Ipomoea aquatica (swamp morning-glory)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Air Temperature
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Impact Summary
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Ipomoea aquatica Forsskål, 1775
Preferred Common Name
- swamp morning-glory
Other Scientific Names
- Convolvulus adansonii Desrousseaux 1814
- Convolvulus repens Vahl, 1790
- Convolvulus repens Willdenow 1797
- Convolvulus reptans Linnaeus, 1753
- Ipomoea repens Roth 1821
- Ipomoea reptans Poiret 1814
- Ipomoea subdentata Miquel 1856-59
International Common Names
- English: water spinach
- Spanish: batata acuática; batata aquática
- French: patate aquatique
- Portuguese: batata acuática; batata aquática
Local Common Names
- Germany: Trichterwinde, Sumpf-
- India: ganthain; kalami sag; kalmisak; karmi; koilangu; nadishaka; nalanibhaji; nali; nari; patuasag; sarnali; sornalika-sag; tooti koora; tutikura; vellai kerai; vellaikeerai
- Indonesia: kangkung, kangkoong
- Laos: phak bong
- Malaysia: kangkoong, kangkoong
- Peru: camotillo
- Philippines: balangog; cancong; galatgat; kangkong; tangkong
- Sudan: argala
- Thailand: gka-lampok; paakboong
- USA: creeping swamp morning-glory; water convolvulus; water green
- Vietnam: rau muong
- IPOAQ (Ipomoea aquatica)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Solanales
- Family: Convolvulaceae
- Genus: Ipomoea
- Species: Ipomoea aquatica
DescriptionTop of page
I. aquatica is a sprawling vine, annual or perennial, creeping on mud or floating on water; stems terete, branched, hollow and succulent when floating, otherwise solid and firm, up to 3 m long, to 1 cm in diameter.
Leaves emersed, glabrous, alternate; petioles succulent when grown in water, 3-20 cm long; blades greenish-brown, triangular, ovate, lanceolate, or linear, entire to dentate, 3-15 cm long, 1-12 cm across, bases truncate, cordate, hastate, or sagittate, lobes rounded to acute, entire to dentate.
Inflorescences axillary cymes, with one to a few flowers; peduncles 0.5-18 cm long. Flowers perfect, hypogenous, large and showy; pedicels 1-6.5 cm long, with minute bracts at base; sepals glabrous, unawned, ovate, the inner slightly longer than outer, 7-10 mm long; corolla funnel shaped, glabrous, pink, often with darker eye, sometimes white or cream, 2.5-5.5 cm long, 2-4 cm wide; stamens included, shorter than corolla, adnate with petals above the base, filaments hairy at the base, anthers dehiscing longitudinally; carpels glabrous, locules mostly 2, style included, shorter than corolla, ovules mostly 4.
Fruit a capsule, glabrous, globose to ovoid, 8-10 mm long; seeds 4 or fewer, brown or black, mostly pubescent, 3-ranked, rounded on back, about 5 mm long, about 4 mm wide.
The seeds have an omega-shaped border that surrounds the hilum.
(Reed, 1977; Westbrooks, 1989; Westphal, 1992.)
Plant TypeTop of page
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
I. aquatica originated in tropical Asia (possibly India) and can be found in South and South-East Asia, tropical Africa, South and Central America and Oceania. Only in South and South-East Asia is it an important leafy vegetable. It is intensively grown and frequently eaten throughout South-East Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and southern China.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 25 Feb 2021
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
I. aquatica occurs in moist, marshy, or inundated localities, in shallow pools, ditches, or wet ricefields, from sea level to 1000 m. It forms dense masses and is easily propagated from cuttings (Van Steenis, 1953). It is also cultivated as a vegetable in different parts of Asia as well as occurring in the wild and as a weed (Haselwood and Motter, 1966).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Oryza sativa (rice)||Poaceae||Main|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Fresh, mature seeds display primary dormancy within 15 days after harvest. Natural germination occurs following an after-ripening period and scarification of the seed coat. Dormancy can be broken by various methods of scarification, such as naturally occurring abrasion by soil particles, prolonged microbial attack, or ingestion by animals (Datta and Biswas, 1970). Germination rates of I. aquatica seeds are usually less than 60%, with black-seeded types showing higher germination rates than light-coloured seeds. Two to three weeks after sowing, the plants start developing strong lateral branches. After this, the main axis and both lateral branches produce about one leaf every 2-3 days. Flowering starts 48-63 days after sowing (Westphal, 1992). Plants may be spread as seeds, plant fragments or whole plants by water, animals and humans (Patnaik, 1976).
