An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of December 8, 2008
written at Mayan Beach Garden Inn on the Costa Maya, Quintana Roo, México

GOAT'S-FOOT MORNING-GLORY

Having left the Yucatán Peninsula's scrubby, weedy interior I thought my morning-glory-describing days were over, but as soon as I got here I saw a morning- glory species that just can't be ignored. It's the Goat's-foot Morning-Glory, also called Beach Morning- Glory, Railroad Vine, Bayhops and lots of other names because it's found in tropical areas worldwide. It's IPOMOEA PES-CAPRAE, the genus Ipomoea being the main morning-glory genus, and "pes-caprae" being good Latin for "goat's-foot." You can see what's goaty about it below:

Goat's-foot Morning-Glory, Beach Morning- Glory, Railroad Vine, Bayhops, IPOMOEA PES-CAPRAE

The leaves are shaped like goat hoof-prints.

One striking feature of this species is its rampantly rambling manner of spreading across naked, searingly bright, hot, white sand, as shown below:

Goat's-foot Morning-Glory, Beach Morning- Glory, Railroad Vine, Bayhops, IPOMOEA PES-CAPRAE

That's the sand road I jog on half an hour each morning before the sun comes up. Nearly all the greenness there is Goat's-Foot Morning-Glory. Notice how vehicles keep the vines pruned by running over their tips. The tough, evergreen vines sprawl up to 30 meters (100 feet) across the sand! In the picture you can see what enormous service the vine contributes to local ecology: It stabilizes loose sand. In dune areas it fixes dunes in place, but here we have no dunes so it's doing its best to steady sand mounds along the road put there by machines clearing the road after Hurricane Dean.

This robust species may well survive the current man- made mass extinction. It's salt tolerant, stands a lot of heat and physical abuse, plus it's floating seeds makes the species one of the best-known examples of oceanic dispersal.

In Brazilian folk medicine Goat's-Foot Morning-Glory is used to treat gastrointestinal disorders.