Railroad Vine

by Kyle Sweet, The Sanctuary Golf Club, Florida Master Naturalist

Railroad Vine, Ipomoea pes-caprae, is a fast growing native ground cover that is ideal for use in coastal properties such as those all along our barrier islands.

Otherwise known as Beach Morning Glory, the Railroad Vine sends out rapidly growing stolons, which are above ground stems, that resemble long railroad tracks, thus it’s other common name.

This Florida native occasionally produces bright pink flowers, usually most prolific in early summer, that typically stay open throughout the morning but close in the heat of the afternoon. Railroad vine has a high tolerance for salty air and prefers sandy soils, which makes it an excellent candidate for preventing erosion around dunes and all along our precious beaches.

In addition to coastal areas, Railroad Vine can also be grown inland on sunny, well-drained sites but must always be planted in areas large enough to accommodate its sprawling growth habit.

Plants are propagated from cuttings in small plugs and then planted into one gallon containers for sale. When planted, plants should be started 3-5’ apart from one another and you can expect the height to reach approximately 12 – 16” once fully covering the ground. Plant at least 5’ away from walks and drives as the Railroad Vine, which can grow up to one foot per day, can quickly overtake the edges and grow into these areas. Young plantings will require adequate watering to get established, but once well rooted, watering can be greatly reduced. Trimming will take the place of watering as regular pruning will be required to keep this plant inside of its bed boundaries. If voids begin to show in the bed area and your desire is to have a complete ground cover, the stolons of the Railroad Vine can be bent and placed where needed to provide complete coverage.

The genus of the Railroad Vine. Ipomoea, is the largest genus in the flowering plant family Convolvulaceae, with over 600 species. The genus of the Railroad Vine is shared with other well – known plants such as Morning Glory, Moon Vine and Sweet Potato just to name a few.

Railroad Vine is a native plant that is readily available at native plant nurseries throughout our Southwest Florida area. Right here on island, see Jenny or Becca at SCCF’s Native Landscape and Garden Center at 1300 Periwinkle Way. Once they open again, following the current closure due to COVID – 19, I’m certain that they will have plenty of great plants to choose from including the native Railroad Vine to plant and enjoy in your island landscape.

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