Sweet potato or Ipomoea batatas belongs to the family Convolvulaceae - the morning glory or bindweed family.
This dicotyledonous plant is cultivated for its starchy tuberous roots that are sweet tasting as well as its edible green shoots and young leaves. However, some varieties are used as ornamental plants.
Although it belongs to the same taxonomic order as potato or Solanum tuberosum, it does not belong to the same nightshade family (Solanaceae). In North America, you may hear I. batatas being referred to as to a 'yam'. However, it is very different from what is botanically known as yams.
Can bunnies eat them?
No. We do not recommend sweet potato tubers for rabbits. Inasmuch as they are not toxic or harmful in any way, they contain high amounts of starches and sugars whereas their fiber content is low.
If you consider their nutritional data, this starchy root vegetable has carbohydrates (starches, sugars, and dietary fibers), minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium, zinc and potassium.
Furthermore, it has vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, C, E, some small amounts of proteins among other nutrients. It is no doubt that these root tubers are nutritious.
However, the high amounts of carbohydrates and low amounts of fiber mean they may overload their hindgut, cause enteritis as well as weight gain and obesity. Also, remember fiber is vital in promoting gut motility in these animals.
However, if your bunnies can tolerate them, then you should give them in very small quantities. Not more than a teaspoon per bunny weighing 2 pounds occasionally.
Can they eat their leaves and vines?
Yes. rabbits can eat sweet potato vines and leaves. They have various vital nutrients including proteins, carbs, vitamin A, C, B complex, and most of the minerals that their tubers have that we have listed above.
Furthermore, they are fibrous or have fiber and their amount of carbs is low. Therefore, you can mix these leaves and vines with other leafy greens and give them to your furry friend.
One study interestingly shows that "sweet potato leaf extract was also observed in one of the rabbits that had a tumor which later disappeared and which was in agreement with (Hartwell, 1971) as a folk remedy for the tumors of the mouth and throat."
However, ensure the source is free from pesticides, insecticides or herbicides, wash it thoroughly under running water, and introduce them slowly.
When feeding your rabbits this plant, the amount should be one packed cup of a mixture about 5-6 leafy greens, with this plant's leaves and vines being one of them per a bunny weighing two pounds.
Fresh foods should account for 10-15% of their daily dietary requirements while hay should account for about 80%.