Roots are produced at stem nodes that come in contact with water or moist soil. New plants can root within a week (Satpathy, 1964). Once roots are established, the plant grows as a trailing vine. Along waterways, the stems spread out over the water surface, forming a dense, tangled network that can obstruct water flow and access to it. Stems that have grown out over water have round, hollow stems and petiolate, basally lobed leaves. Under dryland conditions, I. aquatica will grow as an erect herb (Edie and Ho, 1969). Without standing water, the plant roots at every node and becomes woody and inedible (Satpathy, 1964).
I. aquatica is thought to be a quantitative short-day plant. It produces optimum yields in the lowland humid tropics that have stable high temperatures and short-day conditions. Optimum growth occurs in full sunlight. Marshy lands and waterlogged soils are ideal for growth of I. aquatica. Shallow ponds, ditches, peripheries of deep ponds, tanks, and slopes of wet soils are also suitable. It is adapted to a wide range of soil conditions, with clay soils (heavy or silty) being generally suitable. Soils with a high percentage of organic matter are preferred. The optimum pH range for growth is 5.3-8.5 (Tiwari and Chandra, 1985; Westphal, 1992).
Low temperature, shade and salinity are limiting factors for growth of I. aquatica. It grows poorly in cold weather but can tolerate light frost that affects only the outer leaves (Snyder et al., 1981). The seeds can withstand some freezing (Gilbert, 1984). Huang (1981) observed that it does not grow at day/night temperatures below 20/15°C. It has low shade tolerance: plants grown in shade are weak and thin (Tiwara and Chandra, 1985). I. aquatica is not tolerant of brackish or salt water (Backer and Van den Brink, 1965).
Competition with Salvinia molesta
In one investigation, although I. aquatica and Salvinia molesta occurred in similar habitats, they occupied very distinct ecological niches. I. aquatica had emergent shoots with submerged stoloniferous components. S. molesta occupied the space between I. aquatica plants, and was sheltered by them. I. aquatica seemed the more aggressive of the two, colonizing new areas before S. molesta. The submerged components of I. aquatica showed some resistance to adverse conditions, ensuring perpetuation of the species when favourable conditions returned. Nitrogen and phosphorus are important growth factors in both macrophytes. I. aquatica showed a high absorption capacity for ammonium-nitrogen. Potassium and calcium were relatively high, whereas magnesium and sodium were low in the habitats studied (Chin and Fong, 1978).
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||20|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||24|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Pomacea canaliculata snails have been documented to damage I. aquatica and other aquatic plants, including rice, taro (Colocasia esculenta), Nelumbo nucifera, Juncus decipiens, Cyperus monophyllus, Zizania latifolia [Z. caduciflora], Oenanthe stolonifera [O. javanica], Trapa bicornis and Azolla spp. The snail is also the intermediate host of the rat lungworm, causing eosinophilic meningoencephalitis in humans in Taiwan and Japan (Mochida, 1991).
In Brunei, blister rust (Albugo ipomoeae-panduratae) is a serious pest of I. aquatica, which is grown as a crop (Peregrine, 1974).
I. aquatica is a host of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne javanica in north-west Nigeria (Salawu et al., 1991). It is susceptible to the nematode Meloidogyne hapla in Taiwan (Ruelo, 1980). It is a host of the nematode Paratrophurus sp. that occurs in the Ryukyu Islands (Teruya, 1979). It is susceptible to white rust disease (Albugo ipomoeae-aquaticae) (Giri et al., 1989) and Albugo ipomoeae panduranae (Edie and Ho, 1969). It is also susceptible to some fungi, such as Cercospora sp., Alternaria sp., and Cercosporella sp. The fungus Phomopsis sp. causes leaf spot disease on I. aquatica, but is of minor importance (Tiwara and Chandra, 1985).
Associated insects include Metriona circumdata (George and Venkataraman, 1987) and Tarophagus proserpina (Duatin and de Pedro, 1986).
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||Negative|
ImpactTop of page
I. aquatica grows very rapidly and becomes a weed in some habitats (Parham, 1958; Varshney and Rzoska, 1976). The long floating stems form a dense network across bodies of fresh water. This network supports leaves and flowers, which rise above the water surface and may impede water flow and navigation (Ashton, 1973). I. aquatica is also a major broadleaved aquatic weed of dry-seeded wetland rice (Raju and Reddy, 1986; Jena and Patro, 1990).
