1. Family: Convolvulaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Ipomoea L.
      1. Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.

        Sweet potato is a member of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae) and is therefore not closely related to potato (Solanum tuberosum), which is a member of Solanaceae. Sometimes known by the common name yam, sweet potato should not be confused with Dioscorea species, which are also known as yams but belong to a different plant family (Dioscoreaceae). 

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Sweet potato is a member of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae) and is therefore not closely related to potato (Solanum tuberosum), which is a member of Solanaceae. Sometimes known by the common name yam, sweet potato should not be confused with Dioscorea species, which are also known as yams but belong to a different plant family (Dioscoreaceae). 

    Long cultivated for its edible root tubers, sweet potato is an important carbohydrate source in the tropics, especially in Central America and New Guinea.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Sweet potato is thought to have originated in Central America or northwestern South America. Remains of sweet potato tubers, dating to about 8,080 BC, have been found in a cave in Peru.

    Sweet potato is now widely cultivated in tropical regions and temperate regions with hot summers.

    Description

    Overview: Perennial, herbaceous climber with tuberous roots.

    Leaves: Up to 10 cm long, heart- or egg-shaped, un-lobed or divided into three lobes, sometimes with toothed margins.

    Flowers: Petals lavender to pale purple or white, forming a trumpet shape up to 7 cm long, often darker in colour inside the tube. Flowers absent in some clones.

    Fruits: Dry, dehiscent, ovoid capsule. Rarely produced.

    Uses

    Sweet potato is considered to be the world's fifth most important root crop. The edible tubers are consumed boiled, baked or fried. They are processed into chips (sweet potato fries) and crisps (chips). They are also a source of starch, one use of which is to make dang myun noodles in Korea. Sweet potato leaves are consumed as a vegetable in Southeast Asia and New Guinea.

    Sweet potato is used as a source of alcohol and is fermented to make a Japanese spirit known as imo-jōchū . Sweet potato is also used as animal-fodder.

    Natural fibres from Ipomoea batatas are used in biodegradable plastic (polylactic acid bioplastic) used in the manufacture of Toyota cars.

    Some sweet potato cultivars are grown as ornamentals for their attractive flowers and foliage. For example Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie' has purple foliage and is popular in hanging baskets.

    This species at Kew

    Pressed and dried specimens of Ipomoea batatas are held in Kew's Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Details, including images, of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

    Specimens of sweet potato tubers, as well as starch ('arrowroot') obtained from it, are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Distribution
    Peru
    Ecology
    Unknown.
    Conservation
    Widespread in cultivation.
    Hazards

    None known.

    [FWTA]

    Convolvulaceae, H. Heine. Flora of West Tropical Africa 2. 1963

    Habit
    Trailing and climbing, nearly glabrous from tuberous root
    Flowers
    Flowers campanulate-funnel-shaped with whitish or pink-tinged limb and red-purple centre 11/2-2 in. long.
    Vernacular
    The sweet potato.
    [FTEA]

    Convolvulaceae, B. Verdcourt (East African Herbarium). Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1963

    Habit
    Herb with underground, fusiform edible tubers.
    Stem
    Stems prostrate, ascending or rarely twining, often rooting at the nodes, glabrous or very slightly pubescent.
    Leaves
    Leaf-blade triangular, 4–14 cm. long, 4–16 cm. wide, truncate or cordate at the base, entire or palmately shallowly to very deeply 3–5-lobed; lobes triangular to lanceolate, glabrous or slightly pubescent; petiole4–20 cm. long.
    Inflorescences
    Inflorescences axillary; peduncle 3–18 cm. long, 1–several-flowered; pedicels 3–12 mm. long.
    Calyx
    Sepals subequal, the inner somewhat longer, oblong to elliptic-oblong, 7–12 mm. long, 3–5 mm. wide, acute and distinctly mucronate, subcoriaceous.
    Corolla
    Corolla violet or lilac, white above, campanulate, 3–4.7 cm. long.
    Fruits
    Capsule ovoid.
    Seeds
    Seeds glabrous.
    Habitat
    The Sweet Potato is cultivated in areas of moderate rainfall or in wet places at low and medium altitudes up to 1800 m. Above this level, up to 2200 m. and beyond, it is cultivated as a forage crop
    Distribution
    widely cultivated in all suitable areas in the territoriesdistributed throughout all tropical areasprobably originated in South America K P T U Z
    [KBu]

