Pediomelum canescens (Michaux) Rydberg. Phen: May-Jul; Jul-Oct. Hab: Longleaf pine sandhills, pine flatwoods. Dist: A Southeastern Coastal Plain endemic: se. VA south to c. peninsular FL, Panhandle FL, and s. AL.
Origin/Endemic status: Endemic
Other Comments: This species tends to occur as very widely scattered individuals in sandhill habitats, rarely with more than a few seen at a time. It is related to P. esculentum (Pursh) Rydberg, the "prairie potato," prized by early travelers across the prairies for its edible tubers. An interesting collection label (by R.E. Wicker, collected in 1942, the specimen at NCU) mentions both the edible tubers and the characteristically sparse population structure of the species. "Not uncommon near Pinehurst in … open places in sandy pine woods…, but usually only one plant at a time. Tuber hard, dark brown, about size of a medium-sized Irish potato, somewhat ventral-elongated with roots coming from pointed base. Internal pure white, apparently almost entirely starch… Mr. Wicker says that he rather likes to take a bit of it and chew when fresh, has a rather condiment taste, but does not think it well to eat…" Because of its rarity, P. canescens should not (of course) be eaten. Because of its habit, that of a very bushy, tumbleweed-like plant, it superficially most closely resembles various Baptisia species, but it is easily separated by its rather dense and soft pubescence (our Baptisia are all glabrous or rather inconspicuously puberulent, except the very unifoliolate B. arachnifera).
Synonymy: = C, K1, K3, K4, S, SE3, Va, WH3, Grimes (1988), Grimes (1990), Isely (1998); = Psoralea canescens Michx. – F, G, RAB