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The sweet potato was officially designated the State Vegetable by the General Assembly of 1995. (Session Laws, 1995, c. 521).
Students at a Wilson County school petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly for the establishment of the sweet potato as the Official State
Vegetable. North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the nation, harvesting over four billion pounds of the vegetable in 1989. The
sweet potato is high in vitamins A and C and low in fat and was grown in North Carolina before the European colonization of North America
The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)
is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae. Its large, starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots are a root vegetable. The young
leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens. Ipomoea batatas is native to the tropical regions in America. Of the approximately 50 genera and more
than 1,000 species of Convolvulaceae, I. batatas is the only crop plant of major importance- some others are used locally, but many are poisonous.
The sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato (Solanum tuberosum) and does not belong to the nightshade family.
Several decades ago when orange flesh sweet potatoes were introduced in the southern United States producers and shippers desired to distinguish them from the more traditional white flesh types. The African word "nyami" referring to the starchy, edible root of the Dioscorea genus of plants was adopted in its English form, "yam". Yams in the US are actually sweet potatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh. Although the terms are generally used interchangeably, the US Department of Agriculture requires that the label "yam" always be accompanied by "sweet potato." The following information outlines several differences between sweet potatoes and yams.
The law designating the sweet potato as the official North Carolina state vegetable is found in the North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 145 Section 145-17.
CHAPTER 145. State Symbols and Other Official Adoptions.
§ 145-17. State vegetable.
The sweet potato is adopted as the official vegetable of the State of North Carolina. (1995, c. 521, s. 3.)
|Scientific name||Ipomoea batatas||Dioscorea Species|
|Plant family||Morning glory
|Chromosome number||2n=90 (hexaploid)||2n=20|
|Edible storage organ||Storage root||Tuber|
|Appearance||Smooth, with thin skin||Rough, scaly skin|
some with "toes"
|Beta carotene (Vitamin A)||High (orange varieties) *||Very low|
|Propagation||Transplants/vine cuttings||Tuber pieces|
|Growing season||90-150 days||180-360 days|
|Climatic requirements||Tropical and temperate Tropical|
|Availability||Grown in USA||Imported from Caribbean|
*Characteristic of most sweet potato varieties grown in the US
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Sweet Potato
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Family: Convolvulaceae - Morning-glory family
Genus: Ipomoea L. - morning-glory
Species: Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam. - sweetpotato