In Florida (USA), where the flat landscape permits sheet flow of water during periods of heavy rain, I. aquatica is considered a serious threat to flood control. Since the late 1970s, the Florida Department of Natural Resources has eradicated over 20 small infestations of I. aquatica that escaped from illegal plantings. It is considered a significant threat to Florida's waterways and wetlands (Westbrooks, 1989).
In natural settings, such as rivers and lakes, I. aquatica may outcompete native vegetation and limit the use of these waters. (Such settings may pose problems for regular monitoring and environmental constraints may exist, so that I. aquatica is difficult to detect and control.) In a Florida study, I. aquatica left unattended in a tank with several other species protruded up through a dense mat of Hydrilla verticillata and then grew over the remaining species (Gilbert, 1984).
Canals used for irrigation in the Sudan are conducive to the spread of aquatic weeds. Among the most prevalent species are Cyperus rotundus, I. aquatica and Panicum repens on canal banks, and Chara globularis, Najas pectinata, Ottelia alismoides and Potamogeton spp. anchored in the canal mud. Although mechanical clearance using rakes and chains is often uneconomic, the possible contamination of irrigation water discourages chemical control (Beshir, 1978).
A plant that is presumed to be I. aquatica was being used as a food plant during the Chin Dynasty in China as early as 290 AD (Edie and Ho, 1969). Today, it is grown as a vegetable crop in many tropical countries and was suggested as a potential vegetable crop for south Florida by Ochse (1951). The highly nutritious stems and leaves are eaten raw, boiled, stir fried, steamed, or pickled throughout Asia. The foliage is high in protein, vitamin A, iron, calcium, and phosphorus (Bautista et al., 1988). It is also eaten as a vegetable by Asian-Americans in a number of states in the USA (Westbrooks, 1989). The composition of the essential oil of fresh leaves and stems has been investigated to identify the flavour components (Kameoka et al., 1992).
Yield as a crop
Annual production of I. aquatica ('water spinach') in Hong Kong has been estimated at 3-5 million kg (Edie and Ho, 1969). When grown as a crop, yields of up to 100,000 kg/ha have been reported in Hong Kong (Edie and Ho, 1969). Similar yields were reported in field trials in south Florida (Snyder et al., 1981). Under optimum conditions, it can grow up to 16 cm per day (Gilbert, 1984). Under upland cultivation, yields range from 7 to 30 tonnes/ha of fresh produce per crop. Under wet cultivation, annual yields are estimated to be from 24 to 100 tonnes/ha. Annual production of floating water spinach in Thailand is reported to be 90 tonnes/ha. In Malaysia, water spinach is cultivated commercially on 600-1,100 ha with a total production of 60,000-220,000 tonnes/year. In 1992, in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, farmers' revenues from production of water spinach were US$ 0.05-0.40 per kg (Westphal, 1992).
According to various sources, I. aquatica has been used extensively as a medicinal plant: as a mild laxative in India (Subramanyam, 1962); in the treatment of ringworm (Anonymous, 1959); and as a poultice in febrile delirium (Anonymous, 1959).
Use as an Animal Feed
Plants may be fed to livestock, pigs, ducks, and chickens (Brown, 1946; Westphal, 1992).
Ability to remove heavy metals
Field studies in the Makkasan Reservoir, Thailand revealed that maximum biomass per clump of I. aquatica was reached 8 weeks after sowing. The average absorption of N, P, K, Ca and Mg was 3.59, 0.54, 4.40, 0.86 and 0.20 (% dry weight). The average heavy metal absorption of Fe, Mn, Zn, Pb, Cu and Cd was 908.35, 202.36. 86.38, 31.48, 11.39 and 0.74 (µg/g dry weight) (Stripen et al., 1991). This plant may be useful in removing nitrates from contaminated water, such as farm drainage and municipal waste (Snyder et al., 1981).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
The young tops or plants (stem and leaves) are cooked like spinach or lightly fried in oil and eaten as a vegetable in various dishes. A small portion of the production is canned. The vines are used as fodder for cattle and pigs. In Malaysia it is widely grown in fish ponds and used to feed pigs (Elzebroek and Wind, 2008).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
Human food and beverage
Detection and InspectionTop of page
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Manual and Mechanical Removal
Manual removal of I. aquatica from sites where it is regarded as a weed can only be successful if all plant parts with nodes are removed and destroyed. The objective is to prevent re-growth and further seed production. In an experimental study conducted in north central India, I. aquatica died when clipped underwater (Middleton, 1990). However, complete eradication by manual means is not practical (Chin and Fong, 1978).
