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Convolvulus Family

( Originally Published 1922 )



Hedge or Great Bindweed; Wild Morning-glory; Rutland

Beauty; Bell-bind; Lady's Nightcap

Convolvulus sepium

Flowers—Light pink, with white stripes or all white, bell-shaped, about 2 in. long, twisted in the bud, solitary, of long peduncles from leaf axils. Calyx of 5 sepals, concealed