Lilacbell Morning Glory
(Lavender Moonvine - Purple Moonflower)
Ipomoea turbinata
Convulvulaceae (Morning Glory) Family


The Lilacbell Morning Glory is frequently referred to as Ipomoea muricata (L.) Jacq. in the literature, but the correct name is I. Turbinata because the Linnaean adjective in Ipomoea is a later word having the same meaning (homonym). The plant exhibits little variation; but because it has a world-wide distribution, it has many synonyms. In North America the plant is well known along the Ohio River as well as the lower Atchafalaya Basin of Louisiana, and numerous wetland localities in the coastal region; not rare, simply rarely seen because of its preferred habitat. In the Escambia region the sprawling vine has found habitat on Burnt Corn Creek (Brewton, Alabama) and the lower flood plain of the Escambia/Conecuh River in Escambia County and panhandle Florida. It has also been reported in two locations in South Carolina.

Scientifically, the plant is described as an annual herbaceous vine that trails or twines to several feet. The stems are smooth and armed with numerous spines or warts that may be 3-4 mm long. When crushed the plant exudes a milky, viscose juice. The leaf and stems are smooth; leaves being 7-18 cm long, 6-15 cm wide with 5-6 lateral nerves on each side of the midrib; egg-shaped or orbicular in form; heart-shaped at base and attached to the leaf stalk between its lobes. The leaf tip tapers to a short point with the midrib sometimes extending beyond like a tiny tooth; simple or rarely lobed.

Flowers of the purple moonflower are similar and often mistaken for the common purple morning glory, although not as brilliant in color as the common variety, or having the fragrance of I. purpurea. The inflorescence appear in the leaf axil in bundles of one to three; stalks are usually shorter than those of the subtending leaves. Flower stalks are smooth, thickening toward the base; thickening even more when in fruit. Sepals number five, each about equal in length. The calyx is five-lobed with linear segments. The corolla is bell-shaped and pale purple.

Fruit is a capsule.

The plant originally came to this country from India, where it enjoys a healthy lifestyle today in the pan-tropics of Suratt and Bombay. The milky juice is extracted, refined, and used as a hair tonic by Indian women, as well as to coagulate rubber sap. In China and Ceylon the young seeds, fruits and pedicels are cultivated as a vegetable. In the Philippine Islands the plants are used as ornamental or as a remedy against snake-bite. While there is little information about this plant in Africa, apparently it was cultivated and then subsequently escaped, becoming naturalized throughout the continent. In Mexico the vines are cultivated as ornamental in the Baja, Sonora and Chihauhau regions, but no reports of sightings in adjacent California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas have been made.

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