Ipomoea albivenia (Lindl.) Sweet

Family : Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family)
Common Names :
Wild Cotton (E), Wildekatoen (A), Imibuzana / Umangfongo (Z)

Ipomoea albivenia

The Wild Cotton is a vigorous, perennial, deciduous climber up to 10m long belonging to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). Its botanical name (Ipomoea albivenia) is derived from the Greek ips (a worm) and homoios (meaning like / same) referring to the trailing / creeping habit of the plant. The species name, albivenia, is Latin meaning "white-veined" and refers to the leaves which are large, velvety and heart-shaped with distinctive white hairs on the veins. The leaves are velvety white when young.

Wild Cotton grows naturally on rocky outcrops and in open woodland from KwaZulu Natal through Mpumalanga and the Northern Province into Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The attractive funnel-shaped flowers are large (up to 8cm wide) and crinkly white with pale pink or yellow in the throat. The flowers are sweetly scented and open during the night, closing by midday. Flowers appear from January - March and are followed by woody fruit capsules which burst open to release seeds covered in fluffy "cotton wool".

Growing Ipomoea albivena

The Wild Cotton with its showy flowers and fluffy seeds makes a wonderful garden specimen growing on a trellis or fence. Plant in well drained soil with compost added. They prefer a hot dry sunny position and care must be taken not to overwater - particularly in the winter months. Wild Cotton are easily grown from seed which germinates better if allowed to get rain water.

It is very important to ensure good drainage and not to overwater this plant as the tuberous rootstock is susceptible to rot under prolonged moist conditions. The species is also sensitive to mild frost and is best planted against a warm north or west facing wall or in frost free areas.

The Wild Cotton tubers have historically been eaten in times of famine and are also used in traditional medicine to purify the blood.

Sharon Turner
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
January 2001

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.
This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website www.plantzafrica.com.