The Railroad Vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae) , in the Morning Glory family, got its common name because of its ability to lay down long “tracks” or stolons. Stolons are something like a stem except they have nodes that put out horizontal roots and can reach lengths of 30′ or more. Growing to a height of about a foot, it is a ground hugger that can form a thick ground cover. With its tap root reaching up to 3′ in depth the Railroad Vine is an effective beach stabilizer. Its 2″- 4″ two lobed oblong leaves with a notch on top give the appearance of a goat’s foot. The Vine’s flower is pink in color and 2″ – 3″ in diameter.
The flowers which can occur singly or in clusters come out at night and are in full bloom by the early morning. As the sun comes up the flowers fade and shrink. The flower has five petals that are separated by a dark rose colored five pointed star that radiates out from the flower’s center This five pointed star is characteristic of the several species of the genus Ipomoea. Ipomoea is a Greek word for “wormlike” in reference to the long and twisting vines and rapid growth of its member species. Pes-caprae means goat’s foot.
Railroad vine is native to the beaches Florida, however, it also has a worldwide distribution showing up on the beaches in Australia and the Caribbean. It thrives on nutrient poor and moist sandy soils. It is drought resistant and salt tolerant and can withstand sand blasting, wave action, and salt spray. One tough plant.
This picture was taken, of course, on the Beach. While getting ready to take the shot a bee arrived to do some cross-pollination. Look closely at the center of the flower and you will see the bee’s abdomen.