showy vine on Jefferson Market Garden fence

Ipomoea alba

I was walking about the West Village this afternoon when I spotted this gorgeous plant garlanding the high metal fence surrounding the lush Jefferson Market Garden. I immediately thought of one of my childhood favorites (and always a guaranteed gardening success), the Morning Glory, although this was clearly not my Michigan friend.

Just now I Googled "vine with large white flowers" and discovered I had seen and photographed a "Moon Vine", or "Moonflower" (Ipomoea alba). It's "a species of night-blooming morning-glory", according to Wikipedia, where I also learned that it may grow to 100 feet, given the appropriate host.

But the plant isn't just a pretty face and a tall drink of water: Ipomoea alba played an historic role in the history of rubber:

The ancient Mesoamerican civilizations used the Ipomoea alba morning glory to convert the latex from the Castilla elastica tree and the guayule plant to produce bouncing rubber balls. The sulfur in this morning glory served to vulcanize the rubber, a process pre-dating Charles Goodyear's discovery by at least 3,000 years.

But why is a tall person a "tall drink of water"? I've noticed a lot of silly ideas about this very-old-fashioned expression on line, but the phrase (one of my favorites) was always pretty clear to me, even as a child: Obviously if a very tall person took a drink of water, it would have a lot longer to go to reach the stomach.