WeDigFLPlants’ Comfort Food Relatives in Florida

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Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams are starchy staples in many holiday meals at this time of year. We’ve wrapped together the plant families responsible for these comfort foods, Solanaceae, Convolvulaceae, and Dioscoreaceae (respectively), along with the family responsible for the Andean starch Oca (Oxalidaceae), in this new expedition. The flora of Florida contains 60 native and naturalized species from the potato family, 69 from the sweet potato family, 6 from the yam family, and 8 from the oca family. We encourage you to think about which of the four families you are seeing as you transcribe, insofar as it is easy to do so. Florida members of the yam family are all vines with heart-shaped leaves (as seen in the tile for this expedition). Florida members of the oca family are all short herbs with clover-like leaves (photo). The other two families are each other’s closest relatives and quite diverse in appearance, so there isn’t an easy way to differentiate between the two. You can watch for the most diverse Florida genera from these families though. From the potato family, you might come across Solanum (the genus that gives us potato and tomato), Physalis (the genus that gives us tomatillo), and Nicotiana (the genus that gives us tobacco). From the sweet potato family, you might come across Ipomoea (the genus that gives us sweet potato; these are the morning glories) and Cuscuta (the parasitic dodders, which look a lot like silly string). This expedition combines specimens from the herbaria at the University of West Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida, and University of Florida. For more info on WeDigFLPlants, visit https://biospex.org/project/wedigflplants.

Thank you for participating!

Austin Mast
Director, Florida State University’s Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium

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