Ipomoea horsfalliae

cardinal creeper


Ipomoea horsfalliae

Hook. 1844

pronounced: ip-oh-MEE-uh HORSE-all-ee-eye

(Convolvulaceae — the morning glory family)


common names: cardinal creeper, Horsfall's morning glory, Prince Kuhio vine

Ipomœa is from the Greek ιψ (ips), a worm, possessive form ιπος (ipos), and 'ομοιος (homoios), like; horsfalliae is named for Charles Horsfall (1776-1846), an avid botanist who was Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and whose wife, Dorothy, was a noted botanical artist.

This spectacular plant is a native of South America (Brazil, Guyana, Surinam and Venezuela), and has also become naturalized in the humid forests of the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica. It is also very common, and now naturalized, in Hawaii, where it was introduced by Prince Kuhio (1871-1922).

The beautiful plant pictured is growing on a garden fence in Marine Parade, Geoffrey Bay.

It is an evergreen twining climber with milky sap, tuberous roots, and vigorous thin woody stems that can reach up to about 8 m in length. The glossy dark green leaves are alternate, up to 15 cm long, palmate-lobate, deeply divided into 3 – 7 lobes with wavy edges, entire or dentate.

This is a winter bloomer. The ruby red to magenta-violet flowers, 4 – 7 cm in diameter, are produced in great quantity in axillary cymes. They are infundibuliform, stellate and waxy with pointed lobes.

The fruits are subglobular capsules, 13 – 16 mm long, containing 6 – 7 mm long dark brown seeds. These seeds have a crown of silky hairs which aids their dispersal. The plant has the reputation of being difficult to propagate. The seeds, when produced, are slow to germinate. In its native range the plant is almost solely fertilized by hummingbirds, and where these are lacking or scarce, fruiting seldom occurs. In some areas, seedless fruits are produced. Cuttings are very unwilling to root, and best results are usually obtained by layering.

dangerous 2Most parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested. Bees, butterflies and birds are attracted to the nectar contained in the flowers.

Although the plant is not generally reckoned to be invasive, due to the difficulty in getting it to grow, it can be difficult to get rid of if no longer wanted in the garden, as, after cutting down or digging out, it will sucker from any root parts remaining in the ground.


Photographs taken in Geoffrey Bay 2014
Page last updated 19th January 2019