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Last Updated: Spring 2012

Synonyms: NONE

Family: Convolvulaceae

Home Range/U.S. Introduction:
Water spinach is native to China where it is cultivated as a vegetable. Highly desired as a vegetable, it has been purposely planted and has become naturalized in many parts of the world including other parts of Asia, Africa, South America, Central America and the West Indies. Currently water spinach is on the Federal Noxious Aquatic Weed List but Florida and Arizona are the only states where possession and sale of the plant is prohibited.

U.S. Range Map:

Distribution was determined by a combining of the distribution information obtained from the following websites:

USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 18 June 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

U.S. Geological Survey. [2012]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/18/2012].

Species Description:
Water spinach is a perennial creeping herbaceous vine. The trailing stems that can reach lengths up to 20 m contain a milky sap. Adventitious roots develop at each of the nodes potentially giving rise to new plants. The alternate simple leaves are petiolate (3-14 cm), glabrous, with blades that are long lanceolate up to 17 cm long and 7-8 cm wide with pointed tips and cordate, hastate or truncate leaf bases. The white to pink flowers are funnelform and resemble those of the common morning glory. They occur singly or in cymes from the axils of the leaves. The fruit is a spherical to oval capsule up to 1 cm long containing 1-4 grayish often hairy seeds.

Habitat/Growth Characteristics:
Water spinach is a perennial creeping vine found along the banks of streams, ponds, ditches, lakes, and marshes. It is usually prostrate floating or creeping along shorelines but it can climb over emergent vegetation. It is a fast growing species with a capacity to increase in length approximately 10 cm per day under good growing conditions. Water spinach is usually confined to tropical and subtropical areas because it is intolerant of cold temperatures. It can reproduce both sexually by seeds and asexually by rooting at the nodes or by fragmentation.

Water spinach with its prolific rate of growth can quickly produce masses of tangled vegetation that obstruct water flow in irrigation, drainage, or flood control canals. The dense stands can displace native plants and create stagnant water conditions that provide ideal breeding environments for mosquitoes. The chances of invasion into new suitable habitats becomes increasingly likely because water spinach is very popular in Asian cuisine and is readily available in oriental food markets and over the internet.