Morning Glory (Ipomoea tricolor)

Ipomoea tricolor
Kingdom: Plantae
Family: Convolvulaceae
Genus: Ipomoea
Species: I. Tricolor
Group: Dicot

Convolvulaceae more commonly known as the morning glory family contain approximately 60 types of genera and more than 1,000 species. The majority of these species include high climbing vines but also include trees, shrubs, and herbs.[1] The etymology of this family originates from the Latin word, convolvere, meaning to twine around. This plant family is easily recognized by its funneled shaped and symmetrical petals, which has five fused petals and five stamens fused to the petals. Members of this plant family range from showy plants such as morning glory to annoying weeds such as bindweed. Depending on climate morning glories are grown as perennials or annuals, the best season to cultivate them is usually spring.


This particular species, Ipomoea tricolor, has a rich history in Mexico and Central America. According to Spanish writings, indigenous groups of Mexico such as the Aztecs were known to use psychedelic plants in their rituals. Ipomoea tricolor was used by priests and special dignitaries to aid them in divination, prophecy, and gain healing powers. The seeds of the Ipomoea tricolor and its related white flowered cousin, Turbina corymbosa, contain the hallucinogenic ergine alkaloid known as d-lysergic acid amide (LSA). The layman's understanding of LSA it that it is LSD's weaker relative. The plant was consumed as a tea or its seeds grounded up as a powder. Consuming the powder is considered dangerous and only highly skilled people with an understanding of the properties could do it safely. Like any drug, there is a thin line between effective and lethal doses thus, the highly skilled Aztec priests and shamans were knowledgeable of effective doses. The indigenous peoples of Mexico called the Ipomoea tricolor seeds "tlitliltzin" (tuh-lit-lil-sin).[2] Rooted in a deeply religious context, the Ipomoea tricolor seeds were important to the indigenous civilizations of Mexico because it allowed clergy members to communicate with their gods. The seeds are very sacred. The plant is abundant in the tropical climates of central America and Asia but are known to be resilient enough to grow in subtropical environments.[3]

Ipomoea tricolor
Ipomoea tricolor, Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Turbina corymbosa
Turbina corymbosa, Pedro Acevedo-Rodriguez @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Morning glories are fast-growing annual vines that can grow up to 15 feet. These plants produce showy flowers and in a matter of weeks can cover a trellis or other botanical architecture. The pure blue-flowered variety is colloquially known as Heavenly Blue is the most popular however, other varieties do exist such as white, pink, purple and red. These annual vines grow with slender stems, heart-shaped leaves, and trumpet-shaped flowers. They have an attractive symmetrical shape before they unfold and romantic tendrils that lend old-fashioned nostalgia and charm. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the morning glory is considered an invasive weed in some states.[4]
Morning Glory Seeds, Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

These seeds come with a disclaimer attached on nearly all botanical websites. The seeds of Ipomoea tricolor contain small amounts of lysergic acid amide. When consumed in large enough doses, the consumer can induce an LSD-like high. Ingesting the seeds also causes great discomfort to the consumer.[5]


Morning glories grow best in tropical to subtropical climates with plenty of sun. These plants do not tolerate cold weather well and grow annually. According to the USDA, morning glories are present in Arizona, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and the US territories Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.[6] However, the Ipomoea tricolor are not native to the United States and were introduced from Mexico and Central America.

morning glory dist.png
Ipomoea tricolor map
Human Use
A contemporary use of the plants is for ornamental purposes. Cultivators like this plant for its showy flowers and cascading green leaves that provide shade in the summer if grown on a trellis. People have also grown the plant in hanging baskets. The flowers live for one day but new flowers bloom daily. Homeowners appreciate the colorful, fragrant flowers and its ability to attract hummingbirds.


The seeds of morning glories are popular among teenagers who either chew them or, because of their hard shells, soak them in water to make tea. In garden centers, where the seeds are readily available, naive owners are unaware of the growing trend and sell them in hopes of spurring an interest in gardening to young people. Abuse of the seeds have hospitalized kids with dangerously high heart rates and frightening hallucinations.

Wild Card: Public Health, Wellness, and Government Intervention

Other than people who work in agriculture, the average American does not give much thought into plants being invasive. Media outlets are much more tuned to news of a bear roaming city streets rather an invasive plant. However, we are no less prone to an invasion of plants than we are to insects and wild animals. Often times people overlook invasive plants until they become a big enough problem for our economy and health.

Morning glories such as the Ipomea tricolor are listed as an invasive plant species in some states because they have become a public health concern . For example, the Arizona Department of Agriculture designated the term "weed" to specify a destructive pest plant. In Arizona, all morning glories are blacklisted as a prohibited noxious weed and are extremely destructive to their commodities and valuable land.[7] The State of Arizona has quickly escalated the issue to coordinate with government agencies and has treated this as an environmental disaster. However, eradication efforts are in vain. According to Arizona's Department of Agriculture Annual Report FY2011-2012 each year the Department of Agriculture inspectors find morning glory seeds for sale in nurseries. Internet sales have also further complicated the issue. Online retailers from other states are unaware that the plant is illegal cultivate in Arizona. Many buyers are enticed by the marketing that goes into this particular plant known for its showy flowers.[8] For more information please consult Arizona Agriculture Title 3 laws.

Likewise, the Arkansas State Plant Board has classified morning glory as a noxious weed and strictly regulates the plant. The plant board has yet to escalate morning glory as a prohibited noxious weed, but has erred on the side of caution when it declared the plant a public nuisance. More information can be found in the Arkansas State Board circular.

In 2005, the Louisiana state legislature passed State Act No.159 which made it illegal to consume hallucinogenic plants, among the list is morning glory. Although the State Act No. 159 made consumption illegal, the plant was legal to own for ornamental purposes. Morning glory is listed as a noxious weed and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry took proactive steps to limit the seed in its crops seed regulations.[9]
  1. ^
    USDA Plants. "Plants Profile for Ipomoea tricolor." 2013,
  2. ^
    Armstrong, W.P. "The Glorious Morning Glories." 1998,
  3. ^ Ibid.
  4. ^
    USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database ( National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
  5. ^

    Stewart, Amy. Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2009), 137.
  6. ^
  7. ^
    Arizona Department of Agriculture,
  8. ^ Arizona Department of Agriculture. "Annual Report Fiscal Year 2011-2012,"
  9. ^
    Louisiana State Legislature, "State Act No. 159,"