Cochise County Plants: Ivyleaf Morning Glory, Ipomoea Hederacea

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Ipomoea hederacea, you say? Huh. 2014 must be the Year of Making Corrections. Until now, I thought our Ivyleaf Morning Glories–transported in seed form to our Cochise County acreage in 2011 by the high, superheated gas clouds of the Monument Fire–were Ipomoea purea, generally known as heavenly blue morning glories.

These Ivyleaf (also known as Mexican) Morning Glories are not a patch on the huge, cultivated versions my wife and I observed twining up around the support posts of a portico in Tombstone, Arizona, but hey. For wild versions dropping in from the sky and popping back up every year after the monsoon rains have been running for a while, they’re not bad, either.

Southern Cochise County desert conditions do exert a good bit of influence on the plant’s lifestyle. It functions as a perennial in some climates, but apparently our fierce summers followed by subfreezing (though not subzero) winters are enough to regulate a few things. In other words, it’s strictly an annual in this area, dying off every autumn and coming back up from seed every summer. At least, it’s worked that way three years now, with a fourth well under way. As the rains have tapered off to “rare” status in this second week of September, some of the vines are already drying out, turning brown, and getting ready to call it a day. Blooms are fewer and less robust in general.

The photos on this page were in fact taken toward the end of August.

White Edge Morning Glory, Ipomoea nil, flowers in early afternoon.  Some (white with pink ends) have already furled their petals tightly while others are getting ready to pucker up and follow suit.

Ivyleaf Morning Glory, Ipomoea hederacea, flowers in early afternoon. Some (white with pink ends) have already furled their petals tightly while others are getting ready to pucker up and follow suit.

It turns out that there are quite a few morning glory species out there. Fortunately for my efforts at plant identification, the leaves of one can sometimes be distinctly different from the leaves of an otherwise similar plant. For example, many varieties sport heart shaped leaves while the Ivyleaf Morning Glory generally has leaves that…well, here, take a look.

Five spear point tips define each leaf of the white edged morning glory.  The number of spear points is not always five, but the leaf is always distinctive.

Five spear point tips define each leaf of this Ivyleaf Morning Glory. The number of spear points is not always five, but can be three or even seven.

Caveat: This species can also have heart shaped leaves…which can be pretty confusing.

Many of the plants we see during the summer on our property are considered, in general, as noxious weeds–at least in some portions of the United States. This morning glory is, too. We don’t worry much about that, though; the desert knows how to take care of itself. Right now, there’s a huge overgrowth back by our water storage tank, primarily powered by an intermingled combination of bunch grass, ragged nettlespurge, white edged morning glory, golden crownbeard, and some tall, stickery plant that will remind you in a hurry that leather gloves are needed if you’re thinking about pulling one up by the roots.

None of these plants gives an inch to the others. Instead, they mob together like the hundreds of thousands of young people at Woodstock in 1969. Yet they’ll die off soon enough, victims either of a weed whacker or of winter weather.

The morning glory profusion we have this year is nice (in our opinion, not the State of Arizona’s), but it’s not a patch on the original hot-seed sky-drop production of 2011. The plant is not taking over; it’s being allowed a niche on the desert’s sufferance. Overall, this year’s morning glory presence is no more than a twentieth of its 2011 peak.

White edged morning glories, like most flowers, attract insects galore.

Ivyleaf Morning Glories, like most flowers, attract insects galore.

Gravel placed out front to provide a relatively mud free driveway during turned out to be a favorite place for morning glories to flourish. The rocks protect the surface of the soil from much of a midsummer day’s sun-driven furnace.

A "five spearpoint" leaf on a white edged morning glory vine, rooted in driveway gravel.

A “five spearpoint” leaf on a Ivyleaf Morning Glory vine, rooted in driveway gravel.

Some of the “three spear point” leaves could easily be seen as other life forms. In the next photo, it’s not hard to imagine the leaf as a “green angel flying”.

"Green angel flying," a three spear point leaf (white edged morning glory).

“Green angel flying,” a three spear point leaf (Ivyleaf Morning Glory).

The trumpet shaped flower is the signature look of any morning glory, of course. I marvel at them constantly, especially the way the white trumpet neck (as opposed to the deeply colored bell) of the flower appears to be generating sunlight, not just making use of it. Lots of plants are solar powered, but this one sets the standard.

The beautiful form of the trumpet flower is of course the most distinctive mark of any morning glory.

The beautiful form of the trumpet flower is of course the most distinctive mark of any morning glory.

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For some years, I watched the wide open morning glory blooms with considerable interest but generally ignored the furling (and furled) blossoms that could be seen after the sun got too hot for comfort. The camera finally showed me the error of my ways.

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2 thoughts on “Cochise County Plants: Ivyleaf Morning Glory, Ipomoea Hederacea

  1. You betcha. I find it intriguing, to say the least, that a fair number of our most fascinating flowers are on Arizona’s list of “noxious weeds”. I’m betting the Apaches took one good look at the white invasion and considered Caucasians to be noxious weeds, too. It’s most certainly a matter of perspective–and I prefer to enjoy what Nature provides rather than slapping on labels and attempting to eradicate everything.

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