Plant text by Naomi Lacey, feature photo Wikipedia
Common name: Kang Kong, Water Spinach, Swamp Cabbage, Water Morning Glory
Scientific name: Ipomoea aquatica
Family, and related species: Convolvulaceae
Description including form (tree, climber etc), other similar species
A semiaquatic tropical perennial that produces edible leaves and tips year-round. The 2-3m long stems are hollow which makes them float on water and roots will develop at the leaf nodes when they come into contact with soil or water. The leaves can be heart or arrow shaped through to a more spear like shape. The flowers are white and trumpet shaped with a pink or mauve centre.
Role/ characteristics/ use in permaculture
The highly nutritious leaves and tips are a staple in the tropical regions of the world being high in iron and many vitamins.
It is a high protein animal fodder and can be planted in boggy areas of paddocks to provide extra feed.
An excellent mulch or compost but best if dried for a few days first before adding to the mix as it sprouts very easily in moist conditions.
Known as a mild laxative.
Ecology and habitat requirements
This vigorous plant grows best in water or moist organic soils in hot and wet climates. It can grow in both full sun or shade and requires little to no maintenance. It will thrive anywhere from a bathtub or bucket to a large dam and if given some organic fertiliser such as fish emulsion will virtually grow out of control.
It is known to be invasive and weedlike in wetlands throughout the world but being such a staple food crop is readily available in most countries in its growing zone.
Leaf beetle, aphids, wire worm, stem rot and some viral diseases are more prevalent in land based crops that are grown for too many years in the one spot. Use crop rotation methods to avoid this.
Access to plants
Cuttings are the easiest and most common way to propagate kang kong. Just a few nodules of growth placed in the ground or a pot of compost in a water tub will see new shoots within a couple of weeks at the most.
This plant is readily available in nurseries and at markets throughout the Top End.
Norrington, Leonie, 2001, Tropical Food Gardens: A guide to growing fruit, herbs and vegetables, Bloomings Books, Melbourne, Australia
Wikipedia, 2014, Ipomoea aquatica