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Are Morning Glories Toxic?

Lynn M Wiegard lwiegard at uoguelph.ca
Mon Jul 17 00:50:46 EST 1995

Chammie wrote:
: 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!
:                                          Joe

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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