Field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, also known as field morning glory, devil’s guts, or wild morning glory is a perennial vine with roots that can extend a whopping 20 feet into the soil and can easily persist in a garden environment for 20 years. Native to Asia and Europe, it was first noted in Virginia in 1739, likely introduced through contaminated seeds in garden and farm products.
Field bindweed’s opposite, arrow-shaped leaves on long creeping stems aggressively entangle anything in its path. Counterclockwise stems choke out crops, garden and native plants, forming dense mats when unchecked. Attractive funnel-shaped white or light pink flowers appear in mid-summer. Though an annoying offender in the garden, its effect on agricultural products can be devastating, especially in fruit and nut crops.
Field bindweed is listed officially as a prohibited, noxious weed in Michigan, which means it is prohibited from being in seeds offered for sale. Reproducing by seed and vegetatively, new plants grow from small parts of the parent plant. Evidence of its seeming immortality, field bindweed produces seeds that are hard and durable, remaining dormant in soil for up to 30 years–some sources suggest even 60 years!
For control In home garden environments, persistence is the name of the game. Pulling every three weeks during the growing season for three years (!!!) will deplete the root system reserves. Garden forks are helpful for teasing out visible root pieces. Gardeners could also mark sites after removal to note where new shoots appear, then weed those out repeatedly. Even herbicide use may require additional applications due to the expansive root systems and leaf and stem texture which limit absorption.
Photo credit: Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org