- Major entries:
- Ipomoea batatas Poir. Sweet Potato.
- Ipomoea leptophylla Torr. Man-Of-The-Earth. Man-Root. Moonflower.
Ipomoea aquatica Forsk. Convolvulaceae. Sweet Potato. Water Convolvulus.
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.
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 frequent.
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.
Ipomoea batatilla G. Don.
Venezuela. This species furnishes tubers which are used as sweet potatoes.
Ipomoea biloba Forsk. Pohue.
Borders of the tropics. Ellis says, in Tahiti, the stalks of the pohue are eaten in times of famine.
Ipomoea digitata Linn.
Borders of the tropics. This species is commonly cultivated for food in western tropical Africa.
Ipomoea fastigiata Sweet. Wild Potato.
Tropical America. Humboldt mentions this species as cultivated in America under the name, batata.
Ipomoea grandiflora Lam.
Tropical America. Ainslie says, in India, the seeds are eaten when young.
Ipomoea hederacea Jacq.
Borders of the tropics. This species is often cultivated in tropical regions.
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-of-the-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.
Ipomoea 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.
Ipomoea mammosa Choisy.
Tropics. According to Forster, this species is cultivated under the name of umara, gumarra, or gumalla in Tahiti and in southern New Zealand.
Ipomoea tuberosa Linn. Spanish Woodbine.
Tropics. The edible tubers are much like the sweet potato in size, taste and form.
Ipomoea 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.