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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Ipomoea quamoclit, noxious weed or divinely delicate floral gem?

Ipomoea quamoclit, Cypress Vine - Alafua, Samoa, 2013
Back in 2012 I found a strange if exquisitely beautiful plant growing in a raised garden bed at Malifa (Samoa) which had been newly planted with Zepheranthes rosea (Pink Rain Lilies). Normally it would have been pulled up with all the other weeds (i.e. anything other than the Zepheranthes that were supposed to be growing there) but this one was lucky because I was there and when I saw the delicate leaves I decided that not only was I going to spare it such a terrible and ultimately fatal fate but I dug it up and took it with me to Alafua (Samoa) where I was living and transplant it into its own pot.
At first I just entranced by the leaves and determined to have it encase the crude bamboo trellis I had constructed for it. But then lo and behold it flowered and the next thing I had were bright starbursts of bright crimson which were completely beyond my expectation given how it had already won me over with its divinely delicate leaves. That it also had stunningly breath-taking miniature flowers was an unexpected bonus.
In 2013 I published a Mystery Plant post about this exquisitely beautiful creeper with minuscule bright crimson star-shaped flowers and delicate feathery leaves. I stumbled across a picture of it where the scientific name was revealed to be Ipomoea quamoclit.
Interestingly enough it belongs to the Ipomoea genus of which I have grown and come across quite a few species. I suppose I should have known if anything by the shape of the flower. I suppose I was distracted by its size not to mention far too enraptured by its captivating beauty to see any similarities.
Close up of a leaf of Ipomoea quamoclit, Cypress Vine - Alafua, Samoa, 2013
Ipomoea belongs to the plant family Convolvulaceaeaceae , also known as the Morning-glory Family whose members include a number of creeper that share the common names of Morning-glory or moon flower.
Emerging flower buds and developing seed-pods of Ipomoea quamoclit, Cypress Vine - Alafua, Samoa, 2013

Given the striking combination of this vine’s delicate leaf structure and brilliant red flowers, it should come as no surprise that it is a popular plant. According to Dave’s Garden[1], Ipomoea quamoclit is found in also found in pink, white and near white as well as red.
However in some places it is considered a noxious or invasive weed. It appears on the State noxious weed list for 46 states in the USA[2], although at the same time, several other sources hold that it is “not considered too aggressive and does not seem to crowd out native plants”[3] (REF Missouri BG). The plant is native to Mexico and the Tropical Americas[4]
Propagating it is relatively easy. The seeds are small and it self-sows easily (which might account for it being considered invasive). If you want to have seeds you should let the seed heads dry on the plant and collect them once the seed-pod is completely dry. You need to do this carefully because sometimes the seed head crumbles as you pick it and the seeds will fall out.
I suppose you could plant the seeds and transplant the seedlings later. I dug up and transplanted several seedling from several locations where they were not wanted including on large one that had decided to grow in the greenhouse where we were experimenting with assorted Heirloom tomatoes grafted onto Maxifort rootstock. That particular plant was at least 50 cm long and I planted it against the chain-link fence with visions of that dreary looking fence covered in delicate leaves and miniature star-burst of crimson. Unfortunately someone decided to do some mowing with the whipper-snapper and moved that and a couple other seedlings I had planted just after they had recovered from their transplanting and were showing promise.
Some sources indicate that seeds take 4 days to sprout and flowers within 30 days. (Floridata). Others (REF Fine Gardening) recommend that chipping the seeds and soaking for 24 hours. However I found they germinate easily although I suppose that the only way to resolve the necessity or otherwise of chipping versus not chipping would be to run some experiments and then see the germination ratio. If I get the opportunity to I will do that. Unfortunately my Hummingbird vines are in Samoa so unless I can find some here in the United Kingdom I doubt that I will be able to set up such an experiment any time soon.
With regards to the germination time I’m not sure how long the seeds take to sprout because I was not really paying attention to that but they did seem to sprout reasonably easily and fast and then grow relatively quickly which was a delight. I would say that given the number of flowers and seeds produced and the speed with which they grow, flower and produce seeds worrying about fiddly things like chipping the seeds are a bit unnecessary.
The one thing you do need a support structure like a trellis of some sort for the plants to grow on. I constructed a very crude one by splitting some bamboo canes into 2 cm thick strips and bending them into arches whose ends I stuck down into the soil of the pot. I then tied the centres together to give it a bit more stability.
Ipomoea quamoclit, Cypress Vine - Alafua, Samoa, 2013
Like I said it was a very crude frame but given the limited resources I had at the time and the speed with which the plant grew I wanted it serviceable as soon as possible. Another option which I could have tried would have been to grow it against a chain link fence.

