Ipomoea aquatica - Forssk.
Swamp-cabbage
Other English Common Names: Swamp Morning-glory
Other Common Names: swamp morning-glory
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Ipomoea aquatica Forsk. (TSN 30759)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.141813
Element Code: PDCON0A1W0
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Morning-Glory Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Solanales Convolvulaceae Ipomoea
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Ipomoea aquatica
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 14Aug1991
Global Status Last Changed: 14Aug1991
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
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United States Hawaii (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

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Distribution
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U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

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NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States HIexotic

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Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
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Economic Attributes
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Economically Important Genus: Y
Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: This species, although not widespread due to thermal constraints, it has invaded aquatic areas with high concentrations of rare native species. Impact studies are largely lacking but the plant does form dense intertwined stems over water surfaces, shading out native submersed plants and competing with native emergents. The plant is fairly costly and difficult to eradicate and control efforts often have negative impacts on native species. Despite repeated eradication efforts in Florida, it has reinvaded that state numerous times, and threatens wet areas of conservation concern such as the Everglades and parts of the Hawaiian Islands. Invasive potential is high as is potential for dispersal, but the plant is limited to subtropical areas only.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: High
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: High/Medium
I-Rank Review Date: 26Jun2006
Evaluator: J. Cordeiro
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Ipomoea aquatica is native to southern Asia (Van and Madeira, 1998), particularly central and south China, India, Sri, Lanka, and Thailand (ISSG, 2005; Langeland and Burks, 1998; Rhui-cheng and Staples, 1995), with two main biotypes reported throughout southeast Asia ("red" and "white" or "green").

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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: USDA (2006) lists introduced U.S. range as California (two counties in north central), Hawaii (all islands except Hawaii and Kauai), and Florida (Hillsborough, Manatee, Osceola, Pinellas Counties in coastal western peninsula- see ISSG, 2005)

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: Although this species has not invaded many areas of the United States, the areas where it does occur are located in areas of high conservation concern (Hawaiian Islands, Florida Everglades) with many endemic species.

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance
Comments: In a study of 31 invasive plant species, Gordon (1998) found no documented (in literature) effects of Ipomoea aquatica on ecosystem geomorphology, hydrology, or biochemistry but inferred likely negative effects on water chemistry based on the effects other aquatic invasives (Eichhornia crassidens, Hydrilla verticillata, Pistia stratiotes) have shown (citing Schmitz et al., 1993) where dissolved oxygen, pH, and phosphorus decreased while dissolved carbon dioxide, turbidity, and water color increased with these species.

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Moderate significance
Comments: In a study of 31 invasive plant species, Gordon (1998) found no documented (in literature) effects of Ipomoea aquatica on stand structure, but it is known to form dense floating mats of intertwined stems over water surfaces, shading out native submersed plants and competing with native emergents (Benson et al., 2001; Fears, 1999; Langeland and Burks, 1998; ISSG, 2005). The veins of the plant create dense impenetrable canopies over small ponds and retention basins creating an added canopy layer that promotes stagnant water conditions and competetively excludes other species (Fears, 1999).

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Moderate significance
Comments: In a study of 31 invasive plant species, Gordon (1998) found no documented (in literature) effects of Ipomoea aquatica on community composition but inferred likely negative effects from competition for light, water uptake, and nutrient uptake based on the effects other aquatic invasives have shown (citing Schmitz et al., 1993, and others).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Moderate significance
Comments: In a study of 31 invasive plant species, Gordon (1998) found no documented (in literature) effects of Ipomoea aquatica on recruitment of native species but inferred likely negative effects of decreased recruitment and altered microclimate based on the effects other aquatic invasives have shown (citing Schmitz et al., 1993). It is known to form dense floating mats of intertwined stems over water surfaces, shading out native submersed plants and competing with native emergents (Benson et al., 2001; Fears, 1999; Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2003; Langeland and Burks, 1998; ISSG, 2005). Patnaik (1976) (cited in Harwood and Sytsma, 2003) found that Ipomoea aquatica grew rapidly in one pond, covering the entire surface, and that the other aquatic plants Pistia, Azolla and Utricularia disappeared - probably due to the shading effect of the over-topping I. aquatica.

