Groundnut Identification – Apios americana

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This post is part of our “100 Plants and Mushrooms” series. Here, you’ll see the plant’s main parts – its leaves, flowers, fruits, and more – all with key identification features.

The Groundnut, also scientifically known as Apios americana, is a plant with unique edible tubers. And it’s not related to what we commonly know as nuts! Part of the Fabaceae family, which many of us might recognize as the Pea family, the Groundnut has many distinct features.

Groundnut: Key Parts in Photos

Where to find it

If you’re keen on spotting a Groundnut, you’ll want to start by looking in areas with a bit of shade but that also get some sun. Wet areas are particularly great, so think about moist woods, thickets, and along the shorelines of rivers or lakes. This plant isn’t something tiny you might overlook, it actually grows as a vine that can reach a length up to 10 feet.

How to identify Groundnut

The plant has distinctive flowers. The shape of these flowers is irregular, having a large upper lip divided into what looks like two “wings”, while the lower lip showcases two smaller lobes. In terms of color, expect to see a range from light pink, dark red to brown. Flowers aren’t solitary on this plant; you’ll usually find them strung together, either clustered roundly or in a spike-like fashion, sprouting from where the leaves meet the stem.

The Groundnut has compound leaves, meaning they’re made up of smaller leaflets. Each leaf will usually have groups of 5 or 7 of these leaflets. Each leaflet can be up to 2 inches long. Their shape is rather egg-like, broad at the base and tapering to a pointed tip. This plant doesn’t use tendrils to latch onto things. Instead, the Groundnut wraps its stem around other plants to support itself.

Their fruits, hanging from the vine during the summer and fall months, stand out with their copper hues. These aren’t just any fruits; they are dry, bean-shaped legumes with seeds inside. Each pod typically ranges from 2 to 4 inches in length.

The tubers it produces underground are edible. In fact, they’re more nutritious than our common potatoes. Its seeds are also something you can eat.

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