North Carolina State Vegetables

Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato

(Ipomoea batatas)

Adopted in 1995

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

North Carolina State Vegetables: Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato

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.

North Carolina Law

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.
SECTION 145-17.

§ 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
Plant group Dicotyledon Monocotyledon
Chromosome number 2n=90 (hexaploid) 2n=20
Flower character Monoecious Dioecious
Historical beginning
(Peru, Ecuador)
Prehistoric 50,000 BC
Edible storage organ Storage root Tuber
Number/plant 4-10 1-5
Appearance Smooth, with thin skin Rough, scaly skin
Shape Short, blocky,
tapered ends
Long, cylindrical,
some with "toes"
Dry matter 22-28% 20-35%
Mouth feel Moist* Dry
Taste Sweet* Starchy
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
    Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Solanales
Family: Convolvulaceae - Morning-glory family
Genus: Ipomoea L. - morning-glory
Species: Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam. - sweetpotato

State Foods
State Foods Symbols

List Official US State Foods