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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - November 23, 2012

From: Del Rio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Edible Plants, Medicinal Plants, Vines
Title: Identification of a vine in El Paso, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Del Rio Texas - Zone 8/9 and I have a vine which can't be identified. It looks like a morning glory white flower with crimson throat, but the leaf pattern is like a 5-7 fingered hand with dark green leaves. There are green seed pods which dry up and then produce large black seeds about 3-4 per pod. It is a climbing vine and just kinda took over my picket fence. I have seen it all over town. It is not a Queens crown and it far more hardy than my other vines.

ANSWER:

This sounds like Merremia dissecta (Alamo vine).  The Texas County Distribution Map from the USDA Plants Database doesn't show it as occurring in El Paso County.   The nearest occurrence shown is for Presidio County.  However, the USDA Plants Database doesn't show occurrences of ornamental plants.  If you Google "Merremia dissecta seeds", you will see that there are lots of sources for the seeds worldwide and it is grown as an ornamental worldwide.  Daniel Austin in his paper  [Austin, Daniel F.  2007.  Merremia dissecta (Convolvulaceae):  Condiment, Medicine, Ornamental, and Weed—A Review.  Economic Botany 61 (2):109-120] describes a fence near the edge of Tuscon covered with the vine.   His article also describes medicinal  and condiment uses for the plant—leaf infusions used as a sedative and leaf extract smells and tastes like almonds.  Although there is some controversy, it is probably native to the Caribbean, Florida (perhaps Georgia), Texas, Mexico, Central and South America.  Shiners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas (page 558) considers it to be native as far north as Travis County in Texas.  The distribution map in Austin's paper shows it occurring (introduced) across Africa, Asia and Australia where it was introduced as an ornamental and escaped to become naturalized.  It is also grown as an ornamental in Europe.

 

From the Image Gallery


Alamo vine
Merremia dissecta

Alamo vine
Merremia dissecta

Alamo vine
Merremia dissecta

Alamo vine
Merremia dissecta

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