Wild Potato Vine

Photo of wild potato vine flowers and leaves
Safety Concerns
Scientific Name
Ipomoea pandurata
Convolvulaceae (morning glories)

Wild potato vine is a perennial trailing or climbing vine. Flowers are 1–7 in terminal clusters, each flower on a long peduncle, funnel-shaped, to 3 inches long, white with a dark crimson or purple center. Blooms May–September. Leaves on long stems, heart-shaped, pointed, to 6 inches long. Root a tuber to 2 feet long and weighing 20 pounds or more, often branched, leglike.

Other Common Names

Stems can grow to 16 feet in length.

Where To Find
image of Wild Potato Vine Man-of-the-Earth distribution map


Occurs on banks of rivers and streams, margins of lakes and ponds, ditches, roadsides and railroads, and other disturbed areas; also crop fields, fallow fields, and old fields. This plant is in the same genus as cultivated sweet potato (I. batatas), which, like most others in the genus, is a tropical plant. The genus also includes cultivated morning glory flowers as well as many serious agricultural weeds, such as bindweed.

The large, fleshy, vertical roots are difficult to excavate but are edible. Native Americans cooked and ate it as a starchy vegetable. The rootstock is also said to have mild purgative properties. As a garden plant, it can grow rapidly, smothering nearby plants, and often needs support.

Long-tongued insects — bees, butterflies, moths — visit the flowers. Several types of beetles and moth larvae eat the foliage; others feed on the rootstock. Caterpillars eating the leaves acquire the plants' toxicity as a predator deterrent. The tangled foliage creates a refuge for many animals.

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About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!