Skip to main content

Bindweed and Milkweed

A few weeks back I was in some Adams County, Ohio prairie barrens. These are fabulous habitats full of rare flora and fauna; always interesting observations at every turn. I was quite pleased to see the above in peak bloom. It is perhaps my favorite member of the Morning-glory Family (Convolvulaceae), the Erect Bindweed, Calystegia spithamaea. Don't be put off by the name, which combines "bind" and "weed" to conspire to create the image of some terrible mini Kudzu that wreaks havoc. This one certainly is not weedy, and is quite showy and diminutive in stature.

The flowers are stark bright white, and almost luminescent. Even the reproductive parts are white, but peer down into that corolla and you'll see a blush of yellow. When viewed head on, many morning-glory flowers seem to subtly glow from within, probably a ploy to attract the attention of pollinators.

The whole thing only stands eight inches tall, maybe, and the foliage surpasses the flower. This species occurs sparingly in dry barren openings, and in Ohio mostly in the eastern half of the state. Note the large leaf-like green bracts that cup the base of the flower. This separates bindweeds (Calystegia) from morning-glories (Ipomoea). The latter have much smaller bracts.

A real jawdropper, this one. One of thirteen species of true milkweeds in Ohio, Spider Milkweed, Asclepias viridis, may be the most bizarre. It is quite the rarity here, being confined to just five southern counties and mainly in the prairies of Adams County.

The identification is easy, as the flowers are massive - far larger than any of our other species.

Floral art in real life. The flowers almost defy description. And like all milkweeds, the blooms attract insects galore. While not much can eat milkweeds due to the toxic cardiac glycosides in the sticky white sap, bugs galore flock in to take advantage of the nectar. Note all of the tiny ants in these flowers, if you click on and enlarge the photo.


Heather said…
Wow, I dig that Spider Milkweed - love the color of the flowers! Looks like they're growing in some quite parched soil - is that their preferred habitat, or did you just happen to take the pictures during a dry spell?
You're the one to asnwer this question that has been perplexing me for years (really!)
Is there some resemblance between convolvulaceae and milkweeds?
I always find more Monarch caterpillars munching away on the heart-shaped leaves strangling my vegetable garden, than the milkweed we leave standing in the field, just for that purpose.
What's up with that?!
No one else seems to have noticed this preference.
Jim McCormac said…
Hi Heather,

Yes, this is a milkweed of very arid lands. The barrns in which it grows are typically as parched as a tortoise in the desert.

Hi Nina,

I may have the answer to your mystery. I wonder if your "morning-glory" isn't actually Sandvine, Cynanchum laeve. This common plant is in the milkweed family, but is a clambering vine with leaves that look much like things in the morning-glory family. It contains the cardiac glycoside-filled sap as do other milkweeds; hence the monarch caterpillars' fondness for it.

Thanks, Jim.
I'll check it out.
Would love to understand this better.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…