Weed of the Month: Morning-Glory
Fall color isn’t confined to red, orange, and yellow. This time of year, we’re also treated to pops of purple and pink from the irresistible, irrepressible morning-glory! You will see this prolific vine climbing fences and blooming through early fall.
The Latin genus name, Ipomoea, means “like a worm that eats wood,” alluding to its vigorous growth. Its common name refers to the fact that the flowers tend to shrivel and close once the morning has passed.
Our most common morning-glory, Ipomoea purpurea, is native to Central and South America, but it has made itself at home across North America. It’s a controversial plant, cultivated as an ornamental garden plant by some and vilified as a weed by others. It easily outcompetes other plants and can quickly colonize an area, but many gardeners are willing to accept these faults because of its lovely funnel-shaped blossoms.
Though the morning-glory is an annual, it readily reseeds itself and comes back year after year. The seeds are also somewhat toxic, and their ingestion has been reported to cause diarrhea and mild hallucinations—maybe that’s why birds, squirrels, and rabbits tend to steer clear of them!
Working in Red Hook, I am thankful for the way morning-glory vines enliven the industrial cityscape, and I’m in awe of this plant’s ability to thrive in all manner of denuded, polluted soils. That being said, whenever I see a morning-glory seed packet at a seed swap—and I always do—I can’t help but take it out of the mix. Though this impressive vine has its place as a surefire fence cover, it's still an aggressive, nonnative plant that needs to be used with caution.