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The Hedge Bindweed or Morning Glory: An Invasive Plant

Updated on October 11, 2017
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton is a science teacher with an honors degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about animals and plants.

Hedge bindweed flowers
Hedge bindweed flowers | Source

A Beautiful and Invasive Vine

The hedge bindweed is an annoying vine that most people hate to see in their gardens. The stem grows rapidly and twines around other plants as it elongates. It eventually forms dense, leafy tangles that are difficult to remove and can interfere with the growth of the encircled plants.

The young hedge bindweed grows horizontally at first, its stem winding around other objects that it encounters. These objects may be plants or inanimate objects. If the bindweed encounters a vertical support it becomes a climbing plant and spirals around the support as it climbs. Bindweed “binds” objects as it encircles them, giving the plant its traditional name.

I live in British Columbia, where hedge bindweed is an introduced plant. It's invasive and a nuisance, but it does have one attractive quality. In the summer it produces large, trumpet shaped flowers which are white in colour and very beautiful. These flowers open in the morning and close in the evening and in dim light, giving the bindweed its alternate name of morning glory. (Some cultivated relatives of the hedge bindweed have this name as well.) Other lovely names for this plant include heavenly trumpets, bugle vine, and bellbind. All of the photos of the plant in this article were taken by me.

A hedge bindweed with blackberry flowers
A hedge bindweed with blackberry flowers

The Morning Glory Family

The morning glories or bindweeds belong to the Convolvulaceae family of plants, which contains many different species. All of them have the trumpet or funnel shaped flower of the hedge bindweed, but the flowers of some species are brightly coloured instead of white. Some of these are popular garden plants. Most of the plants in the family—although not all of them—have winding stems. The name of the family comes from the Latin word "convolvere", which means "to wind".

A very popular member of the morning glory family is the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatus). Its edible root is starchy, sweet, and nutritious. White-fleshed and orange-fleshed varieties of sweet potato are available. The orange-fleshed kind is sometimes called a yam in stores, but true yams belong to a different family of plants. Sweet potatoes have purple flowers or white-rimmed flowers with a purple throat, depending on the species.

Side view of hedge bindweed flowers
Side view of hedge bindweed flowers

The Hedge Bindweed

The scientific name of the hedge bindweed is Calystegia sepium. The plant is native to eastern North America and is an introduced plant in British Columbia (and in many other parts of the world). In BC, it's classified as an invasive plant, a noxious weed, or a nuisance plant, depending on the organization that's classifying the bindweed.

Whatever label is used to describe it, hedge bindweed is a very annoying plant when it grows where it's not wanted. It lives in a variety of habitats, including gardens, fields, beside roadways and trails, and in open woodlands. Interestingly, the plant is not classified as a nuisance everywhere in North America.

Hedge bindweed is a perennial plant. Its roots are quite shallow, but they spread sideways and branch extensively. The horizontal "roots'' are actually underground stems, which are known as rhizomes. The rhizomes develop buds which produce shoots that emerge from the soil.

Hedge bindweed leaves and stems
Hedge bindweed leaves and stems

Stems and Leaves

An above-ground stem of bindweed may be as long as three meters (about ten feet). If a stem is traced from its base towards its tip we can see that the stem spirals around its support in a counterclockwise direction.

The large leaves of the hedge bindweed are shaped like arrow heads. They have a pointed tip and two extensions or lobes at their base which are often called "dog ears". The leaves are green on their upper surface and grey-green on their lower surface. They are attached to the stem by long petioles. The leaves hang from the petioles at an angle of almost ninety degrees.

Hedge Bindweed or Calystegia sepium

The video above shows some lovely scenes involving hedge bindweed. At one point the narrator says that the plant is edible but should be eaten in small quantities because it's a purgative (laxative). Health professionals say that eating bindweed may be an unsafe practice.

Multiple bindweed flowers
Multiple bindweed flowers

Flowers and Fruits

The tubular flower is made of fused petals which are pleated or creased. The outermost, flattened section of the flower is known as the rim. The rim may be curled backwards at its edge. The inside of the tube is known as the throat. There are two leafy bracts at the base of the flower.

The flowers near my home have a white rim and a yellow-green throat. Some bindweed flowers have a pale pink flower with white stripes. A number of different subspecies of hedge bindweed exist, each with slightly different characteristics.

