Like a Worm, Fiddle-Shaped


That’s the literal translation of Ipomoea pandurata, a vining plant in the Convolvulaceae (from the Latin for “twining around”), the morning-glory family.

I love finding the meanings behind the botanical names of plants, so was happy to stumble on the California Plant Names site, which said:

Ipomoe’a: from the Greek ips, “a worm,” and homoios, “like,” thus “like a worm,” referring to the twining habit of the plant’s growth (ref. genus Ipomoea)

And pandurata is from an ancient Greek musical instrument, the pandura, which was somewhat fiddle-shaped. In this case it supposedly refers to the leaf, which looks heart-shaped to me.


Common names include wild potato-vine, wild sweet potato, man of the earth, and big root morning glory.

Honestly this plant is kind of weedy looking, but the blossoms are beautiful and it isn’t aggressive like the alien bindweeds (Convolvulus species) that plague so many gardens. At least, it isn’t aggressive in most of its native range (which includes the mid-Atlantic, the South, and the lower mid-west and Great Plains states), except for Arkansas, where all species of Ipomoea are considered noxious weeds. In Arizona (not part of its native range) it’s a prohibited noxious weed. Pity no one can teleport them to Michigan, where the species is threatened, or New York, where it’s endangered.

The vines can grow to 20 feet long, and usually climb up other plants. In the Potomac Gorge I’ve seen them spilling over rocks, as well. They like dry, gravelly soils according to one source I checked, which is interesting because I most often see them near the river. Maybe that’s because they want a bit of sun.



2 thoughts on “Like a Worm, Fiddle-Shaped

  1. Pingback: Yam, Sweet Potato, Potato… Common Name Confusion | Elizabeth's Wildflower Blog

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