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Ipomoea quamoclit L. 1753
pronounced: ip-oh-MEE-uh KWAM-oh-klit
(Convolvulaceae – the morning glory family)
Common name: Cypress Vine
Ipomoea is from the Greek ιψ (ips), a worm, possessive form ιπος (ipos), and 'ομοιος (homoios), like - like a worm. Quamoclit has defeated me. The only botanical dictionary I have found that attempts a derivation states that it is from the Greek name for the dwarf kidney bean. I find this very hard to believe, as neither ancient nor modern Greek contains the qu sound. Νανος νεφρο-φασολι (Nanos nephro-phasoli) is modern Greek for the dwarf kidney bean.
This pretty vine is a species of Morning Glory native to Mexico and tropical America, but has escaped cultivation and is now established throughout much of the eastern USA from Florida and Texas north to at least Kansas and Ohio. It still seems to be expanding its range. Introduced into other tropical and sub-tropical countries as an ornamental, it is now naturalized in many parts of the world.
It is a twining vine that will climb up to about 6 m. The lacy leaves are 2–9 cm long, deeply lobed (almost pinnate), with 9–19 lobes on each side of the leaf. The scarlet (or occasionally white) flowers are 3–4 cm long and 2 cm in diameter, trumpet-shaped with 5 points. It flowers from early summer to late autumn. The flowers are an excellent source of nectar for butterflies and humming birds.
The seeds are relatively large, easy to handle, and take only about 4 days to sprout. The cotyledons are large and distinctive, looking like swept-back aeroplane wings. The next leaves to appear are the handsome feathery leaves that distinguish the plant. The vine grows quickly, producing its beautiful scarlet flowers in less than 30 days.
Where the plant has become naturalized, it does not seem to have caused a great deal of concern among those who would protect us from exotic pest plants, probably because it does not appear to be replacing any native species or disrupting natural plant communities. Here on Magnetic Island, like its close relative Scarlet Morning Glory (Ipomoea hederifolia), it seems to make only an occasional appearance, provides a welcome splash of scarlet in what is normally a weedy jungle, and disappears in the dry season. So far, at least, it has not had anywhere near the effect of other imports such as Siratro, Blue Trumpet Vine and Coral Vine.
One important fact to keep in mind if you are handling this plant: the seed is very toxic if ingested.
Photographs taken in Mango Avenue, Nelly Bay 2010, 2011
Page last updated 15th December 2016