BINDWEED… superpowers and pretty flowers

BINDWEED… superpowers and pretty flowers

Last week I was reminded how I love the large white trumpet flowers of bindweed. Stopping to admire them (which I did) is a rather guilty pleasure as the sheer mention of bindweed sends gardeners into a rant. I do understand, but I also rather admire this tenacious plant. It’s naughty, obstinate and hard to kill… and isn’t nature all about survival of the fittest?

I remember it twisted around the chain link fence at the bottom our family garden. That’s my earliest memory of the flowers, along with my dad tugging and tearing at the super strong plant, trying to stop its race along the fence to reach his garden shrubs.

This family garden invader was ‘hedge bindweed’ (or ‘bellbind’). The one with the white trumpets. Then there is the smaller ‘field bindweed’, which I also recall with its delicate white or pink bells.

This plant has earnt its reputation and can happily twine, creep and strangle anything in its path. Its roots can reach down to five metres (or more), its seeds can sit in the soil for years, and its crawling underground stems (rhizomes) give it the ability to spread super fast. Those roots are persistent too, and have the ability to regenerate from the smallest of pieces left behind… almost like a Harry Potter invisibility cloak… they enter stealth mode and find their way into gardens in plant roots, soils, and even in manure.

I need to make a case for bindweed though. It has two sets of super powers. One for good and one for evil. It is a super hero and a villain in one form…

Pollinators love the flowers, and you will often see the trumpets complete with bees and butterflies. Hoverflies like them too. The leaves don’t go to waste either; they feed the larvae of the convolvulus hawk-moth.

When folklore names something both ‘Devil’s Garter’ and ‘Heavenly Trumpets’, it’s a reminder that everything has its light and its shadow. Both need exploring.

Bindweed has stirred emotions over the years. So many names and so many contradictions… Bearbind, Bellbind, Belle of the Ball, Bride’s Gown, Bugle Vine, Campanelle, Corn Lily, Creeping Jenny, Daddy White-Shirt, Devil’s Nightcap, Devil’s Garter, Duil Mhial (Gaelic), German Scammony, Gramophones, Grandma’s Nightcap, Granny-Pop-Out-Of-Bed, Granny’s Night Bonnet, Harvest Lily, Heavenly Trumpets, Hedge Bell, Hedge-Strangler, Hooded Bindweed, Holland Smocks, Lady’s Nightcap, Lady’s Smock, Larger Sunshade, Lily Vine, London Bells, Old Man’s Nightcap, Rope Bind, Ropewind, Rutland Beauty, Wedlock, White Bindweed, White Witches Hat, Wild Morning Glory, Withy-Vine, Withy-Weed, Withy-Bind, and Wood Vine.

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