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Cypress Vine

Ipomoea quamoclit

Thomas Jefferson was the first person to cite this plant in America.[2] While in Philadelphia in December 1790, he sent a collection of seeds to Monticello that included "some seed of the Cypress vine for Patsy" (his eldest daughter, Martha). The following March, Martha wrote back that she and "Polly" (his daughter, Maria) had "planted the cypress vine in boxes in the window," perhaps to serve as houseplants.[3] This tender annual vine, native to tropical America, and noted in Italy in the 1500s, was known among 18th-century Virginia gardeners. Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon offered seed for sale in 1804, calling it "Wing'd leaved Ipomoea." The Cypress Vine is a Morning Glory relative with star-shaped scarlet and white flowers that provide a vivid contrast to plant's lacy green foliage. Like the Morning Glory, the Cypress vine will twine up a trellis, pole, young tree, fence, or, as we use at Monticello, four-foot-high branches or "pea sticks" pruned from our own trees.

The true cypress vine is often confused with a related species, cardinal climber (Ipomoea coccinea), which does not have the distinctive lacy foliage. Cypress is a summer-flowering, annual vine with slender, bright scarlet, star-shaped flowers and delicate, lacy, deep green foliage.

Primary Source References[4]

1791 January 16. (Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson). "I am extremely obliged to you for the cypress vine which with a bundle of seeds I found in rumaging up some drawer in the chamber...'[5]

1807 November 9. (Ann Cary Randolph Bankhead to Jefferson). "Mrs. Lewis has promised me some seed of the Cypress vine..."[6]

1808 January 22. (Ann Cary Randolph Bankhead to Jefferson). "I was at Mrs. Lewis's on my way from the North Garden she told me she had saved some of the seed of the Cypress vine for you..."[7]


  1. This section is based on a Center for Historic Plant Information Sheet.
  2. Denise Wiles Adams, Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc., 2004), 144.
  3. Lawrence D. Griffith, Flowers and Herbs of Early America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 48. For Jefferson letters, see Betts, Garden Book, 155 and 161. See also Edwin M. Betts, Hazlehurst Bolton Perkins, and Peter J. Hatch. Thomas Jefferson's Flower Garden at Monticello, 3rd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986), 63-64.
  4. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  5. PTJ, 18:500.
  6. Betts, Garden Book, 353.
  7. Ibid, 363.

Further Sources

Growth Type: 
Reds (Scarlet),White
Hardiness Zones: 
Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5, Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9, Zone 10
Location at Monticello: 
West Lawn
Planting Conditions: 
Partial Shade
Blooming History: 
2001 Jul 7 to 2001 Nov 12002 Jul 5 to 2002 Nov 152003 Jul 24 to 2003 Oct 172004 Jul 29 to 2004 Oct 222005 Aug 9 to 2005 Nov 22006 Jun 30 to 2006 Oct 272007 Jul 6 to 2007 Oct 262008 Aug 1 to 2008 Oct 312009 Jul 22 to 2009 Oct 62010 Aug 1 to 2010 Dec 12011 Jun 28 to 2011 Oct 132012 Aug 24 to 2012 Oct 242013 Jul 4 to 2013 Oct 302014 Jun 16 to 2014 Oct 312015 Jul 28 to 2015 Oct 72016 Jun 17 to 2016 Oct 142017 Aug 24 to 2017 Nov 32018 Jun 20
Visit Monticello’s Online Shop to check for seeds or plants of Cypress Vine.


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