American Groundnut

Botanical Name: Apios americana

Bloom: Late summer

Height: Herbaceous twining vine, can climb to several feet in a summer

Conditions: Moist woodland edges and stream banks. Can spread widely in moist, loose soils.

Wildlife benefits: “Leaf-cutting bees are considered the most important cross-pollinators of the flowers.” Illinois Wildflowers

Seeds: Probably most practical to propagate vegetatively from tubers.

Remarks: An important food source for First Nations people. (For an interesting, if US-centric, account of the importance of Groundnuts to the First Nations, click.) The round tubers, strung along the rhizomes like beads, are tasty roasted. It takes three years for a plant to be large enough to produce a good crop of tubers. Seeds are also edible, but the plants do not produce seeds every year this far north, and some plants are triploid and never produce seeds. The distribution of the the plant in the northern part of its range has probably more to do with First Nations cultivation of the tubers than to seed dispersal. More information on eating American Groundnuts.

Similar species: Nothing resembles the maroon-pink flowers of American Groundnut, but when not in flower it is sometimes confused with Hog Peanut.