Monday, September 11, 2006

Morning Glory

Last year at this time I invited the readers of my newsletter
to submit nominations for birthday flowers and Samantha of Long Island nominated the blue morning glory in honor of her birthday on September 11. She wrote:

On Long Island, the skies turn this color from just before my birthday to the end of October. The blue morning glory always blooms…just around the week of my birthday, although the rosy red and purple ones blossom from July onwards….Clear sky blue, morning glory blue, the color of truth and peace, is a good and fitting remembrance for 9/11.

I found the most useful information about the morning glory at Wikipedia:
The morning glory is a member of the Convolvulaceae family (from the Latin word convolvo, meaning to twine around, which is the way it grows). The family has many genera, and the blue morning glory is Ipomoea indica.

The sweet potato is also an Ipomoea (I. batatas) and learning that reminded me that when I was in college we used to grow sweet potato vines (cheap indoor house plants) by suspending a sweet potato half-in and out of water (by sticking toothpicks in its middle). The resulting purplish colored vine grew up and over one of our windows.

The morning glory has a funnel-shaped flower that opens at morning, from whence it gets its name. The flowers begin to curl up in a few hours and die by the afternoon. In Japan is is known as asagao (morning face).

We don’t seem to have those sky blue morning glories here in Seattle although I remember them vividly from my Southern California childhood. Instead we have what Paghat calls the Odious Bindweed (Convolvolus arvenis), which has been blooming for some months now:
I am alone of all the gardeners I know in appreciating this plant (but it hasn’t invaded my P-patch garden). I pull it up in long strings and use it to wrap around the materials in the wreaths I make, thus producing a wreath composed of entirely organic items which can be burned in a summer solstice bonfire. Because the twining quality of this plant is so strong, it has both the wiry strength one wants in such an endeavor as well as the natural spiral.

The seeds of some species (Ipomoea violacea and Rivea corymbosa) contain LSD and the seeds, if eaten in sufficient quantity (100+) will produce similar effects. They were used by Aztec priests to commune with their gods. If you are interested in using them this way, you might get some useful information from this web site:
The plant was also used by the Aztecs to coagulate rubber latex to produce bouncing balls.

There is another form of morning glory, Ipomoea aquatica, sometimes called water morning glory, which is often eaten as a vegetable in Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines:

In the language of the flowers, the morning glory means coquetry, extinguished hopes or a busybody. The red morning glory means attachment.

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