As a seemingly harmless plant, the ornamental sweet potato is all about aesthetics. It could potentially be in your neighbor’s hanging baskets, or even in your very own backyard. Because of this, however, one must consider its effects on our society and its impact on animals and other plants residing in its ecosystem.
Before discussing the ethical dilemmas that begin to arise, there should be an understanding of what exactly an ornamental sweet potato plant is, and its potential uses. This specific plant is actually a vine, and was not created naturally, but in fact created as a result of North Carolinian Horticulture. About 10 years ago, NC State Horticultural Scientist Kenneth Pecota began a breeding program that eventually led to the creation of “Sweet Caroline,” a series of these ornamental sweet potato vines (Nichols 1). Today, there are 14 varieties of this plant, including “Sweet Caroline Bronze,” Sweet Caroline Purple (Nichols 1).”
Dr. Craig Yencho of the Horticultural Science Department at NC State described this plant by saying: “The ‘Sweet Caroline’ is a prolific bloomer. What we’ve done is selectively breed a wide range of sweet potato varieties and then we selected them in such a way as to produce a great variation in color and shape of the leaf. So, in this project we were more interested in developing pretty foliage, not pretty storage roots, which is what people typically think of when they think of sweet potatoes (Nichols 1).” As mentioned previously, these are not natural plants, which could be a concern to potential buyers, who’d be concerned if they would take over the current ecosystem residing in their gardens. Ultimately, these plants were cross-bread to create a good-looking addition, which could indicate that they are not dominant in the ecosystem. Instead, their popularity shows that they possibly assimilate to their surroundings without little or no trouble at all. Just add water and some...