American hog-peanut is native to eastern North America. It inhabits woodlands,
thickets, low wooded areas along streams, and moist slopes.
Plants: Plants look like low-lying mats of foliage, but at close quarters they are actually thin-stemmed vines 24-96" (60-243 cm) long.
Small tendrils hang onto nearby plants.
Stems are less than ¹/₃₂" (1 mm) thick, light green to reddish green, and covered with
thin flattened (appressed) hairs.
Leaves: Leaves are alternate, in groups
of three delicate leaflets, along twining stems. The central leaflet, called the terminal leaflet,
is up to 2½" (6.3 cm) long about about the same width. Leaflets are ovate to
ovate-rhombic, with sharp tips. The other two leaflets tend to be
a bit smaller. Leaflets are mostly hairless on top, and usually hairier and lighter in color below.
Flowers: Pink to white to pale lavender, ½-¾" (1.3-1.9 cm) long. Open
flowers are cross-pollinated, while closed flowers are self-pollinating. Flowers are tubular in shape, with an upright-facing
banner, 2 side wings, and a keel. The edges of the banners are often folded backward. Closed flowers may occur above
or below ground. Open flowers occur in compact clusters of 2-15 along the vine. They appear from August to September.
Fruits: Open flowers form flat pods, ½-1½" (1.5-4 cm) long,
pointed at both
ends, containing 1-4 seeds. When mature, the dried pods burst to disperse the seeds. Closed flowers
produce a pod containing a single seed.
Below-ground pear-shaped seeds are “sweet and delicious,” eaten raw or cooked, tasting like shelled garden
beans. Seeds from above-ground seed pods are said by some sources to be inedible, and by others to be
edible after cooking.