Ipomoea cairica

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Ipomoea cairica


Ipomoea: Worm-like, referring to coiled flower bud
cairica: Of or from Cairo (Egypt)

Common Name(s)

pouwhiwhi, coastal morning glory, railway creeper

Current Threat Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Previous Threat Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Ipomoea cairica (L.) Sweet



Flora Category

Vascular - Native


Indigenous. New Zealand: Kermadec (Raoul, Macauley, Cheeseman Islands), Three Kings, North and Great Barrier Islands. Mostly local and the exact southern are now unclear due to this species cultivation well south of apparently indigenous populations, and the subsequently naturalisation from these plantings via garden waste and (sometimes) deliberate plantings. The most likely natural southern limit is the Waitemata Harbour though most literature regards Tiritirimatangi Island as the actual southern limit. Also widespread in Africa, Asia, Australia, western Central America and in many of the Pacific islands of Oceania on some of which it may be naturalised.


Coastal. A local to sometimes abundant vine of dune systems, coastal scrub and cliff face vegetation, rubble slopes and mangrove (Avicennia marina subsp. australasica). Also an occasional urban weed found in waste land, rubbish dumps, car yards and hedges.


Perennial rhizomatous vine. Stems cable like, usually glabrous (rarely minutely pubescent), initially ± smooth and reddish green to purple but maturing grey with the surface becoming conspicuously tuberculate. Leaves with petioles 20-60 mm long, usually falsely stipulate; lamina 30-100 mm long, palmately divided almost to base, ovate to orbicular in outline, 5-7-lobed, lobes lanceolate to elliptic or obovate with outermost lobes sometimes unequally 2-lobed, acute to obtuse, mucronulate. Inflorescences axillary, 1-several-flowered; peduncle 10-80 mm long; pedicels 10-30 mm long. Sepals 4.5-6.0 mm long, ovate, with outer sepals slightly shorter, obtuse to acute, mucronulate, glabrous. Corolla funneliform, purple, reddish-purple or white. Stamens and style included. Capsule c.10 mm long, ± globose. Seeds c.0.5 mm long, subglobose to ovoid, densely, shortly tomentose.

Similar Taxa

Easily distinguished from the other Ipomoea indigenous to or naturalised in New Zealand by the palmately divided leaves.


September - July

Main Flower Colour

Violet / Purple

Other Flower Colour

Red / Pink


September - August

Propagation Technique

Very easy from cuttings, rooted pieces and fresh seed. Inclined to become very aggressive and weedy, so is rarely cultivated. It makes an excellent sand binder and will tolerate extremes of habitat, though it is frost sensitive. In cooler areas if may die back to its root stock if frosted, only to resprout when local conditions warm.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 30

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Occasionally offered by specialist native plant nurseries.


References and further reading

Green, P.S. 1994: Flora of Australia Volume 49, Oceanic Islands 1. Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 30 May 2015

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