Thursday, May 27, 2010

Low Bindweed

This Low Bindweed, Calystegia spithamaea, has a flower that everyone recognizes as belonging to the Mourning Glory Family. Now I can hear some of you groaning and saying “Here’s another poor plant he’s going to stomp, cut, pull or spray.” Well, despite the fact that it is a weed by common name and belongs to a family known for containing some of the most aggressive weeds around, this is a native plant that is welcome and protected at Blue Jay Barrens.

As the name suggests, this low growing plant rarely exceeds a foot in height. The flowers, which at casual glance appear to be located near the top of the plant, are carried aloft by long stems originating from the lower leaf axils. Plants very seldom have more than a single flower.

The five parted nature of the flower is easy to see. The divisions between the five lobes almost appear to be perforated. Lines through the center of each lobe form a five pointed star.

Low Bindweed is a perennial that primarily grows in dry rocky sites like you find on the barrens. It seems to be a peak year for this plant, possibly because of the extremely rainy May we’ve had. Weather conditions definitely play a part in plant development, but it’s not always clear what types and timing of weather conditions produce what effects. For some plants it’s the previous year’s weather that determines the current year’s growth.

Most of the plants have not produced any bloom. Many plants on the barrens take several years to mature to the point where they can produce a flower. It’s also common for mature plants to skip a year or two after flowering.

Some of the Low Bindweed plants are low to the extreme. This plant seems to have been nipped off by something. Since the flower originates from the lowest part of the plant, blooming was still possible. Loss of so many leaves will reduce this plant’s ability to produce and store energy for winter survival and spring growth. Different species of plants respond differently to this type of stress. Some will abort seed production in favor of keeping the plant alive. Others will put all energy into seed production in an effort to perpetuate the species by producing offspring. I don’t know if these responses are species specific or if they are the result of a certain set of environmental conditions.


  1. I'm glad to hear you address the fact that some plants aren't considered invasive in some areas. ~karen

  2. This is obviously different from a more vining/crawling variety of Bindweed that I'm familiar with (Field Bindweed, perhaps?). Although I think maybe I've seen this one, too - not 100%, though. I got to meet Gordon Gilmore today (AKA Dr. Dirt) during one of my OCVN classes. He was talking up your blog! He told us a lot about soil - our visit to his property and gardens was very educational.

  3. Karen - Every plant is native somewhere. It's nice when we can see them where they belong.

    Heather - Gordon knows more about soil than any other three soil scientists combined. I've learned a lot from him over the years.