Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published September 17, 2000.)
Q: Why is it against the law to grow morning glories in Arizona?
A: It is? Uh-oh. Excuse us. We have to dash home for a few minutes.
Yes, indeed, it is against Arizona law to grow morning glories. As far as we know, no one has ever been sent up for this offense, nor have there ever been, that we are aware of, turf struggles between elements of the criminal underclass vying to control the morning glory trade.
Nonetheless, it turns out that beneath its happy, colorful flowers beat the roots of a really nasty plant. According to Ed Northam, noxious-weed manager for the state Department of Agriculture, morning glories are “very aggressive, very invasive and very competitive.” In this, they remind us of our masters.
Turned loose in a field of cotton or some other crop,morning glories “can get so dense and thick that it can be very difficult or even impossible to harvest the crop,” Northam said. They can turn into a “tangled mass of hundreds and hundreds of vines in a square yard.”
There are a few native species of morning glory that are legal to grow in Arizona, but Northam said if you see a packet of morning glory seeds in a store or nursery, chances are pretty good that they are a banned variety. Inspectors are always checking for this and other banned plants, but some are bound to get through.
If his crews do find a patch of morning glories, Northam said, they work with the landowner to have them removed. If necessary, the state can have the growth killed off and bill the landowner for the work.