Things that Make You Go “Hmm.”

So, yes, of course John the Conquerer Root has to be the root of something that will grow easily and well in the South.  So it being something from the morning glory family is not surprising.  But here’s my question(s).  If it really is the root of i. jalapa, how did that get here and so common throughout the Delta?

Mississippians, do you have a lot of jalap growing around?

It makes sense that it would be a type of ipomoea but i. jalapa?  If so, I want to hear the story behind that.

2 thoughts on “Things that Make You Go “Hmm.”

  1. Some guesses:

    1) The Missisppian (mound-builder) peoples were Meso-American in-migrants. There was a heck of a lot of trade among the peoples of the Gulf South and it was being grown throughout central and South America in the 1500s (and probably long before that). It’s not too far-fetched to think that someone would have either thought to bring seeds for an emetic or have wanted to trade for them. It’s not yaupon holly or button snakeroot (the active ingredients in Black Drink) but it’s still useful…

    2) There was a series of “god, can we make the Mississippi Valley lands grow something that Europeans will be willing to buy?” projects. The French try to plant mulberry and import silk worms, for example. It’s not too crazy to think, given the 17th c European craze for New World drugs, that somebody would have wanted to purposely plant it as a commodity crop.

    I’m inclined to go with #1, though.

    Here’s a related thought. It’s used in root work and is yam-like. Maybe, not being able to find yams as they had done in west Africa, newly imported slaves (Gwendolyn Hall is clear that the importation stream to the interior continues to bring the most culturally coherent groups and the most radical/resistant to enslavement peoples) use what they can find that is similar to continue their spiritual practices. I mean, Low John certainly doesn’t grow in west Africa, but you can find trilliums almost anywhere eastern North America.

  2. I’ve never heard of ipomoea but i. jalapa. NEVER. You say this is called John the Conquerer root. But you know, that would be a better name for kudzu, than kudzu.

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