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Because this species occurs in aquatic tropical and subtropical areas as an invasive in the United States, (Hawaii, Florida Everglades) it can be assumed that negative effects on these communities (primarily areas of high conservation concern) are not negligible. The plant has been introduced to Florida repeatedly since 1973 despite numerous eradication efforts (ISSG, 2005; USDA, 2006).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Medium

6. Current Range Size in Nation:Low significance
Comments: USDA (2006) lists introduced U.S. range as California (two counties in north central), Hawaii (all islands except Hawaii and Kauai), and Florida (Hillsborough, Manatee, Osceola, Pinellas Counties in coastal western peninsula- see ISSG, 2005). PIER (1999) also lists Hawaii but includes the big island (Hawaii) as well as Maui, Midway Atoll, and Oahu. In Florida, two floating wild biotypes and at least one 'upland' cultivated form identified ("red", "white" or "green", and "upland") with studies showing no evidence the cultivated variety has diverged from the wild types to any greater extent than the wild types are different from each other (Van and Madeira, 1998; Manos and Miller, 2001).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:High significance
Comments: The requirement for warm, humid conditions may explain why the plant survives only in Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico and why it has become a problem in Florida but not in any other areas of the USA (Harwood and Sytsma, 2003). The plant is cultivated in California, Texas, and the US Virgin Islands (Harwood and Sytsma, 2003; Van and Madeira, 1998). Its wide usage as a vegetable crop in Asia and among some communities in Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and California may cause further spread in these areas (Harwood and Sytsma, 2003).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:Low significance
Comments: It is conservatively estimated that 4 or 5 ecoregions (1 in Hawaii, 1-2 in Florida, 2 in California) have been invaded by Ipomoea aquatica in the United States (Cordeiro, pers. obs. March 2006 based on TNC, 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is a fresh water aquatic found primarily in canals and ditches, but also lakes, ponds, and marshes, but also in very moist soils such as the muddy banks along streams (ISSG, 2005, PIER, 2005; Langeland and Burks, 1998). Typically it is only found in tropical and subtropical areas because it is susceptible to frosts and does not grow well when temperatures drop below 23.9 degrees C (Edie and Ho, 1969; Harwood and Sytsma, 2003) and cannot survive frost (Rhui-cheng and Staples, 1995). It is cultivated in Hawaii in streams, ponds, and taro paddies (Wagner et al., 1999). The two wild forms are usually found floating in freshwater marshes and ponds while the "upland" cultivar roots in non-inundated soils and is grown commercially in raised beds under terrestrial conditions (Van and Madeira, 1998). Although it can grow in both moist soil and in water, growth (in biomass) in soil was found to be higher than in water for experimental plants studied in southeast Asia (Luyen and Preston, 2004), however this type of habitat has not been fully utilized in the invasive populations in the United States. In Florida, isolated populations have been found floating and creeping horizontally along shorelines and over water for long distances, especially in canals and lakes (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2003).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: High

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: The species is expanding globally into other parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, several Pacific Islands, and South America (Langeland and Burks, 1998), but less so in the United States, and, despite repeated efforts to eradicate it, has reinvaded Florida several times since 1973.

