This year, like most years, my father planted some Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba), hoping they would grow up the cedar trellises, built by my late grandfather, that stand against the railing on my folks’ back porch. And, unlike most years, he’s had a bumper crop of the giant, fragrant, nocturnal blossoms, topping out at 15 in one night. Sitting on the porch in the evening listening to a distant Carolina Wren singing is now made all the better by the pervasive scent of the gorgeous, moth-pollinated flowers.

Moonflower

To take advantage of the moths that pollinate them, Moonflowers, sometimes referred to as Moon Vines or Giant White Moonflowers, open in the evening and curl up and die when the sun rises. While they last they fill the air with a wonderful smell, again, not meant for human enjoyment, but to attract moths. But one needn’t be a moth to appreciate their delicate and quickly-passing beauty.

Moonflower Opening

The Moonflower above is just opening, a process that occurs remarkably quickly. In fact Moonflowers open in about one minute’s time. You can see one opening in this video. Their lush, large-leaved vines flourish in the direct sunlight that the blossoms avoid and can be grown anywhere their close relative, the Morning Glory, grows. And, though eating their seeds does not cause hallucinations like the Morning Glory’s seeds do, they are poisonous if ingested.

Moonflower stamina

stamina of the Moonflower

So if you have an ugly fence or something else you want covered up with some nice climbing foliage consider the Moonflower. You won’t regret it and neither will your neighborhood moths.

Moonflowers

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.