Convolvulus panduratus. Wild Potato.
Nat. Ord. — Convolvulaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Monogynia.
Description. — This plant, likewise known as Wild Jalap, Man in the Ground, Mechameck, Man of the Earth, etc., has a perennial, very large cylindrical or fusiform root, with a round, purplish, downy, procumbent, or climbing stem, several stems from the same root. The leaves are two or three inches long, and about the same width, broadly cordate at base, acuminate, entire, or undulate, alternate, sometimes panduriform, smooth dark-green above, paler beneath, and on long petioles. The flowers are in fascicles of from two to five, opening in the forenoon, on axillary peduncles, longer than the petioles, generally branching at the top. Corolla large, two or three inches long, funnel-shaped, or campanulate, white, purplish-red toward the base or tube. Calyx smooth, five-parted, unequal, ovate-obtuse, two larger sepals external. Stamens white, the length of the tube ; anthers oblong. Style white, filiform, with a bilobate stigma. Capsule oblong, two-celled, four-seeded, and without intermediate partitions.
History. — Wild Potato is indigenous to the United States, growing in light and sandy soils, from Connecticut and West New York, southward and westward, and flowering from June to August ; it rarely grows north, but is found in some parts of South America. The root is the officinal part ; it is very large being from two to eight feet in length, and from two to four or five inches in diameter, branched at the bottom, externally of a brownish -yellow color and full of longitudinal fissures, internally whitish and milky, of an unpleasant odor, and a bitter acrid taste. In drying, the root loses about three-fourths of its weight. As found in the shops the root is usually in circular pieces, of various sizes, being transverse sections, the color somewhat brown externally, and whitish within, with radiating striae or lines. It pulverizes with difficulty the powder being light and gray. Water or alcohol extracts its active properties, but diluted alcohol or spirits are its best solvents. It contains resin, bitter-extractive, starch, gum, gallic acid, etc. Probably the active principle of this plant would prove more energetic than the crude root, and become a valuable agent.
Properties and Uses. — The real properties of this plant are unknown. It possesses feebly cathartic properties, acting gently in doses of from forty to sixty grains of the powdered root. The infusion, taken in wineglassful doses every hour, has been effectual in dropsy, strangury and calculous affections. It seems to exert an influence over the lungs, liver, and kidneys, without excessive diuresis or catharsis. The saturated tincture is more energetic than the powdered root, decoction, or extract. It is asserted that the Indians can handle rattlesnakes with impunity, after wetting their hands with the milky juice of this root.