Project reflections #5

Heavenly Trumpets

 On many of the fences, collapsed walls and other signs of enclosure and habitation around Netherthorpe and Upperthorpe we have found thriving colonies of Calystegia sepium – known commonly as Larger Bindweed, Hedge Bindweed, Rutland beauty, Bugle Vine, or Heavenly Trumpets.

 I am reminded of a friend of mine who had been led to believe that bindweed, being a species of Convolvulus, might contain some of the ergoline alkaloids* that have led to the use of these species as ingredients in psychedelic drugs (e.g. ololiuhqui). He once ate a very large quantity of the dried seeds in the hope of achieving some form of psychotropic effect – but achieved nothing through this experiment other than a dreadful gripe in his stomach.

Calystegia sepium (formerly Convolvulus sepium) is a species of bindweed, with a subcosmopolitan distribution throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere. It is a herbaceous perennial that twines around other plants, in a counter-clockwise direction, to a height of up to 2-4 m (sometimes, but rarely  to a height of 5 m). The leaves are simple, arranged spirally, pointed at the tip and arrowhead shaped, 5-10 cm long and 3-7 cm broad. The flowers are produced from late spring to the end of summer. In the bud, they are covered by large bracts which remain and continue to cover the sepals. The open flowers are trumpet-shaped, 3-7 cm in diameter, white, or pale pink with white stripes. After flowering the fruit develops as an almost spherical capsule, 1 cm in diameter containing two to four large, black seeds that are shaped like quartered oranges. The seeds disperse and thrive in fields, borders, roadsides and open woods. Its aggressive self-seeding (seeds can remain viable as long as 30 years) and the success of its creeping roots (they can be as long as 3-4 m) cause it to be a persistent weed and have led to its classification as a noxious weed.

*The presence of ergolines in some species of this family of plants is due to infection by fungi related to the ergot fungi of the genus Claviceps.

Paul Evans, December 15 2011

3 thoughts on “Project reflections #5

  1. Richard Steadman-Jones’ thoughts on botanical succession and the return of nature in abandoned places are fascinating… For example, he reflects on:

    ‘the way in which nature recolonises places long after the humans are gone, but – often – a nature changed by the passage of a human population. In the case of Rodney, the agent of nature’s recolonisation is an introduced species, wisteria, and in the case of northern Minnesota (including the area round Mallard) it’s the secondary growth, which is actually quite different from the primary growth that was there before. (Despite all the forests, Minnesota does not look as it did before the loggers passed through.) So our sense that nature entirely erases the traces of human habitation (and trauma) isn’t quite right: if you can read ‘nature’s book’, you can see those traces still in the way nature is changed by the ‘passing through’ of human populations. When nature reclaims a ghost town, it is itself changed.’

    For more information and the full text, see:

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