Ipomoea coccinea

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Name: Impomea coccinea L.

Family: Convolvulaceae – Morning Glory or Bindweed Family (5,6).

Common Names:  Red Morning Glory, Scarlet Starglory. Scarlet Morning Glory, Starglory, Redstar, Mexican Morning Glory, Wooly Tidestromia (4,8).

 dr00369-2Etymology: The name Ipomoea comes from the Greek roots “ips,” which means “worm,” and “homoios,” which means “resembling” (2). The name refers to the worm-like twining of plants in the genus. “Coccinea” or “coccineus” means scarlet, referring to the color of the flowers (9).

 Botanical synonyms (3, 10):
Ipomoea coccinea v. hederifolia (L.) A. Gray
Quamoclit coccinea (L.) Moench
Quamoclit coccinea v. hederifolia (L.) House
Quamoclit hederifolia (L.) Choisy

Quick Notable Features:
¬ Climbing and twining annual plant, herbaceous
¬ Stems tangled and often running along the ground
¬ Bright reddish orange trumpet-shaped flowers
¬ Small, brownish-black seed capsules with 1-4 small seeds inside

Plant Height: Stems reach 3 m in length (13).

Subspecies/varieties recognized: Ipomoea coccinea var. hederifolia (L.) A. Gray. (10)

Most Likely Confused with: I. coccinea is often confused with Ipomoea quamoclit and Ipomoea hederifolia (3).

Habitat Preference: Roadsides, fencerows, fields, thickets, disturbed and/or waste sites.  Ipomoea coccinea is generally considered a weed (1, 3, 4).

Geographic Distribution in Michigan: The distribution of Ipomoea coccinea in Michigan is not known, however a hybrid of I. coccinea and I. quamoclit, I. x multifida, has been reported from Jackson county, suggesting its parent species can be found nearby. I. coccinea is also known to inhabit Erie County, Ohio, on the Michigan/Ohio border (4,6).

Known Elevational Distribution: In Arizona it is found to range from 2500 to 6000 feet (15).

Complete Geographic Distribution: Native to tropical America, I. coccinea is introduced throughout the United States. There, the species occupies an area from Massachusetts to Iowa, Florida to Arizona, and all the states in between  (3, 4, 6, 8).

quco9_001_lvdVegetative Plant Description: I. coccinea is an annual herb. It has fibrous roots that emerge from a main taproot. Stems are twining or prostrate, ranging from glabrous to finely pubescent. Leaves are alternate, either entire or lobed (often dentate with a few teeth), and ovate, with a cordate base. The shape of the leaves varies from specimen to specimen, and if leaves are lobed, they have 3-5 lobes. Leaves are from 2-14 cm in length and 1-12 cm in width, with petioles ranging from 0.6-14 cm long. It has no stipules (1, 3, 12).

Climbing Mechanism:  The stems twine dextrally and are sometimes, but rarely, decumbent (1, 3).

Flower Description: This plant bears scarlet (orange-red) flowers in cymes of 2-8 that may be solitary, on occasion. The sepals are subequal, 3-3.5 mm long, ranging from elliptic to oblong. Petals are fused at the base to form a narrow tube that is sometimes referred to as “trumpet-shaped.”  Bracts are 1-3 cm in length and range from lanceolate to ovate, aristate to mucronate. Pedicels are 5-15 mm in length and erect. The style of the pistil is exserted beyond the stamens, and the ovary is ovoid (1, 3, 12).

Flowering Time: Summer, July to October. Flowers are open for only one day (5,7).

Pollinator: Nectar produced by the flowers of Ipomoea coccinea attracts various insects and sometimes birds. Because of the tube-like flowers, any insect or bird that enters the flower for nectar becomes dusted with pollen. Ipomoea coccinea is also capable of self-pollinating (7, 14).

quco9_002_lhp-2Fruit Type and Description: Ipomoea coccinea bears capsular fruits, with pedicels that are reflexed below the fruit, but erect in the flower. The fruits are 6-7 mm across. Mature fruits are spherical in shape, light brown, glabrous, and contain up to 4 seeds (1, 3).

Seed Description: Seeds are wedge shaped, 3-4 mm long, black to dark brown, and finely tomentose (1, 3).