    Wood, J.R.I., Carine, M.A., Harris, D. et al. 2015. Ipomoea (Convolvulaceae) in Bolivia. Kew Bulletin 70: 31. DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/s12225-015-9592-7

    Habit
    Creeping perennial herb rooting from the stem and developing root tubers, stems extending to cover several metres, glabrous to coarsely pilose
    Leaves
    Leaves petiolate, very variable in form but usually rather large, 3 – 15 × 5 – 12 cm, ovate or shallowly to deeply 3 – 5-lobed, cordate, shortly acuminate, both surfaces glabrous to coarsely pilose, abaxially somewhat glaucous and with prominent veins; petioles usually rather long, 4 – 15 cm
    Inflorescences
    Inflorescence of long-pedunculate, axillary, dense umbellate cymes; peduncles 5 – 30 cm long, stout; bracteoles filiform, c. 2 mm long, caducous; secondary peduncles 5 – 15 mm; pedicels very short, 5 – 10 mm long; sepals 7 – 11 mm, unequal, margins often but not always ciliate, outer shorter than inner, oblong-elliptic to oblong-oblanceolate, abruptly mucronate with a hair point c. 2 mm long, prominently 1 – 5-veined, the inner sepals broadly elliptic, rounded and mucronate; corolla 4 – 4.5 cm, pink, often with a dark centre, glabrous; ovary pubescent (rarely glabrous), rarely fertile so capsule and seeds usually absent
    Ecology
    This species is widely cultivated throughout the tropics but its exact origin is unknown. It is often supposed to have originated in Mexico, although we have seen occasional specimens of apparently wild, fertile plants from various countries in tropical America including Colombia, Panama and Venezuela. In Bolivia Ipomoea batatas is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions, particularly in the Yungas of La Paz and parts of the Beni but more rarely further south and we have no confirmed records of cultivated plants from Tarija and Chuquisaca Departments although it is doubtless cultivated occasionally in these regions. Outside cultivation plants are usually found in derelict fields and on roadsides near cultivation and houses.
    Conservation
    Not evaluated (NE). Most records are of cultivated plants or escapes from cultivation.
    Note
    It has been found in flower throughout the year.

    Although it is not possible to distinguish cultivated from escaped populations from the cited records there are a number of surprising inferences from the list. In the first place there are no collections from the south of the country. This may indicate that Ipomoea batatas is rarely grown there or simply that botanists have not collected it, something which is surely the case in Inquisivi Province in La Paz and Moxos and other provinces in the Beni. Another curiosity is that many of the vouchers are old, perhaps suggesting I. batatas was more widely cultivated in the past than it is today.Plants are usually readily identified in the field because of their root tubers and perennial creeping habit, the stems rooting at the nodes. Herbarium specimens are distinguished by the strongly and usually abruptly mucronate sepals with a distinct hair point and a pronounced central vein with 2 – 4 less prominent lateral veins. The sepals are usually ciliate and the flowers characteristically clustered at the apex of a long peduncle. Most specimens collected in Bolivia have 3-lobed leaves.

    [FZ]

