THE ALIEN MORNING GLORY

I photographed these very pretty Morning Glory flowers growing along the fence bordering the Botanical Garden six years ago. I particularly enjoyed the mix of blue and purple and seriously wondered if I should collect seeds to plant in my garden. There is no denying that these flowers are eye-catching. I was not alone thinking so, for during the 1950s plants such as these were actually promoted for covering walls and fences – particularly as it can also grow well in poor soil.

Alas, I found out that they are regarded as unwelcome alien invasive plants here in the Eastern Cape as well as in other parts of the country. Scientifically known as Ipomoea indica, this pretty creeper hails from the West Indies and is problematic because it tends to smother other vegetation. It spreads by seed and does not appear to have any natural predators – thus continuing its creeping, suffocating march through areas where the growing conditions are favourable. These plants are quick to invade riverbanks, woodland, and wasteland areas.

Local gardeners need not go without though for there are a number of indigenous morning glories to choose from. Among them is the Ipomoea cairica, or Coast Morning Glory.

Picture: [pza.sanbi.org]

It is indigenous throughout tropical Africa, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean and occurs naturally in the Eastern Cape. This plant was first collected in Cairo, hence the species name cairica.

Another which is endemic to southern Africa, is the Ipomoea oenotheroides, also known as the Christmas Flower. A positive aspect of this plant is that it grows well in the arid parts of the summer-rainfall region.

Picture: [pza.sanbi.org]