What is it?
This is a species of Ipomoea morning glory known by several common names, including Littlebell and Aiea morning glory. It’s a fast-growing, vining, annual herb producing long, thin stems with ivy-like, petioled, heart-shaped leaves 2.5–6 centimetres (0.98–2.36 in) long. The leaves sometimes, but not always, have three lobes. The vines produce tubular bell-shaped flowers, each about two centimeters long. They are (quite) variable in color, in shades of pink, red or lavender, with or without white marking.
Where does it live?
It is native to the tropical Americas, but it is widespread in warm areas of the world, where it is an introduced species and often a noxious weed. It is found all over the island of Puerto Rico and can grow in a wide variety of conditions.
Why is it here?
As with many of the plants in these boxes, Little Bell Morning Glories is a woody vine native to the island of Puerto Rico. According to a 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture such vines are thriving in the era of climate change, also known as the Anthropocene. As conditions have changed (drier summer months, warming trends that affect the timing of flowering and fruiting plants, etc…), these vines have begun to supplant larger native trees. The resulting loss of overall biomass has meant less Carbon Dioxide (CO2) captured by the fauna of the island, and thus more CO2 in the atmosphere, and thus faster climate change. Think of these plants as yet another “canary in the coal mine” of global warming, symbolic of changes taking place all over the globe. We have turned our thoughts toward Puerto Rico specifically in response to the Ghost Fishing anthology and its call for “eco-justice.” Hurricane intensity and frequency is on the rise as the planet warms. The same social, political and economic systems that have energized those storms has already ensured- through a long legacy of colonialism and racism- that they will land hardest on those least responsible for climate change. Hurricanes Sandy and Maria are exhibits A and B in the case for fighting for eco-justice. We hope you will not forget this, and that you will join in that fight.