Ipomoea aquatica

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Ipomoea aquatica
N Ipoa D1600.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Convolvulaceae
Genus: Ipomoea
I. aquatica
Binomial name
Ipomoea aquatica

Ipomoea aquatica is a semi-aquatic, tropical plant grown as a vegetable for its tender shoots and leaves. It is found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, although it is not known where it originated. This plant is known in English as water spinach, river spinach, water morning glory, water convolvulus, or by the more ambiguous names Chinese spinach, Chinese Watercress, Chinese convolvulus, swamp cabbage or kangkong in Southeast Asia.[2]


Ipomoea aquatica grows in water or on moist soil. Its stems are 2–3 metres (7–10 ft) or longer, rooting at the nodes, and they are hollow and can float. The leaves vary from typically sagittate (arrow head-shaped) to lanceolate, 5–15 cm (2–6 in) long and 2–8 cm (0.8–3 in) broad. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, 3–5 cm (1–2 in) in diameter, and usually white in colour with a mauve centre. Propagation is either by planting cuttings of the stem shoots that will root along nodes or planting the seeds from flowers that produce seed pods.[3][4]


Ong choy water spinach.

Ipomoea aquatica is most commonly grown in East, South and Southeast Asia. It flourishes naturally in waterways and requires little, if any, care. It is used extensively in Indonesian, Burmese, Thai, Lao, Cambodian, Malay, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Chinese cuisine, especially in rural or kampung (village) areas. The vegetable is also extremely popular in Taiwan, where it grows well. During the Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II, the vegetable grew remarkably easily in many areas, and became a popular wartime crop. In the Philippines, a variety of kangkong is grown in canals dug during the American occupation after the Spanish–American War, while another variety growing on land is called Chinese kangkong.

In non-tropical areas, it is easily grown in containers given enough water in a bright sunny location. It readily roots from cuttings.[citation needed]


Ipomoea aquatica is listed by the USDA as a noxious weed,[5] especially in the states of Florida, California, and Hawaii, where it can be observed growing in the wild.[6] I. aquatica has been extensively cultivated in Texas for over 30 years, having been originally brought there by Asian immigrants. Because no evidence indicates the plant has escaped into the wild, Texas lifted its ban on cultivation for personal use with no restrictions or requirements, noting its importance as a vegetable in many cultures, and also began permitting cultivation for commercial sales with the requirement of an exotic species permit.[7] In Sri Lanka, it invades wetlands, where its long, floating stems form dense mats which can block the flow of water and prevent passage of boats.[8]

Culinary uses[edit]

Water spinach, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy79 kJ (19 kcal)
3.14 g
Dietary fiber2.1 g
0.2 g
2.6 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Vitamin A equiv.
315 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.03 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.1 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.9 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.141 mg
Vitamin B6
0.096 mg
Folate (B9)
57 μg
Vitamin C
55 mg
MineralsQuantity %DV
77 mg
1.67 mg
71 mg
0.16 mg
39 mg
312 mg
113 mg
0.18 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The vegetable is a common ingredient in East, South and Southeast Asian dishes, such as in stir-fried water spinach.[9] In Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, the tender shoots along with the leaves are usually stir-fried with chili pepper, garlic, ginger, dried shrimp paste (belacan/terasi) and other spices. In Penang and Ipoh, it is cooked with cuttlefish and a sweet and spicy sauce. Also known as eng chhai in the Hokkien dialect, it can also be boiled with preserved cuttlefish, then rinsed and mixed with spicy rojak paste to become jiu hu eng chhai. Boiled eng chhai also can be served with fermented krill noodle belacan bihun and prawn mi.[10]

In Indonesian cuisine it is called kangkung, boiled or blanched together with other vegetables it forms the ingredient of gado-gado or pecel salads in peanut sauce. Some recipes that use kangkung is plecing kangkung from Lombok, and mie kangkung (kangkong noodle) from Jakarta.

In Thailand, where it is called phak bung (Thai: ผักบุ้ง), it is eaten raw, often along with green papaya salad or nam phrik, in stir-fries and in curries such as kaeng som.[11]

In the Philippines, where it is called kangkóng, the tender shoots are cut into segments and cooked, together with the leaves, in fish and meat stews, such as sinigang. The vegetable is also commonly eaten alone. In adobong kangkóng (also called apan-apan), it is sautéed in cooking oil, onions, garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce.[12] In ensaladang kangkóng (or kinilaw na kangkóng), it is blanched and served in vinegar or calamansi juice and fresh tomatoes and onions with salt and pepper to taste.[13][14] In binagoongang kangkóng (or ginisang kangkóng), it is sautéed with garlic and topped with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste) or bagoong isda (fermented fish) and sliced fresh tomatoes and onions, commonly also with cubed crispy liempo (pork belly) or pork adobo. It can also be spiced with siling haba or siling labuyo peppers, soy sauce, black pepper, and sugar. It differs from adobong kangkóng in that it does not use vinegar.[15][16][17][18] A local appetiser called crispy kangkóng has the leaves coated in a flour-based batter and fried until crisp, similar to Japanese vegetable tempura.[19][20]

Health effects[edit]

If harvested from contaminated areas and eaten raw, I. aquatica may transmit Fasciolopsis buski, an intestinal fluke parasite of humans and pigs, causing fasciolopsiasis.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gupta, A.K. (2013). "Ipomoea aquatica". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2013: e.T168908A1252058. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T168908A1252058.en. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Kangkong / Ipomoea aquatica Forsk./ POTATO VINE / Herbal Medicinal Therapies / Philippine Alternative Medicine". Stuartxchange.org. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Growing kangkong in water". curiousgardener.com.
  4. ^ "Kangkungking.com". Kangkungking.com. Archived from the original on 20 November 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Federal Noxious Weed List". USDA. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Ipomoea aquatica Forssk. swamp morning-glory". plants.usda.gov. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  7. ^ "Texas Invasives". texasinvasives.org.
  8. ^ Gunasekera Lalith. Invasive Plants, A Guide to the Identification of the Most Invasive Plants in Sri Lanka, Colombo 2009.
  9. ^ "Water spinach and coconut stir-fry (kankun mallung)". SBS Food.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 June 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Nutritional composition of traditional Thai foods used local vegetables" (PDF). Archived from the original on 12 December 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  12. ^ Piccio, Belle. "Apan-apan: The Dish Reflective of the Tradition of Ilonggo Farmers". Choose Philippines. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Ensaladang Kangkong". Mely's Kitchen. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Ensaladang Kangkong". Overseas Pinoy Cooking. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Binagoongang Kangkong". Pinoy Hapagkainan. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  16. ^ "Spicy Stir-Fry Kangkong with Bagoong". Pinoy Kitchenette. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Kangkong with Bagoong". Filpino Style Recipe. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Kangkong with Bagoong Recipe". Panlasang Pinoy. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  19. ^ "Crispy Kangkong Recipe (River Spinach) - Filipino Recipes Portal". Pinoyrecipe.net. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  20. ^ "Crispy Spinach Recipe". Panlasang Pinoy. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Transmission: a Case Study of the Vuon-Ao-Chung Agricultural System on the Mekong Delta of Vietnam". Stanford University. 28 April 2002. Retrieved 13 January 2014.

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