Not All Groundnuts Are Peanuts

Peanuts have long been called groundnuts because, after a flower is pollinated, it sends a tube down into the ground. The tube grows into a peanut which must be dug up and dried.

A pretty wildflower here in the Ozarks is also called a groundnut. In this case a small underground series of tubers are the groundnuts.

This wildflower doesn’t make it into the guidebooks. It is not common where most people would notice it.

groundnuts flower pyramid

Apios americana plants are commonly called groundnuts. Their flowers are pinkish brown and form little pyramids on the ends of the branches of this vine.

I found it a few years ago while wading around taking pictures of some rose mallows. The area is a wetland often six or eight inches deep in water plus some mud. Boots are advised.

It is a fun place to visit and I have plans to do so after this batch of rain goes by. It’s one thing to go wading. It is another to go wading in the rain trying to keep a digital camera from getting wet.

Rose mallows look like white hibiscus flowers. In this wetland they have the company of seed box, wild bean, winged loosestrife, blue vervain and groundnuts.

rose mallow flower

Rose mallow has huge flowers on plants four to five feet tall. They are hard to miss along ditches or in wetland areas.

This wildflower is a legume and has the typical legume shape. It’s a pinkish brown. A bunch of them form a little pyramid on vine tips. The plant is a vine.

Most legume flowers take a little work by bees or other pollinators to burrow into. Several pollinators can visit the same flower.

Groundnuts are different. A visiting bee steps on the flower opening it up to deposit pollen on the bee and accept any pollen she may carry. After that, bees can still get nectar but the flower will not open again.

groundnuts are legumes

A groundnut flower looks like a shortened bean flower and is a legume like a bean or pea.

The groundnuts part is a series of edible tubers that form on the plant’s rhizome running along in the mud. It takes a few years for the tubers to reach three inches long and fat enough to eat.

My Wild Edibles of Missouri guidebook recommends boiling then roasting these tubers. Raw ones have a sticky sap that sticks to teeth. I don’t think I will try them out. I may try a bean or two once the seed pods develop.

Mostly I will enjoy looking at these wildflowers as some have moved into a spring branch next to our yard. Perhaps I can try adding some mallow seeds later on.