Ipomoea aquatica Forsk. Convolvulaceae. SWEET POTATO.
Old World tropics.
In the Philippines, the root is cooked and eaten by
the natives. This species is often planted by the Chinese around the
edges of tanks and pools for the sake of its succulent leaves. It is largely
cultivated in central China as a vegetable; it is eaten in the spring and
somewhat resembles spinach in flavor.
I. batatas Poir. SWEET POTATO.
Tropics of America.
This widely-distributed, cultivated plant, originally
of South and Central America, had developed many varieties at the
period of its discovery by Columbus. Peter Martyr, 1514, mentions
batatas as cultivated in Honduras and gives the names of nine
varieties. In 1526, Oviedo not only mentions sweet potatoes in the West
Indies, but says they often have been carried to Spain, and that he had
carried them himself to Avila, in Castile. In Peru, Garcilasso de la Vega
says the apichu are of four or five different colors, some red, others
yellow, others white, and others brown, and this author was
contemporary with the conquest. The camote of Yucatan, called in the
Islands axi and batatas, is mentioned in the fourth voyage of
Columbus, and Chanca, physician to the fleet of Columbus, in a letter
dated 1494, speaks of ages as among the productions of Hispaniola. In
Europe, sweet potatoes are mentioned by Cardanus, 1556, and Clusius,
1566, describes the red, or purple, and the pale, or white, sorts as
under culture in Spain, and, in 1576, notes that their culture had been
attempted in Belgium. Their mention thereafter in the early botanies is
The culture of sweet potatoes is noted for Virginia before 1650. In
1750, Hughes says that at least 13 sorts are known at the Barbados. In
the Mauritius, Bojer describes the round and long forms, white and
purple. At the present time, Vilmorin describes two varieties in France,
and in 1863 Burr describes nine varieties in American gardens. Of the
varieties now known, not one type can be considered as modern in its
appearance. The sweet potato is mentioned in England by Gerarde,
1597, as growing in his garden and he says they grow "in India,
Barbarie and Spaine and other hot regions," a statement confirmed in
part by Clusius, who states in 1601 that he had eaten them in Spain.
This plant is noticed by Monardes and by Lobel, 1570-76. Its
cultivation has been attempted in different parts of Italy but as yet, so
Targioni-Tozzetti writes, without success. The sweet potato reached St.
Thomas, off the African coast, before 1563-74. In Ramusio, we find in
the Portuguese pilot's relation, "The root which is called by the Indians
of Hispaniola batata is named igname at St. Thomas and is one of the
most essential articles of their food."
Rumphius says that the Spaniards carried this root to Manilla and the
Moluccas, whence the Portuguese distributed it through the Indian
Archipelago. It is figured by Rheede and Rumphius as cultivated in
Hindustan and Amboina. In Batavia, it was cultivated in 1665.
Firminger speaks of it as one of the native vegetables in common
cultivation in all parts of India, the plant producing pink flowers with a
purple eye. In China, Mr. Fortune informed Darwin, the plant never
yields seeds. In the Hawaiian Islands, Wilkes says there are 33 varieties,
19 of which are of a red color and 14 white. In New Zealand, Tahiti and
Fiji, it is called by the same name. In New Zealand, there is a tradition
among the natives that it was first brought to the island in canoes
composed of pieces of wood sewed together.
Sweet potatoes are mentioned as one of the cultivated products of
Virginia in 1648, perhaps in 1610 and are mentioned again by
Jefferson, 1781. They are said to have been introduced into New
England in 1764 and to have come into general use. John Lowell says
that sweet potatoes of excellent quality can be raised about Boston, but
they are of no agricultural importance in this region. In 1773, Bartram
saw plantations of sweet potatoes about Indian villages in the South,
and Romans refer to their use by the Indians of Florida in 1775. At the
present day, sweet potatoes are quite generally cultivated in tropical
and subtropical countries, as in Africa from Zanzibar to Egypt, in India,
China, Japan, the Malayan Archipelago, New Zealand, the Pacific
Islands, tropical America, and southern United States as far north even
as New York. They are grown to a small extent in the south of Europe,
Canary Islands and Madeira.
I. batatilla G. Don.
This species furnishes tubers which are used as sweet
I. biloba Forsk. POHUE.
Borders of the tropics.
Ellis says, in Tahiti, the stalks of the pohue are
eaten in times of famine.
I. digitata Linn.
Borders of the tropics.
This species is commonly cultivated for food in
western tropical Africa.
I. fastigiata Sweet. WILD POTATO.
Humboldt mentions this species as cultivated in
America under the name, batata.
I. grandiflora Lam.
Ainslie says, in India, the seeds are eaten when
I. hederacea Jacq.
Borders of the tropics.
This species is often cultivated in tropical
I. leptophylla Torr. MAN-OF-THE-EARTH. MAN-ROOT.
Western North America.
The wild potato vine is a showy plant of the
deserts of North America and is commonly called man-root or man-ofthe-
earth, being similar in size and shape to a man's body. The
Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Kioways roast it for food when pressed by
hunger but it is by no means palatable or nutritious. Its enormous size
and depth in the ground make its extraction by the ordinary Indian
Implements a work of much difficulty.
I. macrorrhiza Michx.
Georgia and Florida.
Henfrey says this species has edible, farinaceous
roots. Dr. Baldwin has been informed that the negroes in the South
sometimes eat the roots.
I. mammosa Choisy.
According to Forster, this species is cultivated under the name
of umara, gumarra, or gumalla in Tahiti and in southern New Zealand.
I. tuberosa Linn. SPANISH WOODBINE.
The edible tubers are much like the sweet potato in size, taste
I. turpethum R. Br.
Asia, tropical Australia, Society and Friendly Islands and the New
Hebrides. The soft, sweet stem is sucked by the boys of Tahiti.