Helianthus tuberosus is variable, probably in part stemming from hybridization with other polyploids, including H. pauciflorus, H. resinosus, and H. strumosus. Helianthus tuberosus is so widely spread as a weedy species that its original distribution is difficult to discern. It has been used as a food plant for its tubers by native Americans (although not necessarily domesticated or even cultivated); it has been developed as a crop primarily in Europe, where it has become widely naturalized. The common name Jerusalem artichoke is a misnomer, as explained by C. B. Heiser (1976).
Uses: FOOD, Root/tuber, Beverage (alcoholic), FORAGE/BROWSE, OTHER USES/PRODUCTS
Production Methods: Cultivated
Comments: In addition to food the roots are used for alcohol production in the French conag industry. Tubers also contain 8 % inulin. A polysacharide composed of frutose which may be of use to diabetics.
Perennials, 50–200+ cm (rhizomatous, producing tubers late in growing season). Stems erect, scabro-hispid to hirsute (sometimes glaucous). Leaves mostly cauline; opposite or alternate proximally, usually alternate distally; petioles 2–8 cm (often ± winged); blades (3-nerved from near bases) lanceolate to ovate, 10–23 × 7–15 cm, bases broadly to narrowly cuneate, margins entire or serrate (flat), abaxial faces puberulent or hirsutulous to tomentulose and gland-dotted (abaxial) or ± scabrous (adaxial). Heads 3–15. Peduncles 1–15 cm. Involucres hemispheric, (10–25 ×) 8–12 mm. Phyllaries (often dark green, drying nearly black) 22–35 (bases appressed, apices ± spreading, sometimes reflexed in fruit), lanceolate, 8.5–15 × 2–4 mm (subequal), (margins ciliate) apices acuminate, abaxial faces hispidulous or puberulent, gland-dotted. Paleae 8–9 mm, 3-toothed (apices hairy). Ray florets 10–20; laminae 25–40 mm. Disc florets 60+; corollas 6–7 mm, lobes yellow; anthers dark brown or black, appendages dark or yellowish. Cypselae 5–7 mm, glabrous or distally hairy; pappi of 2 aristate scales 1.9–3 mm plus 0–1 deltate scales 0.5–0.8 mm. 2n = 102.
Flower-Visiting Insects of Indian Potato in Illinois:
Helianthus tuberosus (Indian Potato) (Also referred to as Jerusalem Artichoke; bees collect pollen or suck nectar; beetles feed on nectar or pollen; flies usually suck nectar, but sometimes feed on pollen; other insects suck nectar; some observations are from Moure & Hurd, Reed, Krombein et al., MacRae, and Lisberg & Young as indicated below, otherwise they are from Robertson)
Bees (long-tongued) Apidae (Bombini): Bombus auricomus sn, Bombus griseocallis sn (Rb, Re), Bombus pensylvanica sn cp fq, Bombus vagans sn; Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Epeolus autumnalis sn, Triepeolus concavus sn, Triepeolus lunatus concolor sn; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes agilis sn cp fq olg (Rb, Re), Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn, Melissodes coloradensis sn cp fq, Melissodes rustica sn, Melissodes trinodis sn fq (Rb, Re), Svastra obliqua obliqua sn cp fq; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada sp. sn (Re), Nomada vincta sn; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile brevis brevis sn, Megachile inimica sayi sn cp, Megachile latimanus sn (Rb, Re)
Bees (short-tongued) Halictidae (Dufoureinae): Dufourea marginatus marginatus sn cp olg; Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon texanus texanus (MH), Augochlorella striata (MH), Halictus confusus (Re), Halictus ligatus sn cp, Lasioglossum cinctipes (Re), Lasioglossum coriaceus sn cp, Lasioglossum imitatus sn cp, Lasioglossum pectinatus sn, Lasioglossum pectoralis (MH), Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus cp np, Lasioglossum pruinosus (MH), Lasioglossum zephyrus cp; Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes compactus sn cp; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena accepta sn cp fq olg (Rb, Kr), Andrena aliciae sn cp olg (Rb, Kr), Andrena asteris (Re), Andrena helianthi sn cp olg (Rb, Re, Kr), Andrena simplex (Kr); Andrenidae (Panurginae): Heterosarus labrosiformis labrosiformis sn cp fq, Heterosarus labrosus sn cp fq icp, Heterosarus nebrascensis (Re), Heterosarus solidaginis sn, Pseudopanurgus rugosus sn cp fq icp olg
Bees are the most important pollinators, although the flowers are also visited by bee flies, wasps, beetles, and butterflies. Among the bees, are such visitors as bumblebees, Miner bees, Halictine bees, and Panurgine bees. The flowers are usually cross-pollinated by these insects, and rarely become self-pollinated. The caterpillars of the butterflies Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot) and Chlosyne gorgone (Gorgone Checkerspot) eat the foliage. Similarly, the caterpillars of many moths and other insects feed on various parts of Jerusalem Artichoke, including Pyrrharctia isabella (Isabella Tiger Moth), Papaipema rigida (Sunflower Borer Moth), Papaipema rigida (Rigid Sunflower Borer Moth), and Stibadium spumosum (Frothy Moth). Other kinds of insects that feed on this plant include Publilia concava (Treehopper sp., semi-shaded situations), Melanoplus angustipennis (Spur-Throated Grasshopper sp.), and various beetles. The large nutritious seeds are avidly consumed by various upland gamebirds, songbirds, and small mammals (see Wildlife Table). Large herbivores, such as livestock and deer, may eat the leaves and flowers. Occasionally, the stems are used by muskrats and beavers for their dens or dams.