About Ipomea Pandurata
Ipomea pandurata is in the same genus as the cultivated Sweet Potato (Ipomea batatas). It's vining stem grows up to around 15 feet long from a large tuberous root that can weigh 20 pounds or more! The root runs vertically and deep and is slightly milky, resembling a yam. There is often a purple tinge along its thin, green, branching stem. Plant may or may not have hairs.
The medicinal properties of Ipomoea pandurata did not go unnoticed by early American scientists. William Bartram, the famous early botanist, noted that “the dissolvent and diuretant powers of the root... so much esteemed as a remedy for nephritic complaints, were discovered by the Indians to the inhabitants of Carolina” (qtd. in Kindscher 1992:128)
Habitat: Fields, roadsides, fencerows, streambanks, dry open or partially shaded areas, disturbed areas
Identification: Perennial vine
Leaves: Up to 6 inches long, 3 inches wide, alternate, thin, heart or fiddle shaped, pointed tip, smooth margins, leaves on long stems
Flowers: Up to 3 inches long and across, produced on peduncles(stalks), funnel shaped, white to pink, often with dark pink or purple center Fruit: 1/2 inch long, 2 chambered capsule, broadest near base, tapering to a tip, containing 2 to 4 dull reddish brown seeds that are densely hairy around the margin
Harvest and Preparation: It's not a good idea to eat the root raw, as it has a strong purgative(laxative) effect. Dig root anytime ground isn't frozen but it's best in spring or autumn as the starch level is lower in summer. Young roots are preferred to older ones as they become woody. Boil or bake root like sweet potatoes. When boiling, water can be changed 2 or 3 times if potato is too bitter. Roots have a tough outer skin and require peeling. Season and serve with butter. Peeled slices of root can be dried for later use.
Medicinal Uses: First Americans used Wild Potato as a poultice applied to rheumatism. Decoction of roots were taken as for coughs. Used as a diuretic, expectorant, for dropsy, laxative, asthma, and for kidney and liver problems. Infusion of root taken for cholera morbis(gastrointestinal disturbance). Infusion of powdered plants taken for headaches. Decoction of roots taken for initial stages of tuberculosis.
Poisonous Look-Alikes: Wild Potato flowers are similar to Jimson Weed flowers; however, Jimson Weed is an upright herb with large, coarsely toothed leaves. Note that Wild Potato vine seeds are poisonous if ingested.
Credit For Content:
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Missouri Department of Conservation
Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide
Edible Wild Plants - A North American Field Guide To Over 200 Natural Foods
University of Michigan - Dearborn - Native American Ethnobotany