Summer Botany: Wild About Wild Potatoes

One of the weediest places we camped during our recent Reservoir tour, Santa Cruz Recreation Area, became a floral hot spot of discovery, at least for me. I shared a photo sampling of some of the flora in my last post……

Two new-to-me members of the Potato family really stood out. A plant called Greenleaf Five-eyes and another simply called Wild Potato.

Greenleaf Five-eyes (Chamaesaracha coronopus): At first I wasn’t at all certain my first discovery was actually a member of the Potato family. But on closer examination, all the familiar characteristics revealed themselves! Such a pretty flower, with 5 fused white petals and anthers protruding from the center. Some of the flowers pointed down while some remain upright, really showcasing the center ring of 5 “eyes!” So pretty.

Journal page close-up

Wild Potato (Solanum jamesii): Then not 3 steps away I found another blooming Wild Potato, as it’s commonly called. The white flowers look similar to the purple-flowered Silverleaf Nightshade I described in an earlier post, except the bright yellow anthers seemed fused and the leaves are broad, pinnately compound, and a deeper green in the Wild Potato. A little research revealed this species not only has showy round berries (none were present at this time) like the Silverleaf Nightshade, but it also has 1/2” tubers underground which apparently have twice the protein value as our cultivated spud! These little wild spuds have been an important food source for Native Americans for over 9,000 years.

Journal page close-up

And yes …. Buzz Pollination occurs with these two species of potato plant! (Read more about this phenomenon in my Silverleaf Nightshade post, or you can wait while I learn more from my rabbit-trailing adventure!).

Full journal page

I hope you enjoyed my brief follow-up to Escapito #4.

2 Comments

  1. Gorgeous sketches of the wild potatoes – great discovery! Will you be able to go back at some point to dig up a potato to sample?

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    1. Thanks so much Karen! I doubt we will be back to this spot for a while, but I now know what this plant looks like and you can be sure if I see it again, I’ll be doing some digging!

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