The showy flowers of bindweed are big, bright, and beautiful but have no scent. A wall or carpet of hedge bindweed with many open flowers is an attractive sight. The fruit of the plant is a capsule and contains one to four seeds, which are usually brown or black when they are mature.

One of the two bracts that were at the base of the flower has been removed, showing the fruit inside.
One of the two bracts that were at the base of the flower has been removed, showing the fruit inside.

Field Bindweed

Hedge bindweed is often confused with the field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis. The easiest way to distinguish one plant from the other is to look at the flowers and the leaves. In the field bindweed, the two bracts below the flower are located one half to two inches down the flower stem instead of at the base of the flower. In addition, the tip of a field bindweed leaf is a rounded point instead of a sharp point and the basal lobes of the leaf are pointed instead of having the cut-off appearance of a hedge bindweed leaf.

Although hedge bindweed is a nuisance, it's considered to be less invasive than field bindweed. Someone battling hedge bindweed on their property would probably disagree with this observation, though.

Close-up photo of a hedge bindweed flower
Close-up photo of a hedge bindweed flower

An Invasive Plant

Once hedge bindweed becomes established in an area it's very hard to remove. Bindweed grows between other plants as well as over them. This prevents the other plants from getting all the nutrients and light that they need. It also makes it tricky to remove the bindweed without damaging the supporting plants. Sometimes the cover of bindweed is so dense that it causes the collapse of a supporting plant and kills it.

Hedge bindweed stops growing in winter and the leaves die. The plant itself hasn't died, though. In summer it becomes active again and the buds on the rhizomes produce new shoots.

Young bindweed flowers emerging from the bracts as well as bracts that have lost their flowers
Young bindweed flowers emerging from the bracts as well as bracts that have lost their flowers

Fighting Bindweed

If someone wants to remove bindweed by physical means, it's necessary to remove all of the root and rhizomes so that the plant can't regenerate. This is hard to do, since the rhizomes are very long. Even a small section left in the soil can generate a new shoot.

It's important to be vigilant and remove any young bindweed that emerge from the soil. This will be a much easier task then trying to remove mature bindweed that has become entwined around other plants. The removal process needs to be done consistently as new shoots arise from seeds or bits of rhizome.

Another physical way to remove hedge bindweed is to cover all the above ground parts with dark plastic or some other opaque substance, blocking them from light. This will eventually starve the plant, since its leaves can't make new food and the root will run out of stored food. There are herbicides that can be used as well if a person doesn't mind using chemical control.

The winding stem of a bindweed
The winding stem of a bindweed

How to Remove Bindweed

Bindweed Battle and Beauty

The battle with unwanted bindweed is likely to be a long one. The seeds can survive for years in the soil and small pieces of root or rhizome can produce new shoots. However, frequent inspection of an area and dealing with "outbreaks" as soon as they're seen will enable someone to stay in control, as I know from experience. The job becomes harder If a person has a larger area to inspect, though.

Hedge bindweed can definitely be a nuisance. I always pause to look at the plant's flowers when I discover them on a walk, though. Despite bindweed's annoying and sometimes destructive habit of covering other plants, it's hard for me to ignore the beauty of its flowers. The term "morning glory" is very apt.

A hedge bindweed flower
A hedge bindweed flower

References

Calystegia sepium facts from the University of British Columbia

Hedge bindweed information from the Royal Horticultural Society

Hedge bindweed safety concerns when eaten from WebMD.

© 2012 Linda Crampton

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    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Janice. If the morning glory is actually a hedge bindweed, then it might kill your plant.

    • profile image

      janice 3 months ago

      Will the morning glory kill my rhode of dendrum

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I don't know what the bugs are, but if they were in my garden I'd want them out as soon as possible, too!

    • profile image

      Dawn 4 months ago

      I noticed the tiny bugs on one of your pictures. I have this vine growing next to my pool. It smells bad and those little bugs swarm our deck. What are they??? Definitely going to smother and pull this out asap!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a lovely idea for honouring your pets, MsLizzy. The blue morning glory should look beautiful.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 5 months ago from Oakley, CA

      Hmmm...I just bought some Blue Morning Glory seeds to plant in front of an ugly wire fence...it will make a pretty backdrop for our pets' resting places. Right now, it's mostly bare dirt and miserable foxtail grass around their stones. I have weeded that out, and if the pretty blue Morning Glory chokes out the foxtails, then I'll jump for joy! There are no other plants in the area, so I'm not worried about invasion.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 14 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Carole. Roots and seeds will grow new plants very easily, especially in the growing season, but deliberately planting them could lead to a big problem. The plant often spreads easily and can be very invasive. It's hard to get rid of once it's established!

