Saturday, August 16, 2008

Indian Potato or Groundnut

In an area dominated by invasive species, it was a pleasure to discover this historic American vine growing on the banks of the Far Mill River near Means Brook (photo above). It's been called Indian Potato, Potato Bean, and Groundnut because the tuberous roots, which contain significantly more protein than potatoes, were eaten extensively by Native Americans. Over the years, many efforts have been made to cultivate the crop, with the 2-3 years required per crop the biggest drawback. Still, efforts continue. The legume is in the pea family, and "beans" are now appearing on the vine.

Another native species, Swamp Loosestrife (left photo), was also growing along the banks (not to be confused with the highly invasive Purple Loosestrife). I've been trimming back some of the invasive Asiatic Bittersweet, Autumn Olive, and Japanese Barberry that dominate the area, so this was a pleasant surprise.

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