In dry soils, in fields or on roadsides, look for the large white morning-glory (up to three inches long and about as wide) with a reddish-purple “eye” in the center. Arising from a deep vertical root, this perennial vine with alternate leaves, entwines itself over other vegetation.
The leaf-blades are thin, heart-shaped, occasionally fiddle-shaped (pandurate), three to six inches long. The sepals are ridged, which distinguishes it from other morning-glories.
Another distinguishing characteristic is its root. Sometimes called Man-of-the-Earth, this morning-glory has an enlarged starchy root that can be several feet long and weigh up to thirty pounds. It is said that American Indians roasted pieces of the root for food–but be wary about trying that, because the fresh root is a purgative.
Wild Potato Vine is widely distributed and blooms from May through September. It is a host for the sweet potato weevil, and can be a troublesome weed. It is a member of the Morning-glory Family, Convolvulaceae.
The root can be cooked. The young ones are best, they become very acrid as they get old.
The roots can be up to 75cm long and 12cm in diameter and can weigh 7 kilos.
Roots weighing 10 kilos or more are not unknown. They are best if given a long roasting. Roasted roots taste like sweet potato but with some bitterness.
The tuber can be baked or boiled like a potato. The taste can be described as a sweet potato that is somewhat bitter. Caution should be taken as some roots have more of a bitter taste than others and ought to be boiled in “several changes of water.”
American Indians poulticed root for rheumatism, “hard tumors”. Root tea used as a diuretic, laxative, and expectorant, for coughs, asthma, beginning stages of tuberculosis; “blood purifier”; powdered plant used in tea for headaches, indigestion.
Warning: The roots when left uncooked have purgative (laxative) properties
An infusion of the plant has been used for soaking sweet potatoes in order to keep away bugs and moles.
Where Does Wild Potato-Vine (Ipomoea Pandurata) Grow?
How To Identify Wild Potato-Vine (Ipomoea Pandurata)
Alternate, petiolate. Petioles to +/-9cm long, glabrous to pubescent, with a shallow adaxial groove. Blades typically cordate, sometimes pandurate, entire, acute, glabrous to pubescent, green above, light green below, to +/-15cm long, +/-11cm broad, entire. Margins often wavy.
Vining, twining, somewhat woody – especially below, to many meters long, branching or not, somewhat angled, glabrous to pubescent. Root is large (+50cm long and weighing up to 30 pounds), vertical, and tuber-like.
Large, tuber-like root.
Produced on flower stalks (peduncles) in clusters of 1-5. Flowers are white with a lavender or purple center, 2-3 inches long.
A capsule containing 2-4 dull reddish brown seed that are densely hairy around the margin.