Groundnut (Americana)

The Groundnut (Americana) is generally described as a perennial vine or forb/herb. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Groundnut (Americana) has green foliage and inconspicuous purple flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Groundnut (Americana) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Groundnut (Americana) will reach up to 1 foot high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Groundnut (Americana) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed, tubers. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -23°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: According to Kelly Kindscher (1987), “groundnut is a common native food plant of temperate, eastern North America. Its distribution reaches west to the wet margins of prairies, where it was once used extensively by the Native Americans.”

Groundnut was a source of food among the Omaha, Dakota, Santee Sioux, Cheyenne, Osage, Pawnee, and Hidatsa (Gilmore 1913, Grinnell 1962, Matthews 1961, Wilson 1987). Groundnut was excavated from four Ozark bluff-dweller sites in Arkansas. The Ozark peoples are regarded as pre-Columbian (Beardsley 1939). Groundnuts “roots” were dug in the winter. The tubers were gathered all year but were best when harvested from late Fall through early spring. They were eaten raw, cooked, or dried and ground for flour. Some of the “roots” were boiled, peeled, and dried for storage. The seeds are cooked and eaten like peas in summer.

Groundnut was also an important food of New England colonists (Hedrick 1919). Once the colonists discovered the groundnut, they enacted a town law to prevent Indians from digging groundnut on English land. Groundnut tubers are a good source of carbohydrates and contain between 13 and 17 percent protein by dry weight, or about three times more than potatoes or any other widely used vegetable root (Yanovsky and Kingsbury 1938, Watt and Merrill 1963).

Horticultural: This plant is an attractive ornamental.

General Characteristics

General: Legume Family (Fabaceae). Groundnut (Apios americana) is a perennial herb from slender rhizomes with tuberous thickenings 1.3-4 cm (0.5-1.6 in) thick, and stems twining or climbing over other plants. The leaves are alternate, pinnately, egg-shaped, 2-10 cm (3/4-4 in) long, 1.8-7 cm (0.7-2.7 in) wide, and sometimes hairy. The flowers are in rounded clusters among leaves. Groundnut blooms from July to October. The flowers have 5 parts, the upper one round, white and reddish brown, the 2 side wings curved down and brown-purple, the lower 2 petals sickle-shaped and brownish red. The fruits are dry, straight or slightly curved, narrow, and 5-10 mm (3/16-3/8 in) long. The fleshy legume fruits are 6-12 mm (0.2-.5 in) in diameter and indehiscent (the fruit coils back after opening), usually with 1 seed. The seeds are oblong or square, dark brown, with wrinkled surfaces.

Required Growing Conditions

For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. Groundnut is distributed through the great prairie from Quebec to Minnesota, North Dakota, south to north central Colorado, Florida, and Texas.

Cultivation and Care

Adaptation: Groundnut grows in wet meadows, low thickets, banks of streams and ponds, sloughs, moist prairie ravines, and moist soil in woodlands.

Propagation from Cuttings: Plant tubers two to three inches deep in the early spring (Kindscher 1992). After shoots establishment, mulch to stop competition from weeds and grass. Provide the young shoots with a traverse or other objectives upon which to climb. After one year of growth, several one inch-thick tubers can be harvested from each plant. Because of their vining nature, groundnut would be hard to grow on a field scale, and their annual yield appears to be quite low in comparison to other crops. Groundnut is difficult to cultivate mechanically, because each tuber can sprout and grow in the spring, filling in spaces between rows.

General Upkeep and Control

Under development. APCA"When used for fiber, Indian hemp is collected in the autumn after the leaves have begun to senesce or dry up and the stalks turn a deep reddish brown color. Plants are cut at the base of the stem. Cutting the plants appears to stimulate new growth in the spring; so as many stalks as possible are cut. Plants are then split open and the fibers removed and processed into cordage. After winter, the fibers have disintegrated and the stems are still standing, but full of mush or empty. The fibers can't be removed after one winter.

There are only two known large sites for traditional harvest of Indian hemp for fiber in California; one at Yosemite and one near Santa Rosa. In the Columbia Basin, though Indian hemp might be found in many low-lying areas, certain stands of hemp grew higher and straighter, and the long strands produced were prized for the strength of the twine made from them. So special was this resource area that violent conflict (otherwise uncommon) occurred between Wanapam Sahaptins and Columbia Salish over access to the hemp (Relander 1956)

Vast quantities of fiber plants are required for nets, regalia, and cordage. Blackburn and Anderson (1993) quote Craig Bates of the Yosemite Museum that it takes approximately five stalks of milkweed or Indian hemp to manufacture one foot of cordage. A Sierra Miwok feather skirt or cape contain about 100 feet of cordage made from approximately 500 plant stalks, while a deer net 40 feet in length (Barrett and Gifford 1933:178) contained some 7,000 feet of cordage, which would have required the harvesting of a staggering 35,000 plant stalks. Therefore, propagation and conservation of this species for fiber is very important for production of traditionally manufactured cordage, which is still used today.

Both milkweed and dogbane are burned in the fall to eliminate dead stalks and stimulate new growth. Burning causes new growth to have taller, straighter stems (with longer fibers). It also stimulates flower and seed production. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Vine, Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Crown
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 1
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Purple
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed, Tubers
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -23
Soil Depth for Roots 8
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 28–28 inches/yr
Planting Density 2700–10000 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 8
Minimum Frost-Free Days 140 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA