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Ipomoea carnea ssp. fistulosa (Mart. ex Choisy) D.F. Austin 1977
pronounced: ip-oh-MEE-uh KAR-nee-uh subspecies fist-yoo-LOW-suh
(Convolvulaceae – the morning glory family)
common names: Bush Morning Glory, Pink Morning Glory, Gloria de la Mañana
Ipomoea comes from the Greek ιψ (ips), a worm, possessive form ιπος (ipos), and 'ομοιος (homoios), like; carnea is Latin, carneus, flesh-coloured; fistulosa is also Latin, fistulosus, pipe-shaped. In Brazil, the plant is known as canudo-de-pita, literally ‘pipe-cane’, as its hollow stems were used to make tubes for tobacco pipes – hence fistulosa. Gloria de la Mañana is the name used for the plant in many parts of America, being Spanish for ‘morning glory’.
This shrub, that can grow to 1.5 m, is found naturally in America from Mexico south to Brazil. Its lower stems become woody, and it is from these that the pipe-stems were made. The leaves are 10–25 cm long, heart-shaped with tapering tips, hairy on the underside. The flowers are pink with a purplish throat, 5–9 cm long and up to 11 cm in diameter, borne on the tips of the branches. They attract hummingbirds and long-tongued butterflies. When fruits are produced, they are ovoid, 1.5–2 cm long.
The plant likes full to partial sun in a fertile, well-drained soil. Too much shade reduces flowering, and causes the plant to become leggy and flop over. In windy spots the plant may need to be staked.
The stems of the plant may be used to make paper. It is also of medicinal value as a sedative and an anti-convulsant. A glycosidic saponin has also been purified from the plant, with anti-carcinogenic and oxytoxic† properties.
The plant has a connection with the bloodiest war ever fought on Brazilian soil. The town of Canudos was founded in the racially-diverse Bahia state of north-eastern Brazil in 1893 by Antônio Vicente Mendes Marciel, on an abandoned farm, so called because canudo-de-pita grew there in abundance. Antônio was an itinerant preacher who had been wandering through the back roads and lesser-inhabited regions of the country from the 1870s onward, followed by a band of loyal supporters. As his following swelled, he took on the name of Antônio Conselheiro (Antonio the Counsellor) and increasingly began to trouble the local authorities, who saw him as a rival to their legitimacy. Over the years people from across Bahia, including landless farmers, former slaves and indigenous peoples, flocked to join him, and within a few years the settlement had grown to 30,000 people. The national government decided that the settlement had to be destroyed in the name of liberalism and progress – autonomous movements not subject to state control were antithetical to the national interest. Three attacks were repulsed by the villagers; but in 1897 a much larger invasion force managed to overwhelm them. Its success was largely due to the death of the founder from dysentery during the early stages of the siege. The Brazilian army showed no mercy, brutally massacring the survivors and destroying the entire village.
The land on which Canudos stood is now submerged by water, the result of the Cocorobó Dam project in the 1970s. At low water the remains of the church that was once the town’s centrepiece can sometimes be seen. Annually, in October, a mass is celebrated in Nova Canudos, nearby, to commemorate those killed in the massacre.
† used to start or aid labour in childbirth
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs © Donald Simpson, taken in Picnic Bay 2008, 2012, 2013
Page last updated 13th November 2013