HEDGE BINDWEED (Calystegia sepium)

Bindweed is very aptly named: it binds itself, anti-clockwise, around any vertical plant within reach, and it is indeed, in the eyes of most gardeners and farmers, a weed which, with its long white roots, is not easy to eradicate. However, even its enemies will probably admit that the clear white flowers, sometimes tinged with pink, are most beautiful, the overlapping petals forming a complete funnel.

The poet John Clare, viewing the bindweed with unprejudiced eyes, wrote:

            I see the wild flowers, in their summer morn
            Of beauty, feeding on joy’s luscious hours:
            The gay convolvulus, wreathing round the thorn,
            Agape for honey showers…..

OK, poetic licence and all that, but bindweed can even sometimes perform a useful job by crawling up and hiding an eyesore, such as a chainlink fence....

Its smaller relative, Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) with pinkish flowers, is of more sprawling habit and is commonly found on cultivated land or on waste ground.

Both plants are of the Convolvulus family, of which there are other members easily identifiable from the same lovely flower-shape. Some (non-invasive) are prized by gardeners: the white-flowered silver-leaved shrub Convolvulus cneorum, and the half-hardy perennials C. sabatius (blue flowers) and C. althaeoides (pink), both of which make good pot plants.

Convolvulus sabatius

Convolvulus althaeoides

All of these three are native to the Mediterranean area.

Text by George Metcalfe. Photos by Colin Wootton and George Metcalfe.