    Convolvulaceae, Maria Leonor Gonçalves. Flora Zambesiaca 8:1. 1987

    Habit
    Perennial plant herbaceous, with underground, fusiform to ellipsoid, yellow or reddish, edible tubers.
    Stem
    Stems prostrate, ascending or rarely twining, often rooting at the nodes, containing a milky juice, glabrous or very slightly pubescent.
    Leaves
    Leaf lamina triangular to broadly ovate in outline, 4–10×4–13 cm., entire or palmately shallowly to very deeply 3–7-lobed, truncate or cordate at the base; lobes triangular, lanceolate to linear-oblong, glabrous or slightly pubescent; petiole 3·5–15 cm. long, glabrous or hairy.
    Inflorescences
    Inflorescence axillary, cymosely 1 to several-flowered; peduncle stout, 3–15 cm. long, glabrous or hairy, bracteoles minute, narrow, acute, 2–3 mm. long, early deciduous; pedicels 3–12 mm. long.
    Calyx
    Sepals subequal, subcoriaceous, 7–10 mm. long; outer ones oblong or elliptic-oblong; inner ones elliptic-oblong or ovate oblong, somewhat longer, all glabrous or pilose on the back and fimbriate, acute or subacute, distinctly mucronate.
    Corolla
    Corolla bell-shaped, pale-mauve, white above, 3–4·5 cm. long.
    Fruits
    Capsule ovoid.
    Seeds
    Seeds glabrous.
    [KSP]
    Use
    Food, livestock-feed, ornamental.

    Images

    Distribution

    Native to:

    Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest

    Introduced into:

    Alabama, Algeria, Angola, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Assam, Azores, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Borneo, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Burundi, Cameroon, Canary Is., Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Caroline Is., Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, Chile North, China South-Central, China Southeast, Christmas I., Colombia, Colorado, Comoros, Congo, Cook Is., Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Easter Is., Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Florida, French Guiana, Galápagos, Ghana, Gilbert Is., Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jawa, Kenya, Kermadec Is., Kirgizstan, Korea, KwaZulu-Natal, Laos, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Libya, Line Is., Madagascar, Madeira, Malawi, Malaya, Maluku, Marianas, Marquesas, Marshall Is., Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico Central, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nansei-shoto, Nauru, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Guinea, New Zealand North, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Niue, Pakistan, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Rodrigues, Rwanda, Réunion, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Society Is., Solomon Is., Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, St.Helena, Sudan, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Suriname, Tadzhikistan, Tanzania, Texas, Thailand, Tokelau-Manihiki, Tonga, Transcaucasus, Trinidad-Tobago, Tuamotu, Tubuai Is., Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vietnam, Wake I., Western Australia, Windward Is., Yemen, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

    Common Names

    English
    Sweet potato

    Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    Jun 1, 2006 Cheek, M. [11107], Cameroon K000339791
    Jul 1, 2003 Cable, S. [1226], Cameroon K000008692
    Jul 1, 2003 Etuge, M. [1607], Cameroon K000008693
    Aug 14, 1996 Derleth, P. [29], Madagascar K000384512
    Mar 1, 1996 Williams, S. [152], Cameroon K000008691
    Jan 1, 1996 Cheek, M. [5924], Cameroon K000381550
    Jan 1, 1996 Cheek, M. [5520], Cameroon K000381551
    Jan 1, 1993 Wheatley, J.I. [663], Cameroon K000381559
    Jan 1, 1993 Tchouto (Mbatchou), P. [14], Cameroon K000381558
    Jan 1, 1987 Balée, W.L. [805], Brazil K000944409
    Jan 1, 1985 s.coll. [1144], Jamaica K000612710
    Jan 1, 1985 s.coll. [1143], Jamaica K000612711
    Jan 1, 1978 Ongley, J.C. [P21788], Brazil K000944403
    Jan 1, 1978 Prance, G.T. [18015], Brazil K000944408
    Jan 1, 1977 Prance, G.T. [10333], Brazil K000944404
    Jan 1, 1977 Prance, G.T. [4264], Brazil K000944405
    Nov 1, 1952 Burchell [3613], Brazil K000944406
    Oct 21, 1897 Forsyth Major [733], Madagascar K000384515
    Zappi, D.C. [1311], Mato Grosso K000578970
    Baron, R. [2717], Madagascar K000384511
    Baron, R. [1040], Madagascar K000384513
    Parker, G.W. [s.n.], Madagascar K000384514
    Balée, W.L. [893], Brazil K000944410
    Henicka, G.S. [22], Mato Grosso K000578255
    s.coll. [1771], Brazil K000944407
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 1356] Convolvulus batatas K001112874
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 1356] Convolvulus batatas K001112875

    First published in Tabl. Encycl. 1: 465 (1793)