Ipomoea , Unidentified species - Alafua, Samoa, 2013
Bruce (Pulusi) One of our neighbours at Alafua did that with a different variety of Iopmoea which has bigger and less delicate leaves and pale lavender flowers which he has growing on chicken wire fencing with poumuli fence posts. Probably not as elegant a set up as some people might prefer but with it all clothed in a rippling cloth of emerald leaves and a generous scattering of lavender flowers it looks much better than a bare fence and also offers a perfect privacy screen while letting cool breezes to pass through.
Ipomoea , Unidentified species - Alafua, Samoa, 2013
 As you can see, Bruce's Ipomoea has a quite different leafe structure which while not as intricate or delicate as Ipomoea quamoclit's is still very attractive.

 An added bonus to the beautiful leaves and flowers of both plants is that they also attract butterflies, bees and honey-eaters. However, given that they belong to the Convoluaceae or Morning-glory family all parts of the plant are poisonous so keep pets and little humans who may have a tendency to nibble on things well away from them.
WARNING: the plants are poisonous.

On-line sources:
Intergrated Taxonomic Information System Entry for Ipomoea quamoclit
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Entry for Ipomoea quamoclit
Missouri Botanical Garden Entry for Ipomoeaquamoclit Entry for Ipomoea quamoclit

Dave’s Garden Entry for Iopmoea quamoclit

Fine Gardening dot com Entry for Iopmoeaquamoclit

University of Tennessee Herbarium

USF Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants

Wikipedia Entry for Convolvulaceae
Wikipedia Entry for Solanales
Wikipedia Entry for Morning glory
Wikipedia Entry for Iopmoea
 Wikipedia Entry for Ipomoea nil(Blue)

[1] Dave’s Garden: Entry for Ipomoea quamoclit at
[2] USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Entry for Ipomoea quamoclit at
[3] Missouri Botanical Garden Entry for Ipomoea quamoclit at
[4] Entry for Ipomoea quamoclit at

Scientific Name: Ipomoea quamoclit
Common names: Cypress vine, Cypressvine morning glory, Cardinal Creeper, Cardinal vine, Star glory, Hummingbird vine, Indian Pink, Cupid's flower (English) ; name (French); kardinaalswinde (Dutch); Name (German); Name (Italian); Name (Spanish); Name  (Portuguese); Tarulata, Kamalata, Kunjalata, Getphul (Bengali)

Taxonomic hierarchy: 

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Viridaeplantae – Green plants
Infrakingdom: Streptophyta – Land plants
Division: Tracheophyta – Vascular plants
Subdivision: Spermatophytina – Spermatophytes (seed plants)
Infradivision: Angiospermae – Angiosperms (flowering plants)
Class: Eudicota
Superorder: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Convolvulaceaeaceae
Genus: Ipomoea – 
Species: Ipomoea quamoclit 

  • I am using the taxonomical classification system used by ITIS (Intergrated Taxonomic Information System). I have decided to use this system in order to avoid confusion as well as because it offers a comprehensive hierarchy from kingdom right through to subspecies whereas other sources only go as far as order or  provide the names of some of the higher taxonomical ranks but only indicate "unclassified" rather than providing the rank.
  • When and where possible I will endeavour to include alternatives classifications although  I may limit this to occasions where an opportunity arises to discuss the reason for the different classifications.
  • Taxonomical data used in this post was retrieved [September 9th 2014], from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database,

On-line sources:

  • Royal Horticultural Society: Entry for
  • Official Website of the: 
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database: Entry for 
  • Wikipedia: Entry for
  • Wikipedia: Entry for 
  • Wikipedia: Entry for
  • Medicinal Plants of Bangladesh: Entry for Ipomoea quamoclit

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