Railroad Vines For Beach Erosion Control

Railroad Vine Flower

Railroad vine grows on sand dunes in many tropical and subtropical regions. Here in the states it can be found on beaches from Georgia to Texas. We recently had the chance to snap a few photos of railroad vines when we spent some time on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The views looking out over the ocean are fantastic, but the railroad vines lavender flowers and bright green foliage are a pretty impressive sight to see spreading out on the sand.
They can cover up to 100 feet; however the ones we saw were only about 15 to 25 feet long. When I started researching this plant at Floridata, I discovered that the flowers on this perennial only last one day. But they are repeat bloomers all year long.

Railroad Vine Flower
Railroad Vine Flower

Fast growing and drought tolerant, they are often found growing with…

Sea Oats
sea oats (uniola paniculata)
Dune Sunflower
dune sunflowers (helianthus debillis)
Sea Purslane
and sea purslane (sesuvium portulacastrum)

on the dunes, just above the high tide line.

Railroad vine spreading across the beach
Railroad vine spreading across the beach

The railroad vine (ipomoea pes-caprae) is important to dune erosion control. Roots up to two inches in diameter and ten feet long grow from the nodes of the vine.
During our visit, we saw several signs directing people to use the beach crossovers. It was easy to see the damage caused by people climbing the dunes looking for a short cut back to higher ground.

Beaches are fragile environments. One would not think so since the railroad vine, sea oats and the others can tolerate the extreme heat, salt, wind and dry conditions. It’s the impact that humans have when visiting the beach that threatens the dune eco-system.

If you are fortunate to visit any of the beaches from Georgia to Texas, be sure to look for railroad vines. They are easy to spot. Just look for their bright pink to purple flowers stretching out over the sand.

railroad vine (ipomoea pes-caprae)
Railroad Vine (ipomoea pes-caprae)

Keep in mind that Ipomoea pes-caprae helps keep that pretty beach you are visiting alive and healthy.  To remind visitors at the park of the importance these plants,  there was a poster displayed with a  quote by Mary King that explained things quite simply.

“Sand dunes are born when wind and waves from the ocean (or gulf) deposit organic matter onto the sand. The matter embeds in the sand and begins to grow.  During the summer, more and more sand is trapped by the propagating plant life. Low-growing tough plants with extensive root systems (called rhizomes) develop, preventing small dunes from breaking down during high tide. As the growing process continues, larger plants trap more sand. More sand grows larger plants. Year after year the cycle continues.”

Protect Our Dunes Sign
Protect Our Dunes

Respect the dunes and the dunes will reward us all with wonderful plants to enjoy.

Railroad Vine Flower
Railroad Vine Flower

Happy Gardening,
Dave and Trish

To read the complete article about beach erosion from Mary King, follow this link at Suite101.

Two Florida gardeners living in a sub-tropical paradise. Find us on Google+!


    1. Summers…? Maybe. But winters…………definitely not.
      However, I’ve been to Colorado and Mother Nature has done quite a fine job of providing you with some wonderfully scenic “natural” gardens! There must be a flowering vine that would thrive in your area and offer you just as much enjoyment as the Railroad Vines do for us in Florida. Gardeners are persistent.
      Thanks for commenting and good luck!
      Anyone know of a cold weather, higher altitude vine?

  1. I love this vine.
    Im in Orlando and I have it all over my landscape to replace useing mulch.
    It grows like crazy and easy to trim and push the trim into the soil to start more. No special tools needed. The trim piece will start to grow in days

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