Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Texas bindweed flower

with 17 comments

Texas Bindweed Flower 2006

What’s not to like about a Texas bindweed flower, Convolvulus equitans? All right, so farmers don’t like this vine because it’s very good at twining itself around their crops and damaging them. That dislike makes sense but I, being no farmer, am free to enjoy these flowers, which are often about an inch across.

Today’s picture is from near Bluffstone Dr. in my northwest Austin neighborhood on June 10th. That was two months ago, but this species can be found flowering here for much of the year. As common a wildflower as it is, and as often as I see and photograph it, somehow today is only the third time in as many years that a Texas bindweed has appeared here. If you’d like to know what an opening bud looks like, you can check out a post from last summer.

In spite of its name, Texas bindweed grows in other states as well, something you can confirm on the USDA map.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 5, 2014 at 5:54 AM

17 Responses

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  1. I like these too, especially when I see them twining their way through a remnant wet meadow near Lake Michigan. Well, different species, I suspect. I’m looking forward to drawing one 🙂 Oh! btw, my button bush just bloomed! Hooray! I was beginning to think I was going to have to ask you if I could cheat and print out your photo for reference for my drawing. Everything here seems to be running 2weeks to a month behind, so now things are getting interesting out there.


    August 5, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    • You’re right that the ones up there must be a different species because Texas bindweed doesn’t come closer than a few hundred miles to you.

      Happy buttonbush to you (by coincidence I saw a few this morning). Now we look forward to seeing how you’ll render it in two dimensions. (Had you not had your own, it would’ve been fine to use my picture as a guide.) Glad to hear that nature is getting interesting for you now, even if later than you expected: more opportunities for art.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2014 at 3:09 PM

  2. The 1910 Iowa Year Book of Agriculture shows a relative being a problem here.

    Jim in IA

    August 5, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    • I see that the bindweed species referred to there are C. sepium (native) and C. arvensis (alien from Europe, which has made its way to Texas too).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2014 at 3:13 PM

  3. Steve, I agree that this is a very nice native plant in central Texas. It is hard for me to imagine this delicate little plant as an invasive species. A brief search using Google does not show much to indicate that this is an invasive species.

    I wonder if you might be confusing the reputation for this plant with that of field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, which is from Europe and Asia and Wikipedia describes “one of the most serious weeds of agricultural fields in temperate regions of the world”. I know from personal experience that C. avensis is as hard to eradicate as Bermuda grass because it spreads underground and sprouts from fragments when growth above ground is removed. A farmer in Oregon told me that there is no way to get rid of it. He said that you can suppress it by planting certain species of plants that compete with it, but as soon as you try to use the land for crops the C. avensis comes back.


    August 5, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    • The link in the comment before yours, to a 1910 Iowa book about agriculture, happens to mention C. arvensis as an invasive nuisance, just as you did. I believe from a farmer’s perspective, though, every species of bindweed is threatening. I took a look just now at the 1929 classic by Ellen D. Schulz, Texas Wild Flowers, and found this comment about C. hermannioides (which was the old name for C. equitans): “A plant which the farmers are sorry to see in corn and sorghum fields, as the tightly winding habit strangles the stems of the crops and the prolific growth of the bindweed crowds out sunlight.”

      By the way, also check out the comment following yours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      • If you compare the growth patterns of the two species I think you will see that they behave VERY differently, although it is easy to see why people confuse them because the leaves and flowers are similar. I invite you to visit my house some time and see the field bindweed which has taken over the entire front yard. I have had native species of Convolvulus appear occasionally under the same growing conditions and they have never been aggressive. (This is a yard which does not get added water or fertilizer. The results with other soils and climates could be very different.)


        August 5, 2014 at 7:08 PM

        • I don’t see field bindweed all that often, so I will have to pay more attention to it to see how it differs from the Texas species. I’m sorry to hear it’s taken over your front yard, proof that it’s more aggressive than C. equitans.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 6, 2014 at 7:53 AM

  4. I found some specimens of this lovely little flower at the farm I go to from time to time. I thought the clematis was a good climber! I can see where it gets its name. It was almost impossible to pull it loose from the plants that it had latched onto. The farmer told me it can literally strangle host plants. No wonder they don’t like it.

    Once I have enough species, I thought I’d do a post on native plants that often show up where they’re not wanted: bindweed, clematis, ground cherry, and such. Of course it’s going to be titled “Intruders in the Dust.”


    August 5, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    • Have you ever seen a look-alike called wild potato (Ipomoea pandurata)? We couldn’t find any, but the farmer said you can tell them apart by the leaves and the potato’s larger flowers. The color scheme is the same, though.


      August 5, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      • Even though Ipomoea pandurata grows in central Texas (it’s in Marshall Enquist’s Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country) I rarely encounter it. What a difference from Texas bindweed and purple bindweed, which I often see from spring through fall. In fact some purple bindweed was flowering near the Clematis drummondii I photographed this morning.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 5, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    • I’m glad for your testimonial on the stick-to-it-iveness of this vine. In answering the comment before yours, I added a similar comment about it from a 1929 book on Texas wildflowers.

      I look forward to your post called “Intruders in the Dust.” Even native plants can grow in places where people (particularly gardeners and farmers) don’t want them. For my purposes, though, everywhere the natives grow is just fine with me. By coincidence, I photographed a mound of one of the plants you mentioned, Clematis drummondii, on a fence this morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2014 at 3:37 PM

  5. Pretty flower – look kind of like a hibiscus. Too bad it’s invasive


    August 5, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    • Although farmers dislike it for its effect on their crops, in the wild I usually find this vine in small numbers at a time. For that reason, Nora, I’ve never considered it invasive, even though it can make life hard for the plant it ends up growing on. What one person sees as an incursion, another sees as an invasion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2014 at 3:47 PM

  6. On first glance it does resemble a Hibiscus. Our Hedge Bindweed (Convolvulus sepium) is not nearly as spectacular as your Texas Bindweed and more resembles its relative Morning Glories we see on mailbox posts. It is quite understandable that farmers don’t care much for it. Once it starts in a meadow, pretty much everything around becomes fair game as a climbing support. The evidence I’ve seen is that, although quite invasive, it doesn’t choke out the meadow plants and all seem to coexist.

    Steve Gingold

    August 5, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    • I came across Convolvulus sepium in the link that Jim provided. In researching it just now to see what it looks like, I discovered that botanists have reclassified it as Calystegia sepium, thereby apparently leaving Convolvulus equitans as the only native Convolvulus in the United States. I also learned that Calystegia sepium makes it into Texas near Houston and Galveston, so I might even get to see it one of these days. What you say about the coexistence of that species echoes my take on Convolvulus equitans.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2014 at 6:56 PM

  7. […] In my other blog last year I featured a wildflower that botanists classify as Convolvulus equitans (commonly called Texas bindweed). Similarly, the morning-glory family that this plant belongs to is known as the Convolvulaceae. I bring all this up because many native English speakers will be surprised to find that the verb convolve exists; it means ‘to coil up’ or ‘to roll together,’ an action conveyed by the bind in the common name bindweed. Spanish doesn’t seem to have a verb *convolver—at least it’s not in the DRAE—but remove the prefix con- and you’re left with the familiar Spanish verb volver, whose primary sense is ‘to go back, to return.’ The Latin original was volvere, which meant ‘to roll, turn about, turn round, tumble.’ Notice, by the way, that while Spanish doesn’t have *convolver, English doesn’t have the simple *volve. […]

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