Hedge Bindweed
Calystegia sepium
Morning Glory family (Convolvulaceae)

Description: A native perennial vine that is up to 10' long, often climbing over other herbaceous plants and shrubs. The twining stems are light green or red, upon which the leaves occur rather sparsely. These leaves are about 4-5" and 2-3" across when mature. They often have an arrowhead shape, which is deeply incised at the base. Otherwise, they are cordate, deltoid, or ovate, with different forms occurring even on the same plant. The flowering buds are white or light lavender, from which funnel-shaped flowers unfurl that assume the same colors. Each flower is about 2½-3" across and has a yellow throat, from which the sexual organs barely protrude, appearing as a small white spike. The flowers open during the morning, and bloom sporadically all summer during sunny weather. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous, and may extend into the ground up to 10'. American Bindweed spreads vegetatively and by seeds.

Cultivation: This is an easy and adaptable plant, preferring full to partial sun, and moist to slightly dry conditions. It tolerates poor soil, and often flourishes in soil that is rocky or gravelly. American Bindweed readily climbs a trellis, fences, and neighboring plants, while in open areas it sprawls haphazardly across the ground. The climbing ability is the result of the stems twining tightly about slender objects. This plant can spread aggressively and become a nuisance in some locations.

Range & Habitat: Hedge Bindweed occurs throughout Illinois, especially in the central and northern areas (see Distribution Map). It is considered a noxious weed in a few states, but is not listed as such in Illinois. In natural areas, this plant occurs at the edges of moist to slightly dry prairies, thickets, woodland borders, and areas along lakes. Habitats in developed areas include cropland, pastures, abandoned fields, fence rows, urban waste areas, or areas along roadsides and railroads, where it is frequently encountered. Hedge Bindweed is more common in disturbed areas.

Faunal Associations: Long-tongued bees are the primary pollinators of the flowers, including bumblebees, Little Carpenter bees, and the oligoleges Melitoma taurea (Mallow Bee), Peponapis pruinosa pruinosa (Squash & Gourd Bee), and Cemolobus ipomoea (Morning Glory Bee). It is possible that day-flying Sphinx moths may visit the flowers during the morning. All of these insects seek nectar. The foilage is eaten by the caterpillars of Emmelina monodictyla (Common Plume Moth), as well as several Tortoise Beetles, including Chelymorpha cassidea (Argus Tortoise Beetle). Mammalian herbivores tend to ignore this plant when other food sources are available. To a limited extent, the Bobwhite and Ring-Necked Pheasant eat the seeds.

Photographic Location: The photographs were taken along a railroad in Urbana, Illinois.

Comments: Some greenhouse studies (Quinn, 1974) indicate that Hedge Bindweed has allelopathic tendencies, which no doubt contributes to its aggressive nature. The flowers are showy and attractive when fully open. This plant also occurs in the Old World; different varieties have been identified.