    Accepted by

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    • O'Donell, C.A. (1959). Convolvuloideas de Uruguay Lilloa 29: 349-376. Universidad Nacional de Tucuman, Instituto 'Miguel Lillo'.
    • Leon, H. & Alain, H. in Leon, H. (1957). Convolvulaceae Flora de Cuba 4: 218-248. Cultural S. A., La Habana.
    • Andrews, F.W. in Andrews, F.W. (1956). Convolvulaceae The Flowering Plants of the Sudan 3: 102-125. T.Buncle & co., LTD., Arbroath, Scotland.
    • Doty, M.S. (1954). Floristics and plant ecology of Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Atoll Research Bulletin 33: 1.
    • Ooststroom, S.J. van & R.D. Hoogland (1953). Convolvulaceae Flora Malesiana 4: 388-512. Noordhoff-Kolff N.V., Djakarta.
    • Hill, A.W. & Sandwith, N. in Williams, R.O. (1953). Fl. Trinidad & Tobago Convolvs. Flora of Trinidad and Tobago 2(4): 210-240. Government Printing Office, Port-of-Spain.
    • Tisserant, P. Ch. (1950). Catalogue de la flora de l'Oubangui-Chari Mémoires de l'Institut d'Études Centrafricaines 2: 1-166.
    • Yuncker, T.G. (1943). The Flora of Niue Island: Convolvulaceae Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 178: 98-99.
    • Clarke, C.B. in Kanjilal, U.N., A. Das, P.C. Kanjilal, & R.E. De (eds.) (1939). Fl. Assam Convolvulaceae Flora of Assam 3: 338-362+538. Govt. of Assam.
    • Standley, P. C. (1938). Convolvulaceae Publications of Field Museum of Natural History, Botanical Series 18(3): 960-974.
    • Brown, F.B.H. (1935). Fl. SE Polynesia Convolvulaceae Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 130: 237-242.
    • Wilder, G.P. (1931). Fl. Rarotonga Convolvulaceae Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 86: 1-113.
    • Merrill, E.D. (1921). A review of the new species of plants proposed by N.L. Burman in his Flora Indica. Philippine Journal of Science 19: 329-388.
    • Britton, N. (1918). Flora of Bermuda: 1-585. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
    • Gagnepain & Courchet in H. Lecomte (1915). Flore Indo-Chine Convolvulaceae Flore Générale de l'indo-Chine 4: 228-313.
    • Boldingh, I. in Boldingh, I. (1909). Convolvulaceae Flora of the Futch West Indian Islands, vol. I: St. Eustatius, Saba, and St. Martin 1: 161-163. E.J. Brill.
    • Baker, J.G. & A.B. Rendle in Thiselton-Dyer, W.T. et al. (eds.) (1905). Convolvulaceae Flora of Tropical Africa 4(2): 62-206. Secretary of State for the Colonies.
    • Hallier, H. (1899). Convolvulaceae Africanae. II Botanische Jahrbücher fur Systematik, Pflangengeschichte und Pflanzengeographie 28: 28-54.
    • Clarke, C.B. in Hooker, J.D. (1883). Fl. Br. India Convolvulaceae Flora of British India 4: 179-228 + 734.
    • Eggers, H.F.A. in Eggers, H.F.A. (1879). Convolvulaceae The flora of St Croix and the Virgin Islands: 70-73. US Government Printing Office.
    • Gray, A. in Gray, A. (1878). Convolvulaceae Synoptical Flora of North America, edit. 1 2(2): 207-224, 394.
    • Meisner, C.F. in Martius, C.F.P.von & auct. suc. (eds.) (1869). Convolvulaceae Flora Brasiliensis 7: 199-370.
    • Grisebach, A.H.R. in Grisebach, A. H. R. (1862). Convolvulaceae Flora of the British West Indian Isands: 466-476. Lovell Reeve.

    Not accepted by

    • Standley, P. C. (1938). Convolvulaceae Publications of Field Museum of Natural History, Botanical Series 18(3): 960-974. [Cited as Ipomoea purpusi.]

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    Sources

    Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Flora Zambesiaca
    Flora Zambesiaca
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    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
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    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
    'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

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    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
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