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Hedge Bindweed or Wild Morning Glory: An Invasive Plant in BC

Linda Crampton is a writer and teacher with an honors degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about living things.

Hedge bindweed flowers

Hedge bindweed flowers

A Beautiful and Invasive Vine

The hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) is an annoying vine that most people hate to see in their gardens where I live. 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 that are white in colour and very beautiful. These flowers open in the morning and close in the afternoon or evening and in dim light, giving the plant the alternate name of wild morning glory. 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

Other names for the hedge bindweed include heavenly trumpets, bugle vine, bellbind, wild morning glory, hedge morning glory, great bindweed, and false hedge bindweed. Since there are so many common names for the plant, identifying it by its scientific name is useful (and sometimes important) when reading about it.

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 and often have the term "morning glory" in their name. 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 (the Dioscoreaceae). Sweet potatoes have purple flowers or white-rimmed flowers with a purple throat, depending on the variety.

Side view of hedge bindweed flowers

Side view of hedge bindweed flowers

The Hedge Bindweed

Calystegia sepium is native to eastern North America and is an introduced plant in British Columbia. Some people claim that it's native to other areas. Its history is a little murky. The plant can be found in Europe, Asia, and New Zealand as well as in the United States and Canada. In BC, it's classified as an invasive plant, a noxious weed, or a nuisance plant, depending on the organization that's classifying it. It's also classified as invasive in at least part of Washington in the United States. Washington is British Columbia's southern neighbour.

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, especially in the eastern portion of the continent. Some people actually like its ability to cover unsightly objects and appreciate the beauty of its flowers.

The plant is a perennial. Its roots may be quite deep, but this is not the only problem with respect to its underground parts. The structures that look like horizontal roots are actually underground stems, which are known as rhizomes. The rhizomes spread sideways and branch extensively. They develop buds and 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 metres (about ten feet) or sometimes even longer. The large leaves of the plant 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, sometimes at an angle of almost ninety degrees.

The video above shows some lovely scenes involving hedge bindweed. At one point the narrator says that the plant should be eaten in small quantities because it's a purgative (laxative). Health professionals say that eating bindweed may be an unsafe practice, especially for some people and in certain situations. More detail is given in the last reference at the end of this article.

Multiple bindweed flowers

Multiple bindweed flowers

Flowers and Fruits

The tubular flower is made of five fused petals that 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, which cover the sepals.

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 subspecies of hedge bindweed exist, each with slightly different characteristics.

The showy flowers of the plant are big, bright, and beautiful. They have no scent that can be detected by humans. A wall or carpet of hedge bindweed with many open flowers is an attractive sight. The flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects. 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, or Convolvulus arvensis. The easiest way to distinguish one species from the other is to look at the flowers. In the field bindweed, the two bracts below the flower are located one half to two inches down the flower stem instead of immediately at the base of the flower. In addition, the field bindweed has smaller flowers, leaves, and bracts and a weaker stem than its relative.

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. Either plant can be a problem.

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 doesn't die, 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

How to Remove 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 emerges from the soil. This will be a much easier task than trying to remove mature bindweed that has become entwined around other plants. The removal needs to be done consistently as new shoots arise from seeds or bits of rhizome. The process will probably take more than one season.

Another method that reportedly gets rid of hedge bindweed is to cover all of the above ground parts with dark plastic or some other opaque substance, blocking them from light. This should eventually starve the plant, since its leaves can't make new food and the root will run out of stored food. The process sounds logical, but I've never tried this method of getting rid of bindweed. The video below describes the removal of the plant.

Specific herbicides can be used to destroy the plant if a person doesn't mind using chemical control. The dangers associated with a particular herbicide should be investigated. Biological control agents are available in some areas, but they may not be available to the public.

The winding stem of a bindweed

The winding stem of a 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. Frequent inspection of an area and dealing with "outbreaks" as soon as they're seen can enable someone to stay in control, however, as I know from experience. The job becomes harder if a person has a large area to inspect.

Hedge bindweed can definitely be a nuisance. I'm not happy when I see it in my garden. 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

  • Information about hedge bindweed from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (This site uses the older scientific name for the plant, which was Convolvulus sepium.)
  • Facts about Calystegia sepium in the eastern United States from the Native Plant Trust Go Botany Project
  • Invasive plants with biological control methods (including the hedge bindweed) from the Government of British Columbia
  • The hedge bindweed plant in King County, Washington
  • Facts about bindweed (hedge and field) from the Royal Horticultural Society
  • Hedge bindweed safety concerns when eaten from WebMD.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can I destroy bindweed and not my flowers?

Answer: My favorite methods of removing bindweed are to prune the vine at ground level as soon as a shoot appears and to dig up the underground parts. These processes have to be repeated, but, eventually, destroy the vine. The process may take two or more years, however. Vigilance and determination are needed.

Cutting the vine as soon as it appears above the soil will weaken the bindweed and stop it from surrounding desirable plants. A more permanent solution is to dig into the soil to remove the underground parts. This may be hard to do if other plants are growing in the area, but it’s the best way to get rid of the plant eventually.

© 2012 Linda Crampton

Comments

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 13, 2017:

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

janice on July 13, 2017:

Will the morning glory kill my rhode of dendrum

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 03, 2017:

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!

Dawn on June 03, 2017:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on April 29, 2017:

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

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on April 29, 2017:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 22, 2016:

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!

Carole on August 21, 2016:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 21, 2014:

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

ologsinquito from USA on August 21, 2014:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 15, 2012:

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.

LauraC on September 15, 2012:

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! : )

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 27, 2012:

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

Life Under Construction from Neverland on August 27, 2012:

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

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 27, 2012:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 27, 2012:

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!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 27, 2012:

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.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on July 27, 2012:

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 from the Riverbank, England on July 27, 2012:

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 from United Kingdom on July 27, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 26, 2012:

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.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 26, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 25, 2012:

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.

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 25, 2012:

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 !!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 25, 2012:

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 Woods from Houston, Texas on July 25, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 25, 2012:

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 and sherry from south Florida on July 25, 2012:

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.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 25, 2012:

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

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 25, 2012:

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

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