Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
Nature Bulletins
Newton Home Page

Introduction and Instructions

Search Engine

Table of Contents



Morning Glories
Nature Bulletin No. 384-A   May 30, 1970
Forest Preserve District of Cook County 
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

The Morning Glories have a name that fits them perfectly. Before sunrise, on a summer day, they open the large trumpet-shaped flowers which they bear in such profusion. Other flowers do this, particularly some of the early spring wildflowers, but the morning glories are peculiar: by afternoon, even on a sunny day, each flower has closed and becomes a slender tube. There is one exception, the Moonflower, which is closed during the day but opens its huge white sweet-scented blossoms at dusk and attracts the night-flying moths.

The Morning Glory Family numbers about 1200 species widely distributed in the tropical and temperate climates. Many of them are remarkable for their twining climbing rapid growth: others merely trail over the ground: a few tropical species are shrubs or trees. Our true morning glories, although they have escaped to grow wild in many places, were imported from Central America and are all annuals, reproducing by seeds.

The Common Morning Glory is a very popular old-fashioned flower because its slender weak stems will climb to a height of as much as 10 feet in a very short time, and are covered not only with large heart- shaped leaves but also with flowers that bloom from June until October. Consequently, it was and is much used on trellises to provide shade for porches, or arbors in gardens, or to cover walls. Several cultivated varieties have been developed, so that the flowers may be white, pink, red, purple, or variegated.

The Ivy-leafed Morning Glory is very similar but has 3-lobed leaves. There is a less common species which has smaller flowers, always white; another bears small clusters of scarlet flowers, each about 1-1/2 inches long with a yellow throat: and the Cypress Vine which has bright scarlet flowers and a long leaf divided into narrow parallel lobes.

The Wild Potato Vine, native in the eastern half of the United States and found in dry or gravelly waste places, is another member of this family. It was an important food for the Indians, who called it "Man-of- the-earth" or "Man-under-ground"' because it has a huge starchy root, often as thick and long as a man's leg and weighing from 10 to 30 pounds, which grows deep beneath the surface. The vines trail over the ground, or climb into shrubs and small trees sometimes attaining a length of 15 feet. The large leaves are heart-shaped or fiddle-shaped. The showy trumpet-shaped flowers are white, with a pinkish or purplish throat, and often 3 inches in diameter. The sweet potato, one of our important foods, is the fleshy root of a tropical "morning glory".

The Bindweeds are the villains of this family -- hated as much or more than any other weed. They are perennials, reproducing by long creeping roots as well as by seeds, and differ in other ways which only a botanist can recognize. In the far-western states there is a bindweed with pale yellow flowers striped with deeper yellow and tinged with pink. In eastern United States we have two common species and both are serious pests because they twine around and smother crop plants in fields and gardens. Further, they are extremely difficult to get rid of. One, the Field Bindweed or Creeping Jenny, was unfortunately introduced from Europe and has a mass of roots which may extend as much as 15 feet and to a considerable depth. The other, the Hedge Bindweed or Wild Morning Glory, is native here and a taller plant. Both have arrow- shaped leaves and white flowers often tinged or striped with pink.

Sprout a plump sweet potato in a jar of water and see what happens.

To return to the Nature Bulletins Click Here!
Hosted by NEWTON

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Sponsered by Argonne National Labs