Convolvulaceae, Ipomoea aquatica, water spinach, bwere-mlungu (Chonyl), balanbal (Somali), chamarirobia (Sanya)
The prostrate, much-branched Ipomoea aquatica is a plant associated with wetlands, as the latin species name would indicate. The dirty green stems are hollow and fleshy with white sap, growing rather fat with hairy roots arising from nodes when the plant floats in the water.
The leaves are triangular to heart-shaped, growing up to 15 cm long. Flowers are mauve, purple or pink, and tubular.
In Africa this species grows from Somalia to West Africa and south to Nambia. It is widely distributed throughout other tropical areas of the world as well. Although present in areas of Latin America, one rarely sees it eaten as is common in Africa, South East Asia and China.
The plant likes wetlands, shallow lake basins, seasonally flooded depressions, lake shores, and swampy places.
The leaves are eaten as a vegetable. The leaf blades are separated from their leaf stalk and cooked for a few minutes. Leaves are typically mixed with other vegetables, such as cocoyam, pumpkin, okra and cowpea.
The species is also considered to be good fodder for most animals.
Be mindful that the consumption of I. aquatica have been reported to aggravate stomach ulcers, if you happen to be afflicted by such a condition.