The morning glory belongs to the family Convolvulaceae and is native to the tropical regions of America. It was a sacred plant to the Mayan, Aztec, and other native tribes who used the seeds in ceremonies because of its hallucinogenic properties. They believed that the plant had a spirit that could allow men to speak with the gods. There has been found a recipe written by shamans that specifically had to be prepared by a virgin. The seeds are highly toxic and commercially sold seeds are treated with poisonous fungicides and other toxic chemicals; it is illegal to eat them in many parts of the world. Varieties like “Flying Saucer,” “Pearly Gates,” and “Heavenly Blue” not only describe the appearance of the flower but its psychoactive properties. There are some morning glories that can produce up to 60,000 blooms a season at a rate of 300 per day. These plants are also found in Asia and can grow in sub-tropical and temperate climates. There are approximately fifty genera and more than 1000 species of morning glories.
Description and Characteristics of Morning Glories
Morning glories are Central American perennial vining plants with some varieties that can grow as long as twenty-nine feet. They have bright, funnel blooms that can reach up to eight inches in diameter but more commonly found plants average four inches across. The blossoms come in purple, yellow, white, blue, and red hues and frequently indications of folds can be seen where the flower’s corolla close into buds. Visible signs of a fading flower can be seen when the blossom begins to curl; this means that it has begun to die and will drop round, tan seed pods that contain dark brown seeds that form an orange wedge. The seeds turn brown as they mature and when fully mature the pod splits open to disperse the seeds which can be from one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch in length. The plant has lush green heart shaped leaves that grow four to five inches in length. Seeds can be collected from the dead blooms or seed pods.
How To Grow and Maintain Morning Glories
Morning glories have hard seeds and should be either soaked overnight to soften the hull or nicked to allow for more rapid germination. In cold climates start seeds in three-inch peat pots four to six weeks before the last frost. They like moderately fertile soil that is not too wet and they should be planted in full sunlight. Plant seeds one-half inch deep and spaced eight to twelve inches apart. Morning Glories cannot be transplanted. Be sure to provide a sturdy support system to allow the vines to climb. Do not overwater and once established they will reseed so there is no need to plant every year. To control the reseeding remove the dead vines once the frost has killed them. If leaves begin to turn yellow it is a sign that the plant of insufficient sunlight, overwatering, or a fungal disease called rust. If the plant has rust there will be powdery pustules on the back of the leaves: To prevent this do not wet the plant’s leaves. Another disease is canker, a fungi that will wilt the ends of the leaves and attack the stems, making them sink in and brown. In order to save the plant the affected areas must be removed. Other problems are insects that can cause damage to the plant like cotton aphids, leaf miners, and leafcutters.
Historical Medicinal Uses of Morning Glories
Morning glory seeds contain tryptamine, also known as Lysergic Acid Amide (LSA), a substance that is very similar to LSD and has the same effect on the brain (but less intense). The symptoms last for about six to ten hours and include nausea when seeds that are not properly prepared are used. Native people used the ground seeds as a diuretic, expectorant, laxative, and cough suppressant. They made a tea from the dried leaves to relieve headaches and indigestion. Morning glories are also used in the treatment of mental disorders. The plant is also effective on insect bites as well as other preparations. It is recommended that if seeds are used for healing that they are organic seeds.
When planning your garden, consider that morning glories can be a backdrop for gardens or perimeter decorations. They climb quickly up trellises and walls. They easily fill fences, making a colorful addition to property lines. Morning glories should be handled with gloves and long-sleeved shirts to protect the skin from the sap. Direct contact to the skin can cause headaches and hallucinations.
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