Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Purple bindweed vine and leaf

with 15 comments

Ipomoea cordatotriloba; click for greater detail.

Yesterday’s post used an out-of-focus flower of Ipomoea cordatotriloba to frame the much tinier flowers of scarlet spiderling. Today I’ll focus on the Ipomoea, whose most common names, purple bindweed and tievine, identify the species as a twining vine. On the right side of this picture you see one making a cylindrical spiral as it twines its way up a stalk of dry grass. To the left of the spiral, and of course attached to it, is one of the plant’s small leaves, which sometimes have the shape of a stylized heart; mentally fold down the opposite and symmetric side of the leaf, turn your imagination 90° to the right, and you may be able to see one of those stylized hearts, though a heart with so pointy a tip has never beat inside a living chest. Both the vine and the leaf stalk have fine hairs growing on them, as you can see with no recourse to imagination, but perhaps with recourse to the larger version of the image that springs from the smaller one when it’s clicked. The two colorful circles partly visible behind the folded leaf are purple bindweed flowers some distance away. (What, has he no shame, using the same device two pictures in a row?)

I took this photograph on August 17 at Austin’s Elisabet Ney Museum, whose grounds are being restored to a native prairie. The picture is one of twelve that are on display at the museum. For those interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 2, and 5 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s photograph. For more information about Ipomoea cordatotriloba, including a clickable map showing the places in the southeastern United States where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2011 at 5:34 AM

15 Responses

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  1. Very pretty! I think I have seen this before, up here in Maine.


    October 2, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    • Thanks. According to the USDA website this species doesn’t grow in places as cold as Maine, but purple bindweed has many relatives in the genus Ipomoea and the rest of the morning-glory family, so it may well be one of those that you’ve seen in your area.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2011 at 7:46 AM

  2. Steve, we have a vicious thorny vine that will climb the whole tree if given the chance. It can come out of the ground in groups reaching several feet, with or without a host to support it. My only remedy so far is to sit on the ground and clip the stalks as low as I can, then rake them up with the tractor to burn. I don’t mind them in wild areas, because I have a lot of wildlife that can thrive in their sanctuary. But, close to the barn and house, I have to get rid of them for the sake of grandchildren. We’re in North Central Texas region.
    1. Do you know the name?
    2. Are they poisonous?


    October 2, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    • I wonder if you’ve got a species in the genus Smilax, often called greenbrier. If you go to


      and type smilax in the name field, you’ll see that there are 10 species listed. You can look at each of those to see if there’s a match with your plant. Smilax bona-nox is quite common in Austin, and I’ve often had to contend with it—not always totally successfully—when I go walking in the woods. On the good side, it’s not poisonous.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2011 at 8:15 AM

      • Thanks for your help! Reminds me, I need to be taking shots out there to learn more about what constitutes my little haven!


        October 2, 2011 at 8:36 AM

      • By the way, the very young shoots of Smilax bona-nox are reported to be edible, so that’s another way to deal with greenbrier.

        Steve Schwartzman

        October 2, 2011 at 9:05 AM

  3. I feel that the wine twine is in love! That is the feel seeing your photo!


    October 4, 2011 at 12:30 AM

  4. Outstanding composition here!


    October 4, 2011 at 10:43 PM

  5. […] of you who were reading this blog a couple of months ago may remember the pictures of a purple bindweed vine and scarlet spiderling, in both of which purple bindweed flowers played featureless but bright […]

  6. Reminds me of acrobats who use aerial silk.


    July 25, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    • Hey, you have got a good imagination. Because of my conditioning as a nature photographer, aerial silk makes me think immediately of the spider silk that I so often find strung across parts of plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 25, 2014 at 8:13 AM

  7. […] That took the searcher to purple bindweed. […]

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