Ipomoea costata – Desert Potato (plant)
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Ipomoea costata is a semi-prostrate scrambling vine with heart shaped leaves and funnel shaped rose/purple flowers with a dark throat. Native to sandy arid parts of Northern Australia (NT and WA). I. costata is a native whose tubers were an important food source for Aborigines. Closely related to the sweet potato it produces large, tasty tubers. Tubers can be as large as an adult head and can occur 0.5-1m below ground level. Aboriginals used to thump the ground to listen for a change in sound that would indicate the presence of a large tuber worth digging for.
Care and Cultivation Ipomoea costata likes adequate water over the growing season (ie. once it shoots and has leaves and active growth) and a full-sun to part-shade position in well drained soil. Extremely tolerant of dry and hot conditions. Grows in sandy and clayey soils of inland Australia but just use a well drained potting mix with added gravel or pumice. Treat as similar to cacti in cooler parts of the year (late autumn – mid spring) and limit or abstain from watering as you will encounter rot problems. They have a good water storing tuber so can survive very long periods with no water.
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