Water-spinach: Ipomoea aquatica
is a creeping, herbaceous vine that is cultivated in some cultures
as a vegetable. It is recognizable as a member of the
Look for first
- Vine growing on or near the water's edge
- Arrowhead-shaped leaves
- "Morning-glory" funneled flower
||Leaves: alternate, simple, with smooth petioles 3-14 cm (1-6
in) long; leaf blades generally arrowhead shaped but variable,
smooth (rarely hairy), to 17 cm (7 in) long, with tips pointed;
blades held above water when stems floating.
||Stems: herbaceous, trailing, with milky sap and roots at the
nodes; usually to 3 m (9 ft) long but can be much longer.
||Flowers: showy, white, or pale pink to lilac; broadly funnel
shaped, "morning-glory" like; solitary or in few-flowered clusters
at leaf axils.
||Fruit: an oval or spherical capsule, woody at maturity, about 1
cm (1/2 in) wide, holding 1-4 grayish seeds, these often
This introduction from Southeast Asia is a popular
cultivated green vegetable in China, India, Malaysia, Africa,
Brazil, the West Indies, and Central America. Due to its aggressive
growth rate, water-spinach has great potential to invade moist
cultivated areas, such as rice and sugar cane fields, and wet areas
such as the Everglades, natural lakes and rivers, drainage canals,
and ditches. In Florida, isolated populations have been found
floating and creeping horizontally along shorelines and over water
for long distances, especially in canals and lakes.
Native to China, but widely cultivated and naturalized in
Africa, Asia, Australia, Pacific Islands, and South America.
Because of its aggressive growth rate, never plant water-spinach
in Florida's ponds, lakes, rivers and canals. The possession of
water-spinach is prohibited without a special permit.
Why water-spinach must be managed
A single water-spinach plant can branch profusely with stems
growing to over 70 feet long. This fast growth rate, approximately
4 inches per day, represents a significant threat to flood control
and native plant habitats, especially in central and south
Environmental damage caused by water-spinach populations
- Water-spinach creates impenetrable masses of tangled vegetation
obstructing water flow in drainage and flood control canals.
- Water-spinach infests lake, pond, and river shorelines,
displacing native plants that are important for fish and
- Water-spinach forms dense impenetrable canopies over small
ponds and retention basins creating stagnant water conditions that
are ideal breeding environments for mosquitoes.
Image Credit: Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida