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(Convolvulus or Morning Glory family)


This family of 55 genera comprises some 1650 species of herbs, shrubs, or rarely trees, many of which are climbing. They are to be found in tropical and temperate regions.

Several members of the family have purgative properties and are the sources of certain crude drugs used in medicine (Todd 1967):

Convolvulus scammonia L. — provides Levant scammony root
Ipomoea hederacea Jacq. — provides pharbitis seed or kaladana
[syn. Pharbitis nil Choisy]
Ipomoea orizabensis Ledenois. — provides ipomoea root, orizaba jalap root, or Mexican scammony root
Ipomoea purga Hayne — provides jalap root or Vera Cruz jalap
[syn. Exogonium purga Lindl.]
Ipomoea turpethum R.Br. — provides turpeth root or Indian japap
Operculina macrocarpa Urb. — provides Brazilian jalap
[syns Convolvulus macrocarpus L., Ipomoea tuberosa L., Operculina tuberosa Meisn.] 

The Central American psychotomimetic drugs ololiuqui, tlitliltzin, and, more recently, morning glory are derived from seeds of members of this family, many of which are known to contain hallucinogenic ergoline alkaloids (Heacock 1975).

Several instances of dermatitis have been recorded following contact with members of this family. Whilst there is some evidence for irritant, photoirritant, and possibly photoallergic reactions, no detailed investigations have been reported. Also, some species are thorny.

Argyreia Lour

About 90 species are native to Indomalaysia, one species to Queensland, Australia.

Argyreia nervosa Bojer
[syn. Argyreia speciosa Sweet]
Hawaiian Baby Wood Rose, Woolly Morning Glory

The leaves have rubefacient and vesicant properties (Quisumbing 1951).

Calystegia sepium R.Br.
[syn. Convolvulus sepium L.]
Wild Morning Glory, Larger Bindweed, Hedge Bindweed

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Convolvulus arvensis L.
Lesser Bindweed, Small Bindweed

This plant can become a troublesome weed in gardens.

Striate bullous dermatitis occurring on the wrists and forearms, and related on circumstantial evidence to contact with this species, was considered to be an example of phytophotodermatitis (Klaber 1942). Under experimental conditions, extracts of the plant did not show any photosensitising activity (Van Dijk & Berrens 1964).

Convolvulus scoparius L.f.
[syn. Rhodorhiza scoparia Webb]
Canary Rosewood, Lignum Rhodii, Bois de Rose

Oil of Rosewood was at one time extracted from this shrub. It was replaced by a similar oil obtained from the wood of Aniba rosaeodora Ducke (fam. Lauraceae), the source of which long remained uncertain (Record & Mell 1924).

Großmann (1910, 1920) reported that men in his father's workshop could not work for long periods with "rosewood" because of dermatitis and constitutional symptoms. He thought that the wood was derived from Convolvulus scoparius but according to Woods & Calnan (1976) the wood was probably Aniba duckei Kosterm. (fam. Lauraceae).

Cuscuta L.
Dodder, Devil's Guts, Scald

The genus Cuscuta L. comprises about 145 species of parasitic plants with often brightly coloured chlorophyll-less thread-like stems. They are morphologically very different from other members of the Convolvulaceae, and have been placed in their own family, the Cuscutaceae, by some authorities (Mabberley 2008). Many are regarded as noxious weeds.

Cuscuta chinensis Lam.
Chinese Dodder

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Cuscuta reflexa Roxb.
[syn. Monogynella reflexa Holub]
Giant Dodder

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Dichondra J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.

The genus comprises 9 species found in tropical and subtropical regions (Mabberley 2008).

Dorsey (1962) received a report that a species of this genus was capable of producing dermatitis. He may have been referring to Dichondra micrantha Urb., the Asian pony's foot or kidney weed, a species that was once popular as a grass substitute for lawns.

Ipomoea alba L.
[syns Ipomoea aculeata Blume, Calonyction aculeatum House, Convolvulus aculeatus L., Ipomoea bona-nox L., Ipomoea grandiflora Roxb.]

Referring to Calonyction aculeatum, Morton (1962a) noted that handling or trimming this vine has caused dermatitis in Florida.

Ipomoea batatas Lam.
[syns Batatas edulis Choisy, Convolvulus batatas L.]
Sweet Potato, Spanish Potato, Batata

The plant is widely grown in the tropics for its edible tubers known as batatas.

Batata-itch, perhaps more appropriately described as patatta-itch (Simons 1953, Van Thiel 1930) is a mite infestation known medically as trombiculosis. It is a pruriginous infestation caused by a mite that was originally described as Acarus batatas L., but is now known as Trombicula batatas or Eutrombicula batatas (fam. Trombiculidae). The original description published by Linnaeus referred to the fact that the mite was found on batatas in Surinam. However, it is now apparent that Ipomoea batatas is almost certainly not specifically involved as a source of infestation (see Michnener 1946, Jenkins 1948).

Ipomoea nil Roth
[syn. Ipomoea imperialis hort.]
Imperial Japanese Morning Glory

Wimmer (1926) refers to reports of skin irritation from Ipomoea imperialis which he ascribes to rigid, sharply pointed, easily dislodged trichomes on the plant. The plant was listed by Touton (1932) as being capable of producing dermatitis.

Ipomoea pes-caprae R.Br.
[syns Convolvulus pes-caprae L., Ipomoea maritima R.Br.]
Beach Morning Glory, Railroad Vine

On the Malay Peninsula, juice from the plant is applied to stings of fish; in Indonesia, a poultice of the crushed leaves is a maturative for boils, and sap from the half-grown leaves boiled with coconut oil forms a healing salve for sores and ulcers; in the Philippines, the leaves are used as a caustic to clean fungoid growth out of ulcers, and the boiled leaves are applied to burns; in New Guinea, a decoction of the leaves is applied to sores (Perry & Metzger 1980).

Ipomoea pes-caprae R.Br. subsp. brasiliensis van Ooststr.
[syns Convolvulus brasiliensis L., Ipomoea brasiliensis Sweet]
Beach Morning Glory, Brazilian Bayhops

McKenzie & Gerlach (1988) described a bullous skin reaction associated with an erythematous rash and a burning sensation after handling this plant infected with a rust fungus identified as Endophyllum kaernbachii F.Stevens & Mendiola (fam. Pucciniaceae). Hyperpigmentation of the affected skin persisted for 15-18 months. The reaction was believed to be an example of a parasitophytophotodermatitis. The plant was growing on a beach in Western Samoa.

Ipomoea pes-tigridis L.
[syn. Convolvulus pes-tigridis Spreng.]
Morning Glory

Perry & Metzger (1980) note that in Indonesia, the leaves of this species crushed, powdered or made into a poultice are used externally to put on ulcers, sores, haemorrhoids, and hot swellings.

Ipomoea quamoclit L.
[syns Quamoclit pennata Voigt, Quamoclit pinnata Bojer, Ipomoea pinnata Hochst.]
Cypress Vine, Cardinal Climber

Perry & Metzger (1980) note that in Indonesia, the leaves of this species crushed, powdered or made into a poultice are used externally to put on ulcers, sores, haemorrhoids, and hot swellings. According to Quisumbing (1951), the root has a sternutatory effect.


  • Dorsey CS (1962) Plant dermatitis in California. California Medicine 96(6): 412-413 [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • Mabberley DJ (2008) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 3rd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]
  • McKenzie EHC, Gerlach WWP (1988) Morning-glory, parasitophytophotodermatitis and Gods. Mycologist 2(4): 158-159
  • Morton JF (1962a) Ornamental plants with toxic and/or irritant properties. II. Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society 75: 484-491 [url] [url-2]
  • Perry LM, Metzger J (1980) Medicinal Plants of East and Southeast Asia: Attributed Properties and Uses. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press [WorldCat] [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Quisumbing E (1951) Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. Technical Bulletin 16, Philippines Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Manila, Philippine Islands: Manila Bureau of Printing [WorldCat] [url]
  • Touton K (1932) Hauterkrankungen durch phanerogamische Pflanzen und ihre Produkte (Toxicodermia et Allergodermia phytogenes) [Skin Diseases Caused by Phanerogamic Plants and their Products (Toxicodermia et Allergodermia phytogenes)]. In: Jadassohn J (Ed.) Handbuch der Haut- und Geschlechtskrankheiten. Band IV, Teil I. Angeborene Anomalien. Lichtdermatosen. Pflanzengifte. Thermische Schädigungen. Einfluss Innerer Störungen auf die Haut [Handbook of Skin and Venereal Diseases. Volume IV, Part I. Congenital abnormalities. Photodermatoses. Plant toxins. Thermal injuries. Influence of internal disorders on the skin], pp. 487-697. Berlin: Julius Springer [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Van Dijk E, Berrens L (1964) Plants as an etiological factor in phytophotodermatitis. Dermatologica 129(4): 321-328 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • [Others yet to be added]

Richard J. Schmidt

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