Wild Potato Vine - Man of the Earth - Man Root - Gopher Potato
Ipomoea pandurata (Linnaeus) G.F.W. Meyer
Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory) Family
Plant is a prostrate to climbing perennial, smooth to hairy vine with an enlarged root. Preferred habitat is roadsides, fields, woods and fence rows. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
Leaves are egg-shaped; no teeth and no lobes; forms an angle to the left with sides less than equal. Leaf base is rounded or may have a squared tip.
Flowers are solitary or several in the leaf axil. Calyx is five-lobed; corolla tips taper and are pinched. Color is white with a purple throat. Flowers occur in late spring and throughout the summer.
Fruit is a capsule.
This perennial vine is the forerunner of the domestic sweet potato. The potato may reach several feet in length and weigh as much as 12 to15 pounds, some twice that weight. In pioneer times, and certainly with Native Americans, one tuber could provide several meals for the entire family.
Wild Potato is widespread across the southeast and north to Virginia and Missouri. It is also known in Central and South America where it is an important food source to that continent, as well as for its medicinal properties -- a steroid extracted from the potato was useful in making cortisone a household word as it replaced the need to extract the steroid from animals, thus bringing the cost of treatment for arthritis within reach of anyone suffering from that debilitating ailment.