Dispersal Syndrome: 1-4 seeds per fruit, most likely gravity dispersed. The capsule appears to become brittle, indicating that it would shatter upon impact with the ground, releasing the seeds (pers. obs., KLW).

Distinguished by: Ipomoea coccinea is often confused with Ipomoea quamoclit because the flowers are similar. However, the leaves of the two species are very different. Ipomoea quamoclit has leaves that are finely divided, resembling a pine bough, hence its common name: cypress vine. I. coccinea is also sometimes confused with Ipomoea hederifolia. Where I. coccinea has a more scarlet-orange flower, I. hederifolia has a flower that is a dark, solid red. In addition, the seeds of I. hederifolia are more “pinched” than the seeds of I. coccinea. I. coccinea is the only species of the three that is currently identified as inhabiting Michigan (4, U. of M. Herbarium, KLW).

Other members of the family in Michigan (number species): Calystegia (10 species), Convolvulus (2 species), Cuscuta (10 species), and Ipomoea (4 species) (4,6).

Ethnobotanical Uses: The seeds of Ipomoea coccinea (and other species in Ipomoea) have hallucinatory properties that may cause, among other things, distortion of sight and hearing (1).

Phylogenetic Information: The Convolvulaceae belong to the order Solanales. Solanales forms a monophyletic group with Lamiales and belongs to the Asterid 1 clade.  Within Convolvulaceae there are 3 – 4 distinct subfamilies. Ipomoea belongs to the Convolvuloideae, and the species here belongs to the Quamoclit Section of the genus (7,11).

Interesting Quotation or Other Interesting Factoid not inserted above:  Ipomoea coccinea is considered a “noxious weed,” but yet, attracts hummingbirds (4,14).

Literature and websites used:

  1. Bryson, C.T. and M.S. DeFelice 2009. Weeds of the South. Athens Georgia: University of Georgia Press.
  2. Fernald, M. L. 1950. Gray’s Manual of Botany, 8th ed. New York, New York: American Book Company.
  3. McGregor R.L. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, Kansas: The University Press of Kansas.
  4. USDA, NRCS. 2008. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1, National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. http://plants.usda.gov/  (February 25, 2011)
  5. Seymour, E.L.D., (ed.)1946. The New Garden Encyclopedia. New York, New York: Wm. H. Wise & Co.
  6. Voss, E.G. 2004. Michigan Flora Part III: Dicots Concluded. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Cranbrook Institute of Science.
  7. Zomlefer, W.B. 1994. Guide to Flowering Plant Families. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.
  8. Song, H. 2006. Flora of Missouri. http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=11&taxon_id=242417485
  9. Bailey, H.L. 1963. How Plants Get Their Names. New York, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
  10. The International Plant Names Index (2008). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org [accessed: March 2nd, 2011].
  11. Stevens, P.F. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 7, May 2006. http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb
  12. Whitson, T.D., L.C. Burrill, S.A. Dewey, D.W. Cudney, B.E. Nelson, R.D. Lee, and R. Parker 1992. Weeds of the West.  Jackson, Wyoming, USA: Western Society of Weed Science
  13. Tenaglia, D. Missouri Plants: Photographs and descriptions of the flowering and non-flowering plants of Missouri, USA http://www.missouriplants.com/ 11th March, 2011
  14. Soule, Deb 2005. The Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener, Winter 2005/2006 http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Winter20052006/Pollinators/tabid/1110/Default.aspx
  15. Arizona Wildflowers: Wildflower Pictures and Photos http://www.delange.org/ScarletC/ScarletC.htm accessed April 22, 2011

Image Credits (all used with permission):

1) of two flowers is courtesy of Daniel Reed, – www.2bnthewild.com
2) of seeds is courtesy of Carole Ritchie @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
3) a line drawing of Ipomoea coccinea, is courtesy of Britton, N.L. & A. Brown 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada, and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 43, downloaded from USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Primary Authors: Karie L. Whitman with editing by Robyn J. Burnham

© Robyn J. Burnham

For additional information on Michigan Plant Diversity web pages please contact Robyn J. Burnham via email: rburnham“at”umich.edu