Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is an insidious Eurasian garden and agricultural weed that is frequently mistaken for morning glory because the flowers look very similar.
This invasive weed was first seen in California in 1884 and can now be found growing just about anywhere below 5,000 feet elevation. Bindweed can be particularly troublesome for beans, cereals, and potatoes, but it attacks many other crops, as well. Bindweed can carry viruses that carry tomato spotted wilt, vaccinium false bottom, and potato X disease.
Bindweed is a hardy perennial that grows from rhizomes. It’s seed leaves (cotyledons) look square with a tiny notch at the top. Sprouts that emerge directly from rhizomes do not have cotyledons. Stems are flattened with a groove along the upper surface.True leaves are spade shaped and can be 1/2 -2 inches long. As leaves mature, they become lobed at the base. Stems can grow several feet in length and may trail on the ground or climb upright plants (such as my blueberry bushes).
Since bindweed reproduces underground through rhizomes, as well as above ground by seed, it is especially difficult to control. The root system of bindweed can grow as deep as 20 feet! Roots able to bud are found as deep as 14 feet below the surface. The majority of bindweed roots are found in the top 2 feet of soil with most of the lateral roots in the top 12 inches. Due to its ability to overwinter without foliage, bindweed can persist in an area for up to 60 years.
Herbicides may be effective as a suppressant but will not eliminate bindweed. Once bindweed has invaded an area, sheet mulching may be the only organic solution. Bindweed roots are able to penetrate most fabric, plastic and cardboard barriers, so the sheeting material must be exceptionally sturdy to be effective and it must remain in place for at least 3 years.
Monitor for bindweed daily and pull seedlings as soon as they are seen. Bindweed is less of a problem in shaded areas, so dense plantings can reduce bindweed’s success.
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