Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ground Nut - Apios americana

Ground nut (Apios americana) is an herbaceous vine native to much of Florida and nearly all of eastern North America.  It is most commonly encountered in moist areas, such as the edge of streams, and in partial sun to mostly shady locations.  It is more tolerant of less moisture and more sun, once established, but it will perform best if given conditions that approach what it prefers in nature.
Ground nut, like most vines, can be somewhat aggressive and difficult to control in a well-manicured landscape.  But, in less formal settings, it has much to offer.  For one, its tubers and seeds are edible and once were important to the diet of Native Americans and the early colonial settlers.  The tubers were used in soups and stews or fried like potatoes.  Because it is a member of the legume family, the seeds (likes peas and beans) are high in protein and quite nutritious as well.
Ground nut is also a wonderful addition to a butterfly garden; being the larval food of the silver-spotted skipper.  Though this skipper may not simply magically appear in an urban landscape just because this wildflower is added, it most certainly will not show up if it isn't. 
Flowering occurs in the mid summer months and the blooms are quite showy.  Clusters of mahogany to maroon pea-like flowers dangle from the leaf axils and attract bees and other polliantors.  Eventually, the pollinated flowers produce "beans" about 2-3 inches long.  When they ripen, they split open and scatter the pea-like seeds away from the parent.
Despite its many positive qualities, some thought should be given before adding this to a landscape.  Vines in general tend to spread and ramble throughout the landscape in conditions that are favorable.  Once well established, they may be difficult to remove if you change your mind.  And, the tubers increase in size over the years and become difficult to pull out.
I believe ground nut is best planted at the edge of a shady woodland landscape setting and maintained on a trellis or fence.  Its spread will be restricted somewhat by direct sunlight and it will mostly remain within the shadier locations and on the supporting structure.  It also could be effectively used in a woodland that is allowed to develop naturally and without much maintenance.
We have recently begun propagating ground nut at Hawthorn Hill and will have some nice sturdy plants ready by summer.  If you are interested, let us know.  We are growing it in very limited numbers at this time.


  1. Hello:
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  2. Very interesting work. We have a small farm here in zephyrhills Fl. We are focus on developing self-sufficient methods of farming for small farms. I am very interested in purchasing some apios americana I have a bamboo fence following the edge of a shady patch of woods that I think would be splendid. I would love top get maybe 10 to 20 plants.
    Contact me at or call 813-727-3304

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