Sunday, September 09, 2012


Weather: Overcast much of the week, with water occasionally condensing into rain; last rain 9/7/12; 12:37 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid perpetual roses, buddleia, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, red yucca, rose of Sharon, datura, Heavenly Blue morning glory, Russian sage, purple garden phlox, single sunflowers, zinnias.

Beyond the walls and fences: Leatherleaf globemallow, white and pink bindweeds, white sweet clover, silver leaf nightshade, knotted spurge, prostrate knotweed, goat’s head, yellow and white evening primroses, pigweed, ragweed, Russian thistles, snakeweed, gum weed, horseweed, wild lettuce, Tahoka daisies, heath and golden hairy asters; buds on purple asters.

In my yard, looking east: Hollyhock, winecup mallow, large flowered soapwort, Autumn Joy sedum.

Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, Dutch clover, crimson rambler morning glory.

Looking west: Caryopteris, Siberian and Seven Hills Giant catmints, calamintha, leadplant, David phlox, perennial four o’clock, sea lavender, Mönch asters.

Looking north: Larkspur, California and Shirley poppies, nasturtium, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, black-eyed Susan, Mexican hat, chrysanthemum, yellow cosmos.

Bedding plants: Petunia, nicotiana, snapdragons.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees, other bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: Insidious, hateful, ruthless - those are the adjectives Agatha Christie reserves for one of her worst enemies, bindweed.

It’s a good thing I read her novels before I moved to New Mexico, because I knew the plants that looked so pretty growing by the roadside - and they are attractive from the car - were not to be trusted.

Of course, the member of the morning glory family doesn’t content itself with the roadside. If there’s a fence, it climbs. If there’s an abandoned corn field, it takes over.

If it can find a toe hold where a gardener, even the most assiduous, can’t get to it, it will.

It only takes one brown seed. They fall from the parent, get chilled in the winter, then wait. They’re patient. They can survive in the ground for more than a decade. The pink or white or pink and white flowers love dry conditions. You see some in the spring, but they appear everywhere in the heat of summer.

But most of the time, it’s not the seeds that spread. That one plant, sends out its white, fleshy roots sideways, and sends up new plants at a distance. Men take their plows and cultivators to it. That breaks up the lateral system in the top few inches of soil, but that plant has also put down a tap root that, if it gets a chance, get reach down much more than two feet. It doesn’t have to do that well to be below the level of a hoe or fork. Then, it recoups, and up it comes.

You want to try Round-up? Good luck. Clyde L. Elmore and David W. Cudney say chemicals are good at suppression, but not eradication. They probably can’t reach the deep little fragment that sends up growth looking for sun.

Starving it doesn’t work. The roots are particularly efficient at creating and storing reserves to see it through. The lower the root, the greater the food supply. Now is the time it’s building those reserves. The plants will be the weakest in the spring.

I had one appear a year ago April in a flower bed. Its first leaves weren’t exactly the arrow shaped ones I expected, but they looked suspicious. Every time I tried to pull it, it came back. It sent out an exploratory shoot beyond the bed that I sprayed. No effect on the parent. The more I pull and dig, the more it finds a new place to emerge, usually right next to the stem of a desirable plant so I can’t go after it as I should.

I’ve lived here now for more than two decades and this is my first problem. It’s one of the few noxious things that’s not growing in one of my neighbor’s yards. The nearest plants are several lots away, upwind, with several wood fences between. I’m assuming the plant came from something I bought that was grown with contaminated seed. That’s the other way it spreads. It’s not a native to this country, but was found in Virginia in 1739. Later, farmers on the plains blamed their Ukranian neighbors for bringing it. It’s a hitchhiker that steals water from its benefactors to make more room for itself.

Convolvulus arvensis is one of the few things that no one has found much use for. Dioscorides tried. He found a tea made from the seeds helped spleen problems. Unfortunately, Kris Zouhar says, he also mentioned that if you took it for more than 37 days, you became sterile.

Christie, Agatha. Sleeping Murder (1976), Crooked House (1949) and Crooked House.

Elmore, C. L. and D. W. Cudney. “Field Bindweed,” University of California Pest Note, April 2003.

Zouhar, Kris. “Convolvulus arvensis,” United States Forest Service, Fire Effects Information System, 2004.

1. Bindweed blooming in the village, 22 May 2012.

2. Bindweed blooming on the farm road, 12 July 2012.

3. Bindweed taking over an abandoned corn field on the main road, 18 May 2012.

4. Bindweed growing inside a yucca plant in town, 6 July 2012.

5. Bindweed growing in the shade on the main road, 12 July 2012.

6. Bindweed coming up in my garden, 12 May 2012.

7. Bindweed growing in the sun in the village, 22 May 2012.

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