An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Ipomoea cairica

Ipomoea cairica

The mile-a-minute vine or Messina creeper, Cairo morning glory, coast morning glory, railroad creeper (Ipomoea cairica (L.) Sweet, 1826) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Convolvulaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Solanales Order,
Family Convolvulaceae,
Genus Ipomoea,
Species I. cairica.
The term is basionym:
– Convolvulus cairicus L..
The terms are synonymous:
– Batatas cavanillesii (Roem. & Schult.) G.Don;
– Batatas pulchella (Roth) Bojer;
– Batatas senegalensis (Lam.) G.Don;
– Batatas venosa Bojer;
– Cleiemera guinensis Raf.;
– Convolvulus bellus Spreng.;
– Convolvulus cairicus L.;
– Convolvulus cavanillesii (Roem. & Schult.) Spreng.;
– Convolvulus digitatus Roxb.;
– Convolvulus heptaphyllus Willd.;
– Convolvulus longiflorus Heyne;
– Convolvulus longiflorus Heyne ex Steud.;
– Convolvulus lupulifolia Griff.;
– Convolvulus lymphaticus Vell.;
– Convolvulus mucronatus G.Forst.;
– Convolvulus paniculatus Náves;
– Convolvulus paniculatus Náves ex Fern.-Vill.;
– Convolvulus pendulus (R.Br.) Spreng.;
– Convolvulus quinquelobus Vahl;
– Convolvulus tenuifolius Buch.-Ham. ex Wall.;
– Convolvulus tuberculatus Desr.;
– Convolvulus venosus Wall.;
– Convolvulus vittatus Zipp.;
– Convolvulus vittatus Zipp. ex Span.;
– Exocroa egyptiaca Raf.;
– Ipomoea bouvetii Duchass. & Walp.;
– Ipomoea buaralap Montrouz.;
– Ipomoea cairica subsp. hederacea Hallier f.;
– Ipomoea cairica subsp. lineariloba (Hbd.) O.Deg. & van Ooststr.;
– Ipomoea cairica var. cairica;
– Ipomoea cairica var. gracillima (Collett & Hemsl.) C.Y.Wu;
– Ipomoea cairica var. hederacea Hallier fil.;
– Ipomoea cairica var. indica Hallier fil.;
– Ipomoea cairica var. lineariloba (Hillebr.) Deg. & Ooststr.;
– Ipomoea cairica var. obtusata Hoehne;
– Ipomoea cairica var. semine-glabro (Blatt. & Hallb.) Bhandari;
– Ipomoea cairica var. semineglabra (Blatt. & Hallb.) Bhandari;
– Ipomoea cairica var. uniflora (Meisn.) Hoehne;
– Ipomoea cavanillesii Roem. & Schult.;
– Ipomoea digitifolia Sweet;
– Ipomoea frutescens Choisy;
– Ipomoea funaria Larrañaga;
– Ipomoea gracillima (Collett & Hemsl.) Prain;
– Ipomoea jacquinii Regel;
– Ipomoea mendesii Welw.;
– Ipomoea palmata Forssk.;
– Ipomoea palmata var. gracillima Collett & Hemsl.;
– Ipomoea palmata var. indica (Hallier fil.) Rendle;
– Ipomoea palmata var. semine-glabro Blatt. & Hallb.;
– Ipomoea palmata var. semineglabra Blatt. & Hallb.;
– Ipomoea pendula R.Br.;
– Ipomoea pentaphylla Cav.;
– Ipomoea pulchella Roth;
– Ipomoea pulchella var. arachnosperma Hallier fil.;
– Ipomoea quinqueloba (Vahl) Willd.;
– Ipomoea quinqueloba Roem. & Schult.;
– Ipomoea rosea var. pluripartita Hassl.;
– Ipomoea senegalensi Lam.;
– Ipomoea senegalensis Lam.;
– Ipomoea stipulacea Jacq.;
– Ipomoea stipulacea f. pluriflora Jacq.;
– Ipomoea stipulacea f. pluriflora Meisn.;
– Ipomoea stipulacea f. uniflora Meisn.;
– Ipomoea stipulata Jacq.;
– Ipomoea tuberculata (Desr.) Roem. & Schult.;
– Ipomoea tuberculata Desr. ex Regel;
– Ipomoea tuberculata var. abbreviata Choisy;
– Ipomoea tuberculata var. lineariloba Hillebr.;
– Ipomoea tuberculata var. trichosperma Hillebr.;
– Ipomoea tuberculosa Desf.;
– Ipomoea turberculata (Desr.) Roem. & Schult.;
– Ipomoea vesiculosa P.Beauv.;
– Modesta tuberculata (Ker Gawl.) Raf..

