Friday, July 25, 2014

Flower Friday: Railroad vine lays beautiful tracks along Florida's beaches

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Railroad vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae subsp. brasiliensis)

Also known as beach morning glory, bayhops, or goat’s foot, railroad vine is a fast-growing, evergreen, perennial commonly found on beach dunes. Flowers are large, funnel-shaped and purple to purplish-pink in color. Its large nectaries and showy flowers attract bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps and ants. Leaves are succulent and rounded, with a notched tip resembling a cloven hoof, hence its species name, “pes caprae,” which means “goat’s foot” in Latin. Leaves and stems contain a white sap that may help protect it from pests. It has also been used to treat jellyfish stings.

As with other morning glory species, railroad vine flowers open in the morning and last only one day, however, the plant is a prolific bloomer.

Railroad vine occurs naturally in most of the coastal peninsular counties, and in a few coastal panhandle counties. It is a pioneer species and is often used in beach restoration and stabilization.

Family: Convolvulaceae (Morning glory family)
Hardiness: Zones 8-11
Soil: Does best in dry, nutrient-poor, sandy soils, but can also tolerate moist or calcareous soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 6-16 inches in height; vine length typically varies from 10 to 20 feet, but can extend as long as 100 feet
Garden tips: Railroad vine can be easily propagated from cuttings as well as seeds, but it can be difficult to cultivate in a typical landscape. It does best on beach dunes. It is highly tolerant of salt, heat, and wind.

Railroad vine plants are sometimes available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area.

To see where railroad vine occurs naturally, visit http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=590.

--Stacey Matrazzo

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