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GENUS: Ipomoea

Ipomoea spp.—Morning-glory

FAMILY: Convolvulaceae—the Morning-glory Family

This moderate-sized family contains twining herbs, often with milky juice; leaves: alternate, in our range simple and lobed; flowers: large, brightly colored, regular, and bisexual; calyx: 5-parted; corolla: funnelform, pleated; buds: frequently twisted; stamens: 5; ovary: superior.

PHENOLOGY: Generally all species flower July throughout September.

DISTRIBUTION: Some of the Ipomoea species are cultivated; some such as I. purpurea (L ) Roth have escaped and are found in uncultivated situations. Still others, such as I. pandarata (L.) G.F.W Meyer, are native plants. Many occur as weeds of fields, roadsides, thickets, and waste places.

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: Morning-glories have the following characteristics; sepals: 5, imbricate, often unequal; stamens and style not exsert from corolla; leaves: cordate or lobed.

POISONOUS PARTS: The leaves and stems are toxic, while the seeds in some species are hallucinogenic.

SYMPTOMS: Ingestion of vegetation causes purgation and gastrointestinal distress accompanied by explosive diarrhea, frequent urination, and depressed reflexes. Prolonged consumption results in anorexia, wasting-away, depression, dyspnea, coma, and in severe cases, death. Consumption of seeds causes nausea, psychotic reactions, and hallucination.

POISONOUS PRINCIPLE: The toxins in Ipomoea foliage are unknown. The hallucinogenic principle in seeds of I. tricolor Cav. is D-lysergic acid amide (ergine) and possibly other ergot alkaloids. The seeds are estimated to contain 3 mg of alkaloid per gram. This compound is similar to LSD-25, a hallucinogen.

CONFUSED TAXA: All native and naturalized morning-glories should be considered toxic. The seeds of the commonly cultivated I. tricolor and cultivars (‘Blue Star’, ‘FIying Saucers’, ‘Heavenly Blue’, ‘Pearly Gates’ ‘Summer Skies’, ‘Wedding Bells’, etc.) are dangerous. The genus Convolvulss (bindweed) differs from Ipomaea in that the former has 2 stigmas, whereas the latter has one. Consumption of bindweed foliage is also reported to cause gastric distress.

SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Livestock have developed the symptoms described above after consuming leaves and stems. Especially susceptible are hogs, sheep, cattle, and goats. Humans have been poisoned from an overdose of hallucinogenic seeds.

TREATMENT: (11a)(b); (26)

OF INTEREST: As a hallucinogen, morning-glory seeds are estimated to be about 1/10 as potent as LSD.

It should be noted that many seed distributors apply fungicides to seeds prior to packaging. Consumption of treated seeds can cause additional sickness, including severe vomiting, diarrhea, or physiological problems.

In Mexico the Aztecs used seeds of Ipomoea and the related genus Rivea as a hallucinogen in religious ceremonies and in medicine.

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