    • profile image

      Carole 14 months ago

      Found some and got a few roots. Can I dry the seed and plant in dirt? If yes, when is best time?

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Yes, I agree, ologsinquito. Bindweed does have a very pretty flower.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      Although they're considered invasive in BC, they sure are pretty plants.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, LauraC. I think that the hedge bindweed has gorgeous flowers too, although the plant itself can definitely be very annoying! The flowers are so beautiful when they all open at the same time. Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      LauraC 5 years ago

      I live in Nova Scotia, and noticed this vine wrapping up some new sumacs on our property. Since sumacs are easily grown, I left the vine alone, hoping for beautiful flowers. I now have them!! I think I might build a small fence for it to climb next year, as it's nowhere near my garden, and I enjoy the late summer flowers. Thanks for the info. on this amazing{yet annoying} plant! : )

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, unknown spy. The hedge bindweed does have a beautiful flower! It's so big and showy.

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      seen this plant before..but i can't remember where..i think on abandoned places..nice flower, very white.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, sgbrown. Thanks for the visit. Yes, the term "morning glory" is used for several different flowers in the family. I would love to have the type that you have in my garden - hummingbirds are such beautiful birds!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Jennifer. Yes, it's amazing how much the hedge bindweed grows when we leave home for a few days! Thank you for the comment, as well as the votes and shares. It's great to meet you!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Lesley. Thank you very much for the comment, the vote and the share! I think it's such a shame that bindweed spreads so fast - the flower is so attractive.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I have morning glorys in some of my flower beds, growing up trellaces. I really enjoy them. They can be evasive, but I just pull them up where I don't want them. My morning glorys must be a different type as they do not grow from rhizomes. My hummingbirds love them!

    • Jennifer Stone profile image

      Jennifer Stone 5 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      I have a constant battle with bindweed in my garden, (I now know it's the hedge variety), and your information here is interesting and useful! Although the flowers are lovely, it just grows so quickly, and if I'm away for a few days, I come back to the job of carefully unwinding it from my shrubs and flowers. I had absolutely no idea it is related to the sweet potato! Great hub, many votes and shared! All the best from the riverbank, Jen

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Alicia, it certainly is a very invasive and nuisance plant, but that flower is so pretty!

      A wonderful, detailed article and great photos, thank you, voted up and shared.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      That's interesting, Ericdierker! I can understand how bindweed would be a nice plant to look at in an area where not many other plants grow, or in an area where other plants are hard to care for. Thank you for the comment.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you, this is a very nice article. We don't have that much here on the southwestern coastal area. When I was growing up it grew everywhere - Flagstaff, Arizona at about 7,000 feet, but only for about 2 months a year. That area is mostly high desert, so the plant was enjoyed as one that grew by itself without watering.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Tom. I would like to grow some members of the morning glory family in my garden, too. The cultivated species look like lovely plants! Thanks for the comment and the votes, Tom.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, i do love the Morning Glory because they are so beautiful and will grow them in the back of my yard so the have the freedom to grow and spread has they please.

      Well done ! Vote up and more !!!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Yes, hedge bindweed is definitely a different kind of morning glory! It does have lovely flowers, but it spreads rapidly, and once you think you've removed it all it reappears! I've seen photos of blue morning glories - they look beautiful. Thanks for the comment and the votes, Peggy.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Years ago before we had planted much shrubbery at a former home of ours we planted the blue morning glory vines against a back fence. It was beautiful to look at as it became covered with blue flowers. It was not hard to remove when we planted shrubs instead. Must be a different variety of morning glory? Never knew the alternate term of bindweed. It is descriptive! Up and interesting votes.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, drbj. Yes, I think the flowers are beautiful, too. It's lovely to see them when they are wide open. It is a shame that the plant itself is such a problem!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      The morning glory flower is so beautiful, Alicia, what a shame it is such an invasive plant. Never knew before that this hardy vine is named hedge bindweed.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Bill. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Bindweed can certainly be a problem! I see huge mounds of it sometimes.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It can most certainly take over. I've seen it climb a hundred foot cedar with no problem. Interesting hub; well done.