Common Name(s): Water spinach
Non-Native to Florida
Origin: Central to South China 1
Introduction to Florida: pre-1950 (agriculture) 2
Video ID segment (2-3 minutes / transcript below)
This species appears on the following legally prohibited plant lists
|Federal Noxious Weed List||Florida Noxious Weed List||Florida Prohibited Aquatic Plants List|
UF-IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas
CATEGORY I on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s (FLEPPC) 2017 List of Invasive Plant Species
More Info: Plant Management in Florida Waters
Download a recognition card (PDF) from Invasive and Non-native Plants You Should Know3
Download a page (PDF) from Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition1
Ipomoea aquatica is rarely found in the shallow water in ponds, lakes, and rivers of Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Manatee counties of Florida. It is native to the East Indies but escaped cultivation (Wunderlin, 2003).
Appearance: Herbaceous trailing vine with milky sap. Stems hollow, rooting at nodes, floating in aquatic situations.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, with glabrous petioles 3–14 cm (1–6 in) long; blades generally arrowhead shaped but variable, glabrous or rarely pilose, to 17 cm (7 in) long, with tips pointed; blades held above water when stems floating.
Flowers: Showy, funnelform; like morning glory blooms; solitary or in few-flowered clusters at leaf axils; petals white or pink-lilac.
Fruit: An oval or spherical capsule, woody at maturity, about 1 cm (0.5 in) wide; holding 1–4 grayish seeds, these often short, hairy.
Ecological threat: Forms dense floating mats of intertwined stems over water surfaces, shading out native submersed plants and competing with native emergents. FLEPPC Category I
Distribution: C, SW
View more information and pictures about water spinach, as contained in the Langeland/Burks book, Identification & Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas.
View the herbarium specimen image from the University of Florida Herbarium Digital Imaging Projects.
Water spinach – Ipomoea aquatica
Water spinach is not native to Florida. Like others in the morning-glory family, water spinach is a vine. This prolific plant can grow into thick, tangled mats. Though it is edible, and sometimes sold in grocery stores, water spinach is listed as an illegal aquatic plant in Florida. The long, viny stem of water spinach distinguishes it from most aquatic plants. Its vines can reach 9 feet long. Water spinach leaves are almost arrowhead-shaped, 1 to 6 inches long, and 1 to 3 inches wide. The leaves have notched bases, with rounded or pointed lobes. Water spinach has recognizable, morning-glory-like flowers. They are 2 inches wide and funnel-shaped; and can be white, pink, or pale lilac. Water spinach has morning-glory-like flowers. It is an aquatic vine that can grow to be 9 feet long. Its leaves are arrowhead-shaped.
1. Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition,
by K.A. Langeland, H.M. Cherry, et al. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 257. 2008.
2. Strangers in Paradise, Impact and Management of Nonindigenous Species in Florida, Chapter 2: Florida’s Invasion by Nonindigenous Plants: History, Screening, and Regulation, by D.R.
Gordon and K.P. Thomas, pp. 21-37. Island Press, Washington, DC, 1997.
3. Invasive and Non-native Plants You Should Know – Recognition Cards,
by A. Richard and V. Ramey. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 431. 2007.