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:High significance
Comments: The requirement for warm, humid conditions may explain why the plant survives only in Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico and why it has become a problem in Florida but not in any other areas of the USA (Harwood and Sytsma, 2003). It is susceptible to frosts and does not grow well when temperatures are below 23.9C, thus limiting its spread in the United States (Samkol, 2005). The plant is cultivated in California, Texas, and the US Virgin Islands (Harwood and Sytsma, 2003; Van and Madeira, 1998). Its wide usage as a vegetable crop in Asia and among some communities in Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and California may cause further spread in these areas (Harwood and Sytsma, 2003), but it is currently limited to only 1-2 biogeographic units in Florida, 2 in California, and all but two islands in the Hawaiian Island chain. In Florida, isolated populations have been found floating and creeping horizontally along shorelines and over water for long distances, especially in canals and lakes (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2003). As such, total potential range, which includes all tropical areas of the U.S., has not yet been fully utilized.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: Potential for long-distance dispersal by human influence is high because the plant is a common herb in many traditional Asian recipes and is used medicinally. Also, the weed spreads rapidly from plant fragments and its floating seeds allow effective colonization of new areas (ISSG, 2005). Potential for further invasion through human introduction exists via food for livestock as this species has recently been recognized as an excellent feed resource in southeast Asia for rabbits (Chat et al., 2005; Phimmmason et al., 2004; Samkol, 2005), as well as people.

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Ipomoea aquatica was recognized as a potential threat to natural areas in Florida in 1951 (Osche, 1951 as cited in Langeland and Burks, 1998) and it has been introduced into Florida repeatedly since 1973. Potential for further invasion through human introduction exists via food for livestock as this species has recently been recognized as an excellent feed resource in southeast Asia for rabbits (Chat et al., 2005; Phimmmason et al., 2004; Samkol, 2005), as well as people. In Florida, isolated populations have been found floating and creeping horizontally along shorelines and over water for long distances, especially in canals and lakes (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2003).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:High/Moderate significance
Comments: All three invasive forms (wild "red", "white" or "green", and cultivated "upland") show a vining habit (Van and Madeira, 1998). The weed spreads rapidly from plant fragments and its floating seeds allow effective colonization of new, undisturbed areas (ISSG, 2005). This is particularly of concern in Florida where it has been introduced repeatedly since 1973 in and around the Everglades despite eradication effort.

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is considered the second greatest problem plant in the Philippines, where it tends to overgrow freshwater marginal areas (Gangstadt, 1976). Due to its aggressive growth rate and tolerance for moist cultivated areas, such as rice and sugar cane fields, this species has the potential to invade wet areas such as the Everglades, natural lakes, and rivers. Although it can grow in both moist soil and in water, growth (in biomass) in soil was found to be higher than in water for experimental plants studied in southeast Asia (Luyen and Preston, 2004), however this type of habitat has not been fully utilized in the invasive populations in the United States.

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High significance
Comments: Ipomoea aquatica generally propagates sexually by water-borne seeds, and readily by rooting from nodes and pieces broken (PIER, 2005; Edie and Ho, 1969). A single plant can grow taller than 21 m and branch profusely to over 70 feet long (Harwood and Sytsma, 2003; Langeland, and Burks, 1998) and may root at every node producing new plants when fragmented (Edie and Ho, 1969). Langeland and Burks (1998) also report that this species can produced large amounts of biomass (190,000 kg fresh weight per ha in 9 months) and large numbers of seeds (175-245 per plant) during peak season.

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: High/Medium

17. General Management Difficulty:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Because herbicides, though effective (ISSG, 2005; Ninomiya et al., 2003), are not specific enough to be used in sensitive areas (Hawaii, Florida everglades) where this species has invaded, eradication is very difficult (ISSG, 2005). Although sale and distribution is prohibited in Florida, this plant has repeatedly been introduced there since 1973 (ISSG, 2005).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Aquatic herbicides have been successful as a control measure but results are often only temporary (ISSG, 2005; Ninomiya et al., 2003), requiring repeated application.

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:High significance
Comments: Because herbicides, though effective (ISSG, 2005; Ninomiya et al., 2003), are not specific enough to be used in sensitive areas (Hawaii, Florida everglades) where this species has invaded, eradication is very difficult (ISSG, 2005), as herbicides are currently the accepted method of control for this species.

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Low significance
Comments: It appears most to all areas are easily accessible, as for most aquatic plants outside unusual habitats such as caves or high elevation streams or ponds. Because it is cultivated on private lands in Hawaii in streams, ponds, and taro paddies (Wagner et al., 1999), some areas may be difficult to access.
Authors/Contributors
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Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Benson, A.J., P.L. Fuller, and C.C. Jacono. 2001. Summary Report of Nonindigenous Aquatic Species in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 4. Report prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arlington, Virginia, 30 March 2001. 60 pp.

  • Chat, T.H., N.T. Dung, D.V. Binh, and T.R. Preston. 2005. Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) as replacement for guinea grass for growing and lactating rabbits. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 17(10): unpaginated.

  • Edie, H.H. and B.W.C. Ho. 1969. Ipomoea aquatica as a vegetable crop in Hong Kong. Economic Botany, 23: 32-36.

  • Fears, N. 1999. Exotic Species on the Move. National Sea Grant Network & Geographic Education Alliances. Available online: http://www.iisgcp.org/EXOTICSP. Accessed: March 2006.

  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 2003. Florida Department of Environmental Protection Weed Alert: Water-spinach (Ipomoea aquatica). Avalable online: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/invaspec/2ndlevpgs/pdfs%20for%20pubs/Wtrspnch.pdf. Accessed: June 2006.

  • Gangstadt, E.O. 1976. Potential growth of aquatic plants in Republic of the Philippines and projected methods of control. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, 14 :10-14.

  • Gordon, D.R. 1998. Effects of invasive, non-indigenous plant species on ecosystem processes: lessons from Florida. Ecological Applications, 8(4): 975-989.

  • Harwood, E. and M. Sytsma. 2003. Risk assessment for Chinese water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) in Oregon. Center for Lakes and Reservoirs, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon. 9 pp.

  • Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG). 2005. Global Invasive Species Database. Online. Available: http://www.issg.org/database (Accessed 2006).

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Langeland, K.A. and K.C. Burks. 1998. Identification and Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas. University of Florida. 165 pp. [http://aquat1.ifas.ufl.edu/identif.html]

  • Luyen, L.T. and T.R. Preston. 2004. Effect of level of urea fertilizer on biomass production of water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) grown in soil and in water. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 16(10): unpaginated.

  • Manos, P.S. and R.E. Miller. 2001. Phylogenetic analysis of Ipomoea, Argyreia, Stictocardia, and Turbina suggests a generalized model of morphological evolution in morning glories. Systematic Botany, 26(3): 585-602.

  • Ninomiya K., Y. Oogami, M. Kino-Oka, M. Taya. 2003. Assessment of herbicidal toxicity based on non-destructive measurement of local chlorophyll content in photoautotrophic hairy roots. Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, 95(3): 264-270.

  • Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). 2005. Ipomoea aquatica. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Institute of Pacific Island Forestry. Last updated 14 November 2005. Online: http://www.hear.org/pier/species/ipomoea_aquatica.htm (accessed March 2006).

  • Phimmmason, H., S. Kongvongxay, C. Ty, and T.R. Preston. 2004. Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) and Stylo 184 (Stylosanthes guianensis CIAT 184) as basal diets for growing rabbits. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 16(5): unpaginated.

  • Rhui-cheng, F. and G. Staples. 1995. Convolvulaceae. Flora of China, 16: 271-325.

  • Samkol, P. 2005. Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) as a feed resource for growing rabbits. Master of Science Thesis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and University of Tropical Agriculture (UTA)- University of Agriculture of Cambodia. unpublished.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA, NRCS). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70874-4490 USA. Available online: http://plants.usda.gov. Accessed: March 2006.

  • Van, T.K., and P.T. Madeira. 1998. Random amplified polymorphic DNA analysis of water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) in Florida. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, 36: 107-111.

  • Wagner, W.L., D.R. Herbst, and S.H. Sohmer. 1999. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawaii. Revised edition. Volumes 1 and 2. Univ. Hawaii Press and Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu. 1919 pp.

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