Ipomoea oblongata E.Mey. ex Choisy
Common names: wild morning glory, Boqo morning glory (Eng); krismisblom (Afr); ubhoqo (isiZulu); mothokgo (Sesotho)
An exquisite creeper belonging to the morning glory family, with long stems stretched out flat on the ground, and bright, dark mauve, eye-catching flowers in summer, Ipomoea oblongata is impossible to ignore.
Ipomoea oblongata is a perennial herb with tuberous roots that grow up to 1 m long, and annual stems that grow up to 2 m long. It is usually woody and perennial at the base, but remaining herbaceous above. The leaf blades vary in size and shape, they are usually oblong or elliptic. Both surfaces of the leaf are hairy. The dark mauve, trumpet-like flowers, 30-70 mm long, are produced during summer, between October and April. They are short lived. The fruit is a globose, 1-3 seeded capsule, with a leathery, indehiscent wall.
According to the Red List of South African plants, Ipomoea oblongata is not threatened, it is assessed as Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Ipomoea oblongata is widely spread in the southern African countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and South Africa. In South Africa, it is found in all of the provinces except the Western Cape. Its natural habitat is in bushveld, savanna and grassland, where it is often seen on wet and sandy soils and it is sometimes regarded as a weed.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Ipomoea is derived from two Greek words, ips meaning ‘worm’ or ‘bindweed’ and homoios meaning ‘like’, referring to the creeping and twining habit typical of plants of the genus. The species name oblongata means ‘oblong shaped’ or ‘oval’, like the leaves.
The genus has more than 500 species, occurring in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. About 49 species are indigenous to South Africa. Many of the species have the common name of morning glory.
The bright mauve flowers of Ipomoea oblongata attract birds, and insects such as ants and bees, that pollinate the flowers. Some beetles, and caterpillars of the order Lepidoptera, feed on species of Ipomoea.
Ipomoea oblongata is a well-known plant because of its therapeutic uses. Most parts of the plant are used traditionally by different cultural groups to treat different illnesses. It has been reported that in Lesotho and the Free State, the roots are used to treat swollen feet, STI, diarrhoea and inflammatory diseases. The tuber is reported to be edible and the leaves can be dried and mixed with tobacco and used as snuff. In South Africa, Swati people in Mpumalanga use the roots to treat people that are diagnosed with both asthma and hypertension. The plant is also used as a charm against thunder storms, lighting and hail. Recent studies show that the antioxidant activity and bioactive compounds in extracts of this species support its uses as traditional medicine.
Growing Ipomoea oblongata
Ipomoea oblongata can be propagated through cuttings and seeds. Rooting of the cuttings can be stimulated by application of a rooting hormone and do not allow the cuttings to dry out. Plant it in full sun or semi shade in a well-drained soil. Allow the plants to remain dry during the winter dormant season.
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- Polori, K.L., Mashele, S.S., Madamombe-Manduna, I. & Semenya, S.S. 2018. Ethno-medical botany and some biological activities of Ipomoea oblongata collected in the Free State Province, South Africa. Journal of Biological Sciences 18(8):441-449.
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Lufuno Nenungwi & Bontle Matetoane
Free State National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Ground Cover, Perennial
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer, Late Summer
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Pink
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy