Common names: Hog Peanut, Ground Bean
Hardy to zones: 3 – 9
This is a very unique plant. Listed as a short lived perennial or more often as an annual it has a unique ability to sprawl along and where the tips of new growth find soil it will plant lentil-sized seeds that will form the next year’s new plants. It is a native legume vine, 3′- and sometimes can climb to 6′. It also will get small racemes of light lilac to white flowers in August and September. Unlike it’s cousin Apios it is a non aggressive plant. Often it occurs in deeper shade where there is insufficient slight for it to produce flowers..in that case it reverts to plan B and spreads via “planting” next year’s seeds! It needs deciduous shade to thrive and has been known to form large colonies. They occur in dry woods but thrives best in floodplains and rich woods.
The lentil like “seeds” are edible but must be boiled to be digested. It is a slow way to gather food collecting these little babies by hand….reportedly some native Americans used to let the mice collect them then raid the little caches of these nutritious kernels.
Permaculturalists like it because it’s a native legume (nitrogen fixer) that can serve as a shade groundcover component.