The Bind Of Bindweed ~ Beauty Over Strangulation?


This lovely flower can be a monumental pest if it finds its way into garden borders. It belongs to the convolvulus family, and comes in several varieties, some of which have smaller pink and white striped trumpets. This, I think, is hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium and it is presently spreading beside the field path. Like its cousins, its plant-strangling capacity knows no bounds, and if you try to dig it up and leave the tiniest scrap of the plant behind, in an eye’s blink, you will have a brand new bindweed. Or maybe several.

Richard Mabey in Flora Britannica suggests that some of its many vernacular names reflect the degree of horticultural nuisance. Snake’s meat and Devil’s guts are certainly blunt expressions of gardener antipathy.  But there are picturesque names too. E.g.  Lady-jump-out-of-bed, and Granny-jumps-out-of-bed seem to derive from a children’s game: ‘Grandmother, grandmother, pop out of bed’ a refrain chanted while pinching out the base of the flower and watching the trumpet float to the ground like an old-fashioned nightgown on the loose. Sometimes the Grandmother is a Nanny Goat. There is also: Lazy Maisy jumps out of bed.

Other imaginative names include Old Man’s Nightcap, Poor Man’s Lily, White Witch’s Hat, Bridal Gown and Belle of the Ball, and then there are numerous variations of bindweed: Barbine, Bellbind, Withywind, Waywind.

When it comes to eradication, the Royal Horticultural Society does not hold out much hope for simply digging it out. Chemicals seem the only answer, but they do suggest a method of damage limitation, glyphosate-wise. This involves sticking garden canes into the soil near any bindweed eruption, thereby encouraging it to grow up the cane. Later you can unwind it onto bare soil and spot-treat it without harming other plants.

Or you could just live with it, and try to keep it under control. I have the hedge variety in the guerrilla garden. It keeps winding up the crab apple tree, and I keep hoiking it out. I also have the smaller pink and white striped ground-creeping variety in several places on my allotment plot. This is field bindweed or Convolvulus arvensis and I’ve become quite adept at digging it out, which checks it, but does not remove it entirely. At the moment it is also in flower and really very pretty. So I guess it will be staying.  For now.



43 thoughts on “The Bind Of Bindweed ~ Beauty Over Strangulation?

  1. There’s a mauve/purple variety that we have out here called a something-or-other lantern.Serious pain-in- the-aspidistras and classified as an ”invader”.

      1. Just to be perverse, I have sown some morning glory seeds in my garden this year. It doesn’t survive the first frost here, and often doesn’t get beyond being nibbled by slugs. But then that could be a different story if our climate gets warmer. As with much else in life, it might be a question of take care what you sow.

      2. You see it quite regularly over here, especially in places where our Magnificent Municipality is not quite up to speed.
        I have to wait ’til it flowers to spot the thing then go on the rampage!
        I am trying my darndest to substitute as much foreign as I can with indigenous. Sneak it under the Wife Radar! As they say out here: Local is Lekker!

  2. Shame it’s a thug. 🙂 🙂 None in the garden but lots along the cliff tops and in the hedgerows. I have a fondness for she of the pink tip. And what uproarious games they played with nightgowns, in the days before TV.

  3. I love all these names! And it is a pretty flower. Someone on a cut flower Facebook group said that white vinegar is as effective as weedkiller.

    1. I noticed lots of similar posts saying this when I was googling. The general consensus appeared to be that it didn’t. A clinical trial is clearly called for. Thanks, Ali.

  4. It has totally taken over around here. I think it may have choked out the wild grapevine and the Virginia creeper. We used to call it “wild honeysuckle.” It does have a lovely scent, but it’s a serious pest and it moves so fast it can tie you to your bedposts between midnight and dawn.

  5. Is there a copper-sulphate blue version? I seem to remember mounds of it beside the railway line on the way to school a lifetime ago. You and Mabey are sheer delight. Those names! (And I just read the comments – morning glory it was!)

  6. As much as I try to avoid any chemicals in the garden I do use Roundup gel as I can target the plants I want to kill without harming anything close by. Bindweed and hogweed are my main targets because I cannot get the roots out of either of these weeds. Just a dab on a leaf or two works.

  7. Such a pretty, harmless looking flower for a plant with such deadly and ruthlessly unstoppable traits. We have the Morning Glory over here that can just devastate the bush, totally smothering it

      1. Lots of examples of environmental disasters in Australia. Rabbits, cane toads, foxes just to name a few and lots of plants.

  8. Yes, Roundup works. It is a strong chemical mace, and you have to be very careful with it. I put it in a glass and have wetted the leaves of the field bindweed, in German: Ackerwinde. That’s how I got her out of my garden a few years ago.

    1. Water hyacinth is another rogue beauty causing devastation all over the place, far from its South American home where there are natural checks to its expansion.

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