Are Morning Glories Toxic?
Lynn M Wiegard
lwiegard at uoguelph.ca
Mon Jul 17 00:50:46 EST 1995
: I was wondering if morning glories (Ipomoea) are toxic...they are prolific
: in my yard and I was thinking of moving some into my reptile enclosure.
: The reptile in the cage is omnivorous and will snack on any plant in
: there...I presently have a hibiscus and pothos in there. All the books I
: have read don't have the toxicity data on Ipomoea...Thanks!
By 'reptile' I assume you mean Iguana iguana--just because EVEYONE has one.
I currently have an 8 year old male who LOVES morning glories and their
relative, water spinach or ong choi (Ipomoea aquatica).
These species are as high in calcium as crucifers (cabbage family) and
are additionally a good source of protein.
(Protein is important as iguanas are actually entirely vegetarian right
from birth. Animal protein can cause serious health problems. Yes, I
know that's puzzling...I have had igs that I couldn't keep out of the
cat food bowl, too. It's just not good for them.)
Some basic info:
I. iguana has been noted in the wild eating Ipomoea spp.
The I. tricolor is noted as being 'toxic' to turtles/tortoises. See my
final note about this.
I have had no problems with Ipomoea and my igs. Chelonians and lizards _are_
very different in their tolerance of some veterinary drugs. It's likely
that turtles may be more sensititve to this plant, in turn.
Ipomoea tricolor is noted in literature as being 'toxic' to humans...I feel
it has earned this distinction in the same manner that 'magic mushrooms'
have been given this distinction in mushroom field guides. I.e. it won't
kill you but may have 'side effects'. I have eaten the leaves myself. I
don't really know what the reptile is excited about, but certainly
doesn't do anything for me.
A form of LSD may be extracted from the _seeds_ of I. tricolor. The Aztec
indians even knew of this. Low concentations of this chemical are found
in the seeds.
Concentrations are even lower (negligible?) in the rest of the plant.
The seeds also contain a natural emetic (makes you vomit). Popular lore
states that it is because that all seeds are treated with chemicals that
those who eat vast quantites of the seeds with the intent of getting high
get ill. This is not true; even organically grown, untreated seeds will
make you ill if you eat them. They must be processed.
Extacting the 'LSD' from the leaves is fruitless, and a fairly large
number of seeds are required to extact a reasonable amount of the chemical.
I personally don't think it is a concern.
I have not had a problem with diarrhea in any of my igs following feeding
of Ipomoea spp.
If any of this news worries you, consider growing I. aquatica for your
reptile. It is an excellent food source containing no chemical surprises.
It, however, needs to be well watered and I am not sure if it has any sort
of notable flower. If you would like to see if your ig will eat it,
first, it is generally available at Vietnamese markets as 'ong choi'.
Hollow stems, long lance-shaped leaves, kinda expensive.
I. batatas (sweet potato) has lovely flowers and is easily grown. The
greens are eaten by humans like spinach. You might condider that plant.
(I had one...but my iguana ate it ;-) ) Cut a sweet potato (not a yam,
that's an iris relative) in half and rest it cut side down in a tray of
water...it will quickly sprout.
Both of these plants survive summers here in Ontario, so you should have
no problem in Ohio.
Finally, I don't feed I. tricolor myself that often...and it is my choice
to do so at all. Not everyone would agree with my position. However, it
_has_ been the focus of a day's meal for my igs and I haven't had any sick
I personally feel that some of the data regarding toxic plants for herps
is not entirely accurate. Much was extrapolated from records of what is
toxic (or 'toxic', as I've noted) to humans or other mammals. Reptiles
simply aren't mammals. The only reasons I have decided to feed any of
my igs Ipomoea spp. are: I read a field study in which iguanas were
sighted feeding on the plants, my igs decimated my morning glories, and the
other Ipomoea spp. are readily available to me from the market and
relished by my pets.
At any rate, it is your choice.
I have herp toxicity, nutrition, etc. references, if you would like more
lwiegard at uoguelph.ca lynn at snowhite.cis.uoguelph.ca
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