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Ipomoea /ˌɪpɵˈmiːə/ is the largest genus in the flowering plant family Convolvulaceae, with over 500 species. Most of these are called morning glories, but this can also refer to related genera. Those formerly separated in Calonyction (Greek καλός, kalos, good and νύκτα, nycta, night) are called moonflowers. The generic name is derived from the Greek words ιπς (ips) or ιπος (ipos), meaning "worm" or "bindweed," and όμοιος (homoios), meaning "resembling". It refers to their twining habit. The genus occurs throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, and comprises annual and perennial herbaceous plants, lianas, shrubs and small trees; most of the species are twining climbing plants.Human use of Ipomoea include:
Most species have spectacular, colorful flowers and are often grown as ornamentals, and a number of cultivars have been developed. Their deep flowers attract large Lepidoptera - especially Sphingidae such as the pink-spotted hawk moth (Agrius cingulata) - or even hummingbirds.
The genus includes food crops; the tubers of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) and the leaves of water spinach (I. aquatica) are commercially important food items and have been for millennia. The sweet potato is one of the Polynesian "canoe plants", transplanted by settlers on islands throughout the Pacific. Water spinach is used all over eastern Asia and the warmer regions of the Americas as a key component of well-known dishes, such as Canh chua rau muống (Mekong sour soup) or callaloo; its numerous local names attest to its popularity. Other species are used on a smaller scale, e.g. the whitestar potato (I. lacunosa) traditionally eaten by some Native Americans, such as the Chiricahua Apaches, or the Australian bush potato (I. costata).
Peonidin, an anthocyanidin potentially useful as a food additive, is present in significant quantities in the flowers of the 'Heavenly Blue' cultivars.
Moon vine (I. alba) sap was used for vulcanization of the latex of Castilla elastica (Panama rubber tree, Nahuatl: olicuáhuitl) to rubber; as it happens, the rubber tree seems well-suited for the vine to twine upon, and the two species are often found together. As early as 1600 BCE, the Olmecs produced the balls used in the Mesoamerican ballgame.
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Thanks for viewing. 2012 ©Sonali T. Gangane
September 5th, 2012
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