Adaptations of I. batatas!

Root System
Fibrous roots make up the root system that anchor the plant to the soil and absorb nutrients and water. Within this root system is an adaptation that is very special to I. batatas. This adaptation can be described as thick sections of the plant's roots called storage roots that allow the plant to store sugars as a form of starch. Storage roots are often times mistaken as tubers, which are actually swollen stems rather than roots. Being a cultivated plant, many individuals are planted via stem cuttings. In this case, swollen storage roots will form off the stem cutting. In other cases where these plants are grown from true seeds, they exhibit typical root systems and as the plant grows larger, the central axle will function as a storage root.

Whether or not a sweet potato plant has the ability to flower depends on the specific cultivar. Some don't flower at all, some only have a few flowers, while others flower profusely. If a flower does exist on the plant, the flower will be bisexual, meaning it can fertilize itself. An important feature to this adaptation is the appealing beautiful colors of the flowers. This appearance will attract organisms such as bees which leads to the spread of the flower's pollen. One of the many features that flowers contain are sepals. Sepals enclose and protect the flower during its bud stage. To learn more about the anatomy of sweet potato flowers, check out my page on plant reproduction!

Antibacterial Adaptation of I. batatas Leaves
Scientists are starting to accept the sweet potato as more than just a food source. Certain properties of this plant’s leaves have proven to be antimicrobial. This was a very exciting discovery found during a study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2007. During 2007 there were huge numbers of outbreaks of E. coli, pathogenic bacteria that cause food poisoning, in the U.S. and other parts of the world. These breakouts sparked interest in this experimental study. The study was done to determine the growth of what kind of bacteria can be inhibited by artificially grown sweet potato leaves. The results of this experiment left researchers with the conclusion that sweet potato leaves definitely do contain antibacterial compounds that are resistant to E. coli. In addition, the growth rate of Staphylococcus aureus, the species of bacteria responsible for staph infections, was also greatly reduced by isolated chemical properties found in sweet potato leaves. Therefore, these leaves have a promising future of preventing the growth of bacteria that cause food poisoning in foods services and could possibly even help in the skin infections, such as staph infections, with further research.

                                                                               More Antibacterial Evidence...
Ipomoea batatas (Sweet potato) 080608-7436Supporting the results from the 2007 experiment, the Institute of Chinese Pharmaceutical Sciences completed a study the following year that tested the antimicrobial activities of sweet potato storage roots. Plant defensins, structures found in the DNA, are known to greatly contribute to the plant’s immune system. The goal of the experiment was to isolate the specific defensin peptides and test their antifungal and antibacterial activities. Among the bacteria tested in these trials was E. coli. The results were as expected. A specific defensin, called SPD1, in some cases reduced the growth in both fungal and bacteria trials by 50%. In conclusion, this defensin is a suitable candidate for improving plants resistance against microbial diseases and it also seems to be beneficial for individuals who consume these storage roots. Research such as the 2007 and 2008 experiments is constantly finding new uses for sweet potatoes in the botany and medical fields. The possible uses for this super plant seem to be endless.

Now that you know a little bit about the sweet potato's sweet adaptations, check out more sweet facts by clicking here!

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