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Morning Glory Notecard



Morning Glory (Ipomoae purpurea)

Ips is the Greek word for worms. Ipomoea, or worm-like, describes the twining growth habit of this genus. Only in the twentieth century did the Morning Glory earn its current name. Because the flowers open at night, or in diffuse light, and last only a single day, saluting the sun, the name is well-deserved; though quite a contrast to “worm-like”!

The Morning Glory belongs to the Convolvulaceae family of which there are hundreds of species across the world, ranging from trailing and twining varieties to woody shrubs and even trees up to 33 feet high. While some species like salt marshes, other prefer sand dunes, freshwater or mountain tops, and one member, the Cuscuta, is a parasite on host plants. The heart-shaped alternate leaves are more deeply lobed in seedlings. The vibrantly colored flowers are regular and bisexual. The five petals and five stamens fuse at the base of the corolla tube to form a bold, showy trumpet. The most important crop plant of the family is Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato), cultivated throughout tropical regions as a valuable food source. The plant has many local medicinal uses, particularly as a cathartic.

Aztec priests in the tropical Americas valued Ipomoea seeds for their magical and medicinal secrets. The seeds were ground and mixed with tobacco and insect ashes and the resulting paste, when applied topically, would numb the flesh and allow the priests to perform physically challenging religious rituals without fear. In the 1960’s the seeds were again in great demand as they were thought to contain lysergic acid derivatives similar to the fungus ergot, and alleged to have hallucinogenic effects. In the UK the sale of seeds was suspended briefly until investigations proved them harmless and Morning Glory seeds were once more available to gardeners who delight in their spectacular blooms.

artwork and text by milly acharya ©2004