The Wild Cotton is a vigorous, perennial, deciduous climber up
to 10m long belonging to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae).
Its botanical name (Ipomoea albivenia) is derived from the
Greek ips (a worm) and homoios (meaning like / same)
referring to the trailing / creeping habit of the plant. The species
name, albivenia, is Latin meaning "white-veined"
and refers to the leaves which are large, velvety and heart-shaped
with distinctive white hairs on the veins. The leaves are velvety
white when young.
Wild Cotton grows naturally on rocky outcrops and in open woodland
from KwaZulu Natal through Mpumalanga and the Northern Province
into Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The attractive funnel-shaped flowers are large (up to 8cm wide)
and crinkly white with pale pink or yellow in the throat. The flowers
are sweetly scented and open during the night, closing by midday.
Flowers appear from January - March and are followed by woody fruit
capsules which burst open to release seeds covered in fluffy "cotton
Growing Ipomoea albivena
The Wild Cotton with its showy flowers and fluffy seeds makes a
wonderful garden specimen growing on a trellis or fence. Plant in
well drained soil with compost added. They prefer a hot dry sunny
position and care must be taken not to overwater - particularly
in the winter months. Wild Cotton are easily grown from seed which
germinates better if allowed to get rain water.
It is very important to ensure good drainage and not to overwater
this plant as the tuberous rootstock is susceptible to rot under
prolonged moist conditions. The species is also sensitive to mild
frost and is best planted against a warm north or west facing wall
or in frost free areas.
The Wild Cotton tubers have historically been eaten in times of
famine and are also used in traditional medicine to purify the blood.
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden