How to Identify Potato Plants

Overview

Although many of us could spot a potato in a supermarket, spotting the potato plant in the wild can be much more challenging. That's because a number of different plants, such as sweet potatoes and yams, have been labeled as potato plants, when in reality they are not. Additionally, potato plants have tops that can resemble tomato vines. But once you get to know its characteristics, it can be simple to tell a true potato plant when you see one.

Step 1

Examine a suspected potato plant's leaves. Potato plants are bushy with broad, dark green, compound leaves that grow up to 10 inches in length. The leaves are similar in appearance to the tomato plant's leaves. Each compound leaf has several oval leaflets. Compared to the tomato plant, the leaflets of the potato plant are wider at the base and are tinted a darker green.

Step 2

Sniff the leaves of your plant. Tomato plants have a strong, pungent scent, but potato plants have no scent. If your plant's leaves are similar in appearance to a tomato plant's leaves but have no scent, the plant may be a potato plant.

Step 3

Search the plant for blossoms. Potato plants have white blossoms with elongated yellow stamens. In cool climates, the potato will blossom more than in warm climates.

Step 4

Search the plant for tiny, green fruits that resemble cherry tomatoes. These fruits are poisonous, and should not be eaten. Break open the fruits and examine the seeds. Potato fruits may contain up to 300 seeds.

Step 5

Measure the plant's height. Potato plants can grow as tall as three feet in height.

Step 6

Dig up the plant and examine the root system. Potato plants don't have roots, but instead grow from a number of rhizomes. This rhizome is the part of the plant that we eat (the potato).

Things You'll Need

  • Potato plant
  • Garden knife
  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel

References

  • Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden: Batatas, Not Potatoes
  • Purdue University: Potato - Plant
  • Spiritus-Temporis.com:Potato

Who Can Help

  • World Potato Congress
  • Floridata:Solanum tuberosum
  • Texas A&M University:World's No. 1 Vegetable
Keywords: Potato plant, identifying vegetaton, garden vegetables

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.