Ipomoea albivenia (Lindl.) Sweet
Common names: wild cotton (E), wildekatoen (A), imibuzana / umangfongo (Z)
Ipomoea albivenia is a vigorous perennial deciduous climber up to 10 m long, belonging to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae).
The attractive funnel-shaped flowers are large (up to 8 cm wide) and crinkly white with pale pink or yellow in the throat. The flowers are sweetly scented and open during the night, closing by midday. Flowers appear from January-March and are followed by woody fruit capsules which burst open to release seeds covered in fluffy "cottonwool".
Distribution and habitat
Ipomoea albivenia grows naturally on rocky outcrops and in open woodland from KwaZulu-Natal through Mpumalanga and the Northern Province into Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The botanical name Ipomoea albivenia is derived from the Greek ips (a worm) and homoios (meaning like/same), referring to the trailing/creeping habit of the plant. The species name, albivenia, is from the Latin meaning "white-veined" and refers to the leaves which are large, velvety and heart-shaped with distinctive white hairs on the veins. The leaves are velvety-white when young.
The wild cotton tubers have historically been eaten in times of famine, and are also used in traditional medicine to purify the blood.
Growing Ipomoea albivenia
Ipomoea albivenia with its showy flowers and fluffy seeds makes a wonderful garden specimen growing on a trellis or fence. Plant in well drained soil with compost added. The plant prefers a hot dry sunny position and care must be taken not to overwater, particularly in the winter months. Wild Cotton is easily grown from seed which germinates better if given access to rain water.
It is very important to ensure good drainage and not to overwater this plant as the tuberous rootstock is susceptible to rot under prolonged moist conditions. The species is also sensitive to mild frost and is best planted against a warm north or west facing wall or in frost-free areas.
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Climber
SA Distribution: KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer, Late Summer
Flower colour: White, Pink, Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy