A quick glance at the large, gorgeous flowers will tell you that you're looking at a member of the morning glory family. The distinctive arrow-shaped leaes will confirm that it's this guy, the Everglades morning glory, Ipomoea sagittata.
Everglades morning glory is a Florida native found throughout both the Panhandle and Peninsula, though more abundantly in coastal counties than inland. Its native range includes the Southeastern United States from the Carolinas south and west to Texas, again more so along the coast than inland. Both Arkansas and Arizona classify it as a noxious weed, as they do most if not all members of the morning glory family. Arizona bans it altogether. It's also native to Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America and parts of the Old World.
Everglade morning glory is a short vine, usually between three to six feet or more in length but with multiple stems and branches, each of which can be as long as the plant itself, so it can form dense mats as it clambers over and twines through its neighbors. The flowers are large, trumpet-shaped, light pink to light purple in color, with a throat that is a deeper, darker version. And like morning glories generally, they open in the morning, die back in the afternoon and eventually produce a roundish seed pod that split open when ripe. It can bloom year round but mostly spring into fall. The flowers attract a large list of pollinators, bees in particular.
But the leaves of Everglade morning glory might be the plant's most distinctive feature. They are long, narrow with three lobes like morning glories generally do. But in the case of Everglade morning glory, the lobes create a sharp arrowhead shape. They grow alternately along the stem. In fact, the species name, sagittata, is Greek for arrowhead.
It is a marsh plant, requiring moist to wet to soil in order to survive. As its alternative names suggest, it does tolerate salt water, but we've seen it mostly near fresh — Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the Bailey Tract on Sanibel. Everglades morning glory is a long-lived perennial; in colder parts of its range, it will die back to the ground after a freeze, but will sprout again come spring. The plant also has rhizomes, or underground stems, that help spread the plant.
Everglades morning glory is cultivated for use in wildflower gardens, for use as a groundcover and for its climbing abilities to cover trellises and fences. But it can be difficult to contain and it readily reseeds itself, so it might not be appropriate for smaller spaces and formal gardens.
The plant is not edible but it has been used in some traditional medicines. The Houma of Louisiana would use the roots of Everglades morning glory to take poison out of the heart or blood. They would make a poultice out of boiled leaves and apply them to swellings. They would also chew the leaves, sometimes swallowing the juices, sometimes applying it to the skin, to treat snakebites.
Other common names and spellings include Everglades morningglory, aka Everglades morning-glory, saltmarsh morning-glory, salt marsh morning glory, It is one of 25 or so members of Convolvaceae — the morning glory family — found in Florida.