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    Jawa Barat

Naming Identity

Kangkung air is scientifically known in Latin as Ipomoea aquatica. Internationally, in English, this plant is popular with the names swamp morning glory, Chinese water spinach, river spinach, water bindweed or water spinach.

In Malaysia, this plant is popularly known as kangkong, giau muong or rau muong in Vietnam and balanngong or cancong in the Philippines.

The specific name of the species, aquatica means aquatic which refers to its ability to grow in water (NParks | Ipomoea Aquatica, 2022).















Ipomoea aquatica


Until now, it is still not certain where exactly this plant came from. However, many reports, especially those written by Langeland and Burks (1998) believe that water kale comes from South Asia or China to be more precise. Another source states that kale may have come from India (“Ipomoea Aquatica (Swamp Morning-Glory),” 2022).

Now water spinach has been widely distributed in tropical areas in Southeast Asia, East Asia and South Asia, including Japan and Korea. Meanwhile, in Africa, kale can be found in Mauritania and Senegal as well as South Africa.

Shape Description and Habitat

Water spinach is a perennial semi-aquatic climbing herbaceous plant that can grow up to 3 meters long. The leaves are smooth and shaped like arrowheads and are one of the characteristics of this plant. Each of the alternate leaves can grow to a length of up to 5 to 15 cm and a width of up to 2 to 6 cm. Meanwhile, the leaf stalks can grow to a length of around 3 to 14 cm. As the name suggests, water spinach can grow in water with leaves that appear to float on the surface of the water.

The stems are hollow and contain milky sap. Meanwhile, the flowers are funnel-shaped with a width of approximately 5 cm and a length of 4 to 10 cm. Generally white, pink or light purple.

The fruit, which resembles a round or oval capsule, has a diameter of approximately 1 cm and contains 1 to 4 seeds. Each kale plant can produce around 175 to 245 seeds (NParks | Ipomoea Aquatica, 2022).

The habitat of water spinach is mainly in swamps, lakes, river banks, and marshes. This plant is said to grow best in warm and humid environments.

Water Spinach as Invasive Weed

Water spinach has been declared an invasive weed in the US and the Philippines because of its rapid growth and can cover the surface of waters and reduce the availability of light for other aquatic life such as phytoplankton  (NParks | Ipomoea Aquatica, 2022).

This plant has also been declared a serious weed that commonly occurs in rice and other crops in 60 tropical countries. Considered an invasive species on Pacific and Indian Ocean islands, in Cuba and the United States (California and Florida), water kale is the second biggest problem plant species in the Philippines because it tends to overgrow in marginal areas of fresh water. This species is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed in the US (“Ipomoea Aquatica (Morning-Glory Swamp),” 2022).

Benefits of Water Spinach for Health and Other Uses

In Indonesia, water spinach has become a culinary delicacy that is often found in various food dishes, both cooked and raw in the form of salads. This is mainly not only because the price is cheap and relatively easy to obtain but also because kale has many nutritional contents that are good for health.

100 grams of water spinach contains nutrients including calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin C, niacin and water. Calcium is the most abundant nutritional content in water spinach with as much as 73.00 mg per 100 grams (Indrawan, Aulia Puspasari, 2015).

In India, water spinach has been used as a mild laxative, to help treat ringworm and as a poultice in febrile delirium. Water spinach is also said to be relatively rich in S-methyl methionine (vitamin U)  and is used traditionally to treat stomach and intestinal disorders. Another property found in water kale is insulin which can act as an anti-hyperglycemic ("Ipomoea Aquatica (Swamp Morning-Glory)," 2022). The leaf extract can especially help reduce blood sugar in diabetes patients.

Another use of water kale apart from being a food ingredient and medicine for humans is as feed for cattle and pigs (NParks | Ipomoea Aquatica, 2022).

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