The tortoise beetle (Metriona circumdata) is used as a biological control agent for I. aquatica in Keoladeo National Park, in Bharatput, India. Grubs feed on the underside of the leaves and skeletonize them completely (George and Venkataraman, 1987). Fish, such as the sterile triploid white amur (grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idella), may have potential for providing control of the plant in closed water systems.
In pot experiments in India, paraquat was effective in completely killing I. aquatica (Misra and Tripathy, 1975). In 1988-89 field trials conducted at Maruteru, India, 2,4-D, paraquat and urea were evaluated (singly and in combination) for the control of I. aquatica in drainage canals. All treatments reduced weed biomass production, reduced weed growth by 18-99% and reduced re-sprouting of I. aquatica from pretreatment values of 100% to 1.4-65.3%. Paraquat + 2,4-D resulted in the greatest decrease in weed growth and re-sprouting (Raju and Reddy, 1993).
In a study conducted at the Itoikin Rice Irrigation Project in Nigeria, in January-February 1989, application of 2,4-D, diquat with and without a wetting agent, ioxynil + 2,4-D, paraquat or terbutryn resulted in mortality of I. aquatica, water hyacinth [Eichhornia crassipes], Pistia stratiotes, Ludwigia decurrens, and Nymphaea lotus within 2 weeks of treatment. The dead plants gradually sank to various depths in the canal and, 8 weeks after treatment, the entire water surface was clear of all aquatic weeds (Akinyemiju and Bewaju, 1990).
Application of thiobencarb post-emergence, butachlor pre-emergence, or oxadiazon has been discussed as part of an integrated approach for controlling grass weeds, sedges and broadleaved weeds (including I. aquatica) in rice (Shad, 1986).
Post-emergence herbicides were evaluated in transplanted rice in the irrigated basin of River Mombo in northern Tanzania. The predominant weeds were Cyperus difformis, Pycreus macrostachyos, Echinochloa colonum, Ammania baccifera, Ludwigia abyssinica and I. aquatica. Bentazone + propanil gave the best weed control and hand-weeding was next best. The performance of butachlor, benfuresate and molinate was disappointing. No herbicide adversely affected the quality or yield of grain (Ritoine et al., 1981).
Regulatory strategies to prevent the world movement and further establishment of exotic pest plants such as I. aquatica include foreign prevention (production of weed-free commodities for export to un-infested countries); exclusion (detection and mitigation of weed contaminants in imported products at ports of entry); detection, containments and eradication of incipient infestations, and cost-effective control of widespread species (Westbrooks, 1991).
Since it has been listed as a Federal Noxious Weed in the USA (Anonymous, 1981), I. aquatica has been intercepted frequently at ports of entry (about 2,500 times between 1981-1993). Most attempted importations are intentional, but some are inadvertent. The seeds have been intercepted as contaminants of Ionopsis utricularioides leaves, Ipomoea cairica seeds, Citrus sp. seeds, rice seeds, Sesamum indicum seeds, Cucumis sp., Pittosporum sp. leaves, Cuminum sp. seeds, and tractor trailer debris (Interceptions Records, USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Riverdale, Maryland, USA).
Although the state of Florida (USA) prohibits the importation, transportation, or cultivation of I. aquatica, it is still planted and sold illegally (Schmitz D, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee, Florida, USA, personal communication, 1995). In Texas, it is one of 13 prohibited aquatic weeds that are regulated by game wardens (Fowler L, USDA, Brownsville, Texas, USA, personal communication, 1995). It is also listed as a state noxious weed in North Carolina by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA, 1995. Plant Protection Division, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA). The California Department of Food and Agriculture views it as a crop and thus places no restrictions on its cultivation (Westbrooks R, USDA, Oxford, North Carolina, USA, personal communication, 1995).
Small quantities of I. aquatica seeds needed for seed collections and other uses can be killed by exposure to microwave radiation (700 watts) for 5 minutes. Seeds should be placed on moistened filter paper or paper towels in a covered beaker. Steam created from the paper creates a high-humidity environment that helps to prevent scorching of the seed surface (Westbrooks and Eplee, 1992).
The seeds can be killed by exposure to dry heat at a temperature of 121°C for 15 minutes.
Seeds of the closely related species I. triloba can be killed by exposure to moist heat (hot water) at a temperature of 92°C for 40 minutes (Westbrooks R, USDA, Whiteville, North Carolina, USA, unpublished data, 1995).
ReferencesTop of page
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