Etymology –
The term Ipomoea comes from the Greek words “ιψ” (ips), i.e. worm and “ὁμοιος” (omoios), i.e. similar, in reference to the fickle bearing.
The specific epithet cairica comes from the Latin “cairicus, a, um”, that is, from Cairo, where this species was collected for the first time.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Ipomoea cairica is a plant whose exact original range is uncertain, although it is believed to come from a rather large area, which goes from Cape Verde to the Arabian Peninsula, including Northern Africa, tropical Africa and the Mediterranean.
In detail, it is present in Africa (Botswana, Cape Verde, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Asia (southern China, the Philippines, Japan, Jordan, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen).
Its habitat is varied, covering walls, fences or trees, forest clearings, lake shores, marshy prairies, hedges, uncultivated and cultivated land, at altitudes between 250 and 2250 m.

Description –
Ipomoea cairica is a climbing, herbaceous, perennial plant, with bulbous roots and stems up to 5 m long, which over time tend to lignify at the base, rooting at the nodes.
The leaves are petiolate with petioles 2 to 6 cm long; they are alternate, palmate, 4-9 cm long, deeply divided almost to the base into 5 ovate-lanceolate to elliptical lobes with entire or slightly wavy margin and mucronate apex, with the two basal pairs often in turn lobed, and median lobe 4-5 cm long and 2-2.5 cm wide.
The inflorescences are formed in an axillary position, on a peduncle 2-8 cm long, carrying one or more hermaphroditic flowers gathered in tops, on a peduncle 0.5-2 cm long, with ovate sepals about 0.5 cm long, funnel-shaped corolla pink, purple or reddish purple, rarely white, with a dark purplish center, 4-6 cm long and 5-7 cm in diameter.
There may be occasional blooms over the months, but more abundantly from spring to summer.
The fruits are sub globose capsules, about 1 cm long, with 2 cells and 4 valves.
Inside these they contain 4 seeds (one for each valve) of ovoid shape, slightly flattened, tomentose, dark brown to black in colour, about 0.5 cm long, with margins equipped with long silky hairs.

Cultivation –
Ipomoea cairica is a perennial, evergreen climbing plant that climbs the ground or twines around other plants for support.
The plant is mainly harvested in the wild as a local source of food, medicine and fiber. There are reports that it is occasionally grown as a vegetable.
It is commonly grown as an ornamental plant, prized primarily for its attractive purple to white flowers and ability to quickly form green hedges.
The plant is commonly grown as an ornamental and has often escaped cultivation and become established in the wild. It has spread almost throughout the tropics and its climbing stems can suffocate vegetation, thus altering ecosystems and reducing biodiversity. It also often poses a threat to crops.
Due to human dispersal, today it is present in most continents as an introduced species, often becoming an invasive species, such as along the coast of New South Wales. As well as in the United States, where it is present in Hawaii, in California, in all the Gulf Coast states, as well as Arkansas and Missouri.
It is also found in Brazil, where it is used in traditional medicine.
It has escaped cultivation for ornamental purposes in gardens and has spread to south-eastern Australia.
It is a vigorous and rapidly growing species with copious flowering that continues for most of the year, cultivable in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate climate regions, where it can resist temperature values down to around -4 °C, provided they are exceptional and short-lived, with loss of the aerial part, elsewhere it can be cultivated as an annual. It requires full sun and is not demanding about the soil, even poor, rocky or stony ones; particularly suitable for quickly covering fences, slopes or used as a ground cover, it must however be kept in mind when placing it that it is a potentially infesting species.
Some nurseries sell this plant as an ornamental plant thanks to its showy purple flowers and also for its rapid growth, which quickly covers unsightly fences or walls. It can grow as a separate plant if broken while attempting removal. The plant causes respiratory symptoms if ingested.
It propagates by seed, previously scarified and kept in water for two days, in sandy loam kept humid at a temperature of 22-24 °C, with germination times of 1-3 weeks; it also reproduces by offshoot and cutting.
It propagates easily, so much so that it has naturalized, as mentioned, in various tropical and subtropical areas, behaving like a weed, covering large areas and suffocating the native vegetation.

Customs and Traditions –
Ipomoea cairica is a plant known by various common names, including the following: Cairo morning-glory, coastal morning-glory, five-leaf morning-glory, ivy-leaved morning glory, mile-a-minute, mile -a-minute-vine, railroad-creeper, railway-creeper, railway glory (English); sitt el-hosn (Arabic); wu zhao jin long (Chinese); ipomée du Caire (French); Cairo morning glory (Italian); campainha, corda-de-viola, corriola, glória-da-manhã, ipoméia, jetirana, jitirana (Portuguese – Brazil); bajuco, bellflower, campanilla palmeada (Spanish); palmwinde (German).
The starch extracted from the roots was consumed cooked in southern China and Polynesia in times of famine; all parts of the plant are variously used in the traditional medicines of different populations.
Most parts of the plant are edible, such as the leaves, which are eaten when young. And its roots, which can be cooked before being consumed. The Zulus use the plant medicinally, where they make a concoction from its crushed leaves and drink it to treat skin rashes and fevers. In some areas the plant is also believed to have antibiotic properties.
Some caution should be exercised when using this plant for food purposes, as some reports state that it contains hydrogen cyanide which, in small quantities, has been shown to stimulate breathing and improve digestion, it is also believed to be beneficial in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
The seeds contain a fixed non-purgative oil containing various glyceride acids, such as: palmitic (8%), stearic (11%), peanut (3%), behenic (1%), oleic (24%), linoleic (33%) and linolenic (5%).
The seeds also contain a yellow glycosidic compound that resembles muricatin A and perhaps other substances. The glycosidic compound is probably responsible for the purgative action of the seeds.
Other uses include agroforestry uses.
The plant can be trained on a trellis and has been used extensively as a screen in this way.
The fibers from the stems are made into sponges and the stems are used as cordage.
From an ecological point of view, given its diffusion and ability to invade different areas, it does not enjoy any protected status.

Preparation Method –
Ipomoea cairica is a plant that is used and, in some cases, cultivated for both food and medicinal purposes, as well as ornamental or forestry uses.
In edible use, cooked tubers are used; they have a bitter taste and some caution is advised due to reports of the presence of hydrocyanic acid.
The stems are cooked; these also have a bitter taste.
The leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
The leaves are dried in the sun, then cooked alone or mixed with other vegetables such as amaranth or peas. Coconut milk or peanut paste is added and everything is served with a staple like rice.
In the medicinal field the entire plant is used to treat external infections.
The fibers of the stems absorb moisture. This absorbent and medicinal effect is used to treat eye disorders: the whole plant is tied tightly in a bundle, immersed in water, boiled and then withdrawn and still warm used as a sponge to wash the eyes.
The crushed leaves are taken in a drink to treat skin rashes, especially if accompanied by fever.
The seeds are used as a strong purgative.
Steroids and terpenes were detected throughout the plant, with no other active ingredients.
A notable antibiotic action has been found in the plant, but its presence is not consistent.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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