roundup kills it eventually but I've been working on one bed I cleared nearly a year ago and it's still coming up. I won't re-plant until I'm sure it's gone. No flower is worth it!

Positive CaptMicha On Sep 26, 2008, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I really like this plant. I have it growing again the brick wall of my house, bordered by the concrete pathway to the door so it's well contained. The soil isn't great quality there and it doesn't go very deep but the plant does well, rewarding me with lots of flowers. This is only the second year so I can't comment on the edible qualities.

It gets part sun and winds around a lilac shrub. I plan on removing the lilac and training the groundnut to grow up the wall with some kind of a trellis.

Neutral DruidNH On Feb 10, 2007, DruidNH from Conway, NH wrote:

This plant can be very invasive. I have to tear it out by the bushel to keep it from smothering my shrubs. I rated it as a neutral because it's decorative, easy to grow and not particular about soil. The tubers are edible, but small.

Neutral frostweed On Nov 28, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Groundnut, Potato Bean Apios americana is native to Texas and other States.

Positive jeri11 On Sep 12, 2006, jeri11 from Central, LA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This plant is beautiful but aggressive. I wanted it to cover a fence and it is covering a large clump of pampas grass. It dies back to the ground in winter and comes back faithfully.

Positive tigeress On Jun 19, 2005, tigeress from Norwich, CT wrote:

Until a year ago I had no clue what this vine was. It was always there. I love it. It is delicate and very abundant. Thanks to your comments I now know how to move them and give them away. They are literally coming up in my lawn and I hate just weeding them and killing them. They are very invasive, but they such a nice touch to my garden that I do not like killing them.



Neutral NatureWalker On Aug 30, 2004, NatureWalker from New York & Terrell, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Physical Characteristics: Perennial growing to 1.2 meters. It is hardy to zone 3. It is in leaf from April to November, in flower from June to September. The scented flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. It can fix Nitrogen.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Habitats and Possible Locations: Woodland, Cultivated Beds, Sunny Edges.

Edible Uses: Root; Seed; Seedpod.

Tuber - raw or cooked. A delicious flavour somewhat like roasted sweet potatoes, it always receives very high marks in taste trials with us. The tuber can also be dried and ground into a powder then used as a thickening in soups etc. or can be added to cereal flours when making bread. Tubers contain 17% crude protein, this is more than 3 times that found in potatoes. The tubers can be harvested in their first year but they take 2 - 3 years to become a sizeable crop. They can be harvested at any time of the year but are at their best in the autumn. The tubers can also be harvested in the autumn and will store until at least the spring. Yields of 2.3 kilos of tubers per plant have been achieved.

Seed - cooked. Rather small and not produced very freely, they are used like peas and beans. A good source of protein, they can be ground into a powder and added to cereals when making bread etc.

Root (Fresh weight): In grammes per 100gm weight of food: Protein: 17

Medicinal Uses: Disclaimer:
The tubers were used in folk remedies for that cancerous condition known as "Proud Flesh" in New England. Nuts were boiled and made into a plaster, "For to eat out the proud flesh they (the Indians) take a kind of earth nut boyled and stamped".

Other Uses: Latex. There is one report that the plant contains a latex which could be used in the production of rubber.

Cultivation details: Prefers a light rich soil and a sunny position. When grown in a warm dry situation in a well-drained sandy soil, the plants will be long lived with the tuberous roots increasing in size and number each year. Another report says that the plant prefers light dappled shade. It tolerates acid soils. Dislikes windy situations.

Groundnut is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation in the range of 97 to 117cm, an average annual temperature range of 9.9 to 20.3C and a pH in the range of 4.5 to 7.0. It tolerates a range of climatic conditions and produces well in cool temperate zones as well as the subtropical conditions of South Florida.

While most reports suggest that this species should be cold hardy in all parts of Britain, one report says that the plants may require protection in severe winters.

The groundnut has occasionally been cultivated for its edible root and has the potential to become a commercial crop. Cultivars have been selected in the past for higher yields and larger tubers, it is said that the yields from some of these cultivars can rival potato crops. Some of these cultivars are gradually becoming available in Britain. The best yields are obtained when the plant is left in the ground for at least two growing seasons. Yields of 30 tons per acre have been achieved from weed crops growing in a field of cranberries.

This species has been grown in the past in S. Europe and has been suggested as a nitrogen-fixing edible ornamental for permaculturalists. The plant forms long thin roots which enlarge at intervals along their length to form the tubers, the effect is somewhat like a necklace.

Plants can be invasive once they are established and have become a weed of cultivated cranberry crops in N. America.

A climbing plant, twining around the thin branches of other plants for support. The flowers have a scent of violets.

This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Propagation: Seed - pre-soak for 3 hours in tepid water and sow February/March in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 1 to 3 months at 15c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Division can be carried out at almost any time of the year, though spring is probably the best time. Simply dig up the roots, harvest the tubers and replant them where you want the plants to grow. It is also possible to harvest the tuber in winter, store them in a cool fairly dry but frost-free place over the winter and then plant them out in the spring. The tubers lose moisture rapidly once they have been harvested, so make sure that you store them in a damp medium such as leafmold.

Scent: Flowers: Fresh: The flowers have a scent of violets.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,
Huntsville, Alabama
Opelika, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut
New Milford, Connecticut
Norwich, Connecticut
Pomfret Center, Connecticut
Satellite Beach, Florida
Kingston, Georgia
Greenwell Springs, Louisiana
Brookeville, Maryland
Silver Spring, Maryland
Erie, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sturgis, Mississippi
Concord, New Hampshire (2 reports)
Conway, New Hampshire
Mechanicville, New York
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Hamptonville, North Carolina
Athens, Ohio
Barberton, Ohio
Bowling Green, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Anderson, South Carolina
Cumberland City, Tennessee



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