The other day when I posted about my recent Maine State Park adventures, my Dad commented that my identification of Morning Glory was possibly incorrect and that the viney flower-bearing plant I found on the beach was more likely “bindweed”. (Everybody, meet Dad – Dad, everybody!)
Coincidentally, last night when I was driving home from work I caught a bit on NPR about weeds, and more specifically Richard Mabey’s new book Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants. In his interview Mabey mentioned bindweed, a most “wily” weed, and suddenly I found myself thinking about Henrietta – the heroine and letter writing narrator of Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys (which I read just about a year ago) – down in the back of her English garden, hacking ineffectually but enthusiastically at the bindweed that she likened to the invading Nazis, among other things. I couldn’t find the exact quote I was thinking of, but here’s one from the book that does mention her bindweed:
‘Charles and I have decided that the only people in this place who could possibly give a really successful Garden-Proud party, at which all the guests enjoyed themselves, are ourselves. We could give it at the bottom of our garden, where the bindweed has done so well, and there is that particularly fine bed of nettles.‘ p. 65
Ah bindweed, bindweed. A rather pretty flower on a rather insistent plant. A native plant of Europe but an invasive species here in Maine. I wasn’t so far off on my identification though – according to this report:
‘Field bindweed, the morning glory-type weed, is a perennial that can be a very persistent problem in gardens, flower beds, and other parts of the yard. The plant can grow prostrate, with stems up to ten feet long, or it can climb like a vine. Blossoms are white or pink and shaped like a funnel. This weed reproduces both by seed and by creeping roots. The root system is deep, growing as deep as 27 feet, so pulling or hoeing the weed is ineffective. According to one study, it required 13 years to eliminate bindweed using this method; any shoots that are missed will continue to nourish the vast root system.‘
Yikes! As it turns out, it didn’t take nearly 13 years for Henrietta to finish her War against the Nazis, but I rather imagine she spent the rest of her life battling the bindweed at the bottom of her garden.
I’ll have to track down Richard Mabey’s book, since I’m somewhat sympathetic to flowering weeds and especially love the cheery burst of yellow that the dandelions scatter across my yard every year. Although I understand the invasive dangers of the bindweed on this coastal beach (and wherever else it’s found), I can’t deny that the flowers look rather pretty here:
And I would happily attend Henrietta’s Garden-Proud party – wouldn’t you?