Ipomoea triloba - L.
Little-bell
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Ipomoea triloba L. (TSN 565243)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.146433
Element Code: PDCON0A1P0
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 triloba
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Reviewed: 26Jun2006
Global Status Last Changed: 26Jun2006
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNR

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
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United States California (SNR), Florida (SNR), Hawaii (SNR)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

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 CA, FL, HI

Range Map
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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/Low
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: This species has a narrow, disjunct range in the U.S. but is known from areas with high concentrations of rare species and conservation areas such as the Florida Everglades and Hawaii. Impacts are largely unknown, but related species of Ipomoea are known to form dense tangled vine mats in aquatic environments and overshadow native species. In other countries, and parts of Hawaii, this species has spread rapidly with high invasive potential but it has recently been removed from the USDA noxious weed list because of difficulty distinguishing between native and non-native strains in Florida where it is spreading. Control is difficult but possible although negative impact to natives is often high.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Low
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium/Low
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: High/Medium
I-Rank Review Date: 23Jun2006
Evaluator: J. Cordeiro
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Native range includes tropical West Indies (PIER, 2005; Wagner et al., 1999). Rhui-cheng and Staples (1995) list global distribution as Anhui, Guangdong, S Shaanxi, Taiwan, Zhejiang [Indonesia, Japan (Ryukyu Islands), Malaysia, New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam; North America (native to the West Indies), Pacific Islands, now a circumtropical weed].

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: This species is established as a non-native in the U.S. and placed on the U.S.D.A. list of noxious weeds although it was suggested for removal from this list due to the inability to distinguish non-native invasive strains from native strains in Florida (USDA, 1999; 2006).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: This species is established as a non-native in the U.S. and placed on the U.S.D.A. list of noxious weeds although it was suggested for removal from this list due to the inability to distinguish non-native invasive strains from native strains in Florida (USDA, 1999; 2006). Also considered a noxious weed in southeastern cotton and rice fields.

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance
Comments: Little is known about the effect of this species on ecosystem processes. In a study of 31 invasive plant species, Gordon (1998) found no documented (in literature) effects of the related species, 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:Medium/Low significance
Comments: The plant is a spreading annual vine climber and individual plants can cover more than 1 square meter (Silvestre, 2004). The vines of the related plant, Ipomoea aquatica, 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:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Impacts on community composition are not known. In a study of 31 invasive plant species, Gordon (1998) found no documented (in literature) effects of the related 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:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Impacts on individual natives are not known. In a study of 31 invasive plant species, Gordon (1998) found no documented (in literature) effects of the related 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). The related species, I. aquatica, 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: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 negligible. The related plant, Ipomoea aquatica, has been introduced to Florida repeatedly since 1973 despite numerous eradication efforts (ISSG, 2005; USDA, 2006) and threatens conservation areas such as the Everglades. There is difficulty, however, in distinguishing native versus non-native strains of Ipomoea triloba (USDA, 1999).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Low

6. Current Range Size in Nation:Low significance
Comments: USDA (2006) lists United States distribution as California (1 county each in central, and extreme southern California in Riverside County), Hawaii (all islands except the big island of Hawaii), and Florida (13 counties throughout southern and central peninsula, and 4 counties scattered throughout panhandle), although Florida populations may be native (USDA, 1999; 2006). Oppenheimer and Bartlett (2002) recently confirmed the first record of this species on the big island of Hawaii in Waiakea (South Hilo district) collected in 2000.

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is considered a noxious weed in California (only occurs in small portion of extreme southern California) and formerly Florida (it was removed because of difficulty distinguishing between native and foreign strains) (USDA, 1999; 2006) and Hawaii.

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:Low significance
Comments: It is conservatively estimated that only 4 (2 if Florida is discounted as it may be endemic there) ecoregions have been invaded by Ipomoea triloba in the United States (Cordeiro, pers. obs. March 2006 based on TNC, 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:Low significance
Comments: Outside the U.S., this species occurs in various habitats from open, sunny hillsides to relatively dense forest in partial sun or deep shade. In Hawai'i, it "naturalized in low elevation, dry to mesic, disturbed sites" (Wagner et al., 1999).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium/Low

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Low significance
Comments: Range is not spreading much in the United States except in Hawaii where it is now known from all the islands in the chain. The California introduction is likely a human introduction rather than a range expansion. Florida populations are likely native but there is difficulty distinguishing native from non-native strains. Regardless, it is increasing in Florida at an alarming rate (USDA, 1999).

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Moderate significance
Comments: Potential range in the U.S. includes only tropical portions in Hawaii, southern California, and the tropical Gulf of Mexico.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:Low significance
Comments: It can be introduced as a contaminant in rice (Wagner et al., 1999) and cotton (USDA; 1999). Potential for long-distance dispersal by human influence may be high because the plant is a common herb in many traditional Asian recipes and is used medicinally. Also, the related Ipomoea aquatica spreads rapidly from plant fragments and its floating seeds allow effective colonization of new areas (ISSG, 2005).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Local expansion has not occurred for the large part, except in Hawaii where it is now documented on all the islands (Oppenheimer and Bartlett, 2002); and Florida where it has greatly expanded its range since the 1990s, however Florida populations are likely native as strains are difficult to distinguish from one another (USDA, 1999; 2006).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Moderate significance
Comments: Much like Ipomoea aquatica, this species shows a vining habit (Van and Madeira, 1998). It has spread into native areas in South Florida and Hawaii (USDA, 1999; 2006; Oppenheimer and Bartlett, 2000), but not to the extent that Ipomoea aquatica has. Other dispersal information into natural areas is lacking.

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Moderate significance
Comments: This species has now become weedy throughout the tropics (Rhui-cheng and Staples, 1995; Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk PIER, 2004) often in roadsides or fields.

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Plants flower abundantly from July to November and produce many fertile seeds (200-228 plantules found per mē) (Silvestre, 2004). Ipomoea generally propagate sexually by water-borne seeds, and readily by rooting from nodes and pieces broken (PIER, 2005; Edie and Ho, 1969).

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.

Other Considerations: Many floristic studies of the New World have misrepresented this species (Austin, 1978) making analysis as an invasive difficult. Because no scientific data was available to distinguish between native and foreign strains of Ipomoea triloba, the USDA (1999) removed this species from its list of noxious weeds of the U.S. due to lack of authority to regulate native weed species. If taxonomic expertise evolves to a point where taxonomists can distinguish non- native genetic strains of I. triloba from native strains of I. triloba, the USDA will consider listing the non-native strains as Federal noxious weeds (USDA, 1999).
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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  • Austin, D. F. 1978b. The Ipomoea batatas complex. I. Taxonomy. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 105(2): 114-129.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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]

  • Munz, P.A., with D.D. Keck. 1959. A California flora. Univ. California Press, Berkeley. 1681 pp.

  • 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.

  • Oppenheimer, H. and R.T. Bartlett. 2002. New plant records from the main Hawaiian Islands. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers, 69: 1-14.

  • Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). 2005. Ipomoea triloba. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Institute of Pacific Island Forestry. Last updated 26 June 2005. Online: http://www.hear.org/pier/species/ipomoea_triloba.htm (accessed March 2006).

  • Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk project (PIER). 2004. Last updated January 4, 2004. Prospective invasive species for Pacific islands. Available: http://hear.org/pier/prospective.htm. (Accessed 2004).

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

  • Silvestre, S. 2004. Ipomoea triloba L. (Convolvulaceae) una nueva especie aloctona para la Peninsula. Lagascalia, 24: 63-66.

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

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS). 1999. 7 CFR Parts 360 and 361. Noxious Weeds; Update of Weed Lists [Docket No. 03-101-2]. Federal Register 64(50): 12881-12884.

  • 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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