GROUNDNUT





(Apios Apios; A. tuberosa of Gray) Pea family



Flowers - Fragrant, chocolate brown and reddish purple, numerous,

about 1/2 in. long, clustered in racemes from the leaf-axils.

Calyx 2-lipped, corolla papilionaceous, the broad standard petal

turned backward, the keel sickle-shaped; stamens within it 9 and

1. Stem: From tuberous, edible rootstock; climbing, slender,

several feet long, the juice milky. Leaves: Compounded of 5 to 7

ovate leaflets. Fruit: A leathery, slightly curved pod, 2 to 4

in. long.

Preferred Habitat - Twining about undergrowth and thickets in

moist or wet ground.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - New Brunswick to Ontario, south to the Gulf States

and Kansas.



No one knows better than the omnivorous "barefoot boy" that



"where the ground-nut trails its vine"



there is hidden something really good to eat under the soft,

moist soil where legions of royal fern, usually standing guard

above it, must be crushed before he digs up the coveted tubers.

He would be the last to confuse it with the WILD KIDNEY BEAN or

BEAN VINE (Phaseolus polystachyus; P. perennis of Gray). The

latter has loose racemes of smaller purple flowers and leaflets

in threes; nevertheless it is often confounded with the

ground-nut vine by older naturalists whose knowledge was "learned

of schools."



Usually a bee, simply by alighting on the wings of a blossom

belonging to the pea family, releases the stamens and pistil from

the keel; not so here. The sickle-shaped keel of the ground-nut's

flower rests its tip firmly in a notch of the standard petal, nor

will any jar or pressure from outside release it. A bee, guided

to the nectary by the darker color of the underside of the curved

keel which spans the open cavity of the flower, enters, at least

partially, and so releases by his pressure, applied from

underneath, the tip of the sickle from its notch in the standard.

Now the released keel curves all the more, and splits open to

release the stigmatic tip of the style that touches any pollen

the bee may have brought from another blossom. Continuing to

curve and coil while the bee sucks, it presently dusts him afresh

with pollen from the now released anthers. A mass of pulp between

anthers and stigma prevents any of the flower's own pollen from

self-fertilizing it. These little blossoms, barely half an inch

long, with their ingenious mechanism to compel

cross-fertilization, repay the closest study.



At midnight the leaves of the ground-nut.and wild bean "are

hardly to be recognized in their queer antics," says William

Hamilton Gibson. "The garden beans too play similar pranks. Those

lima bean poles of the garden hold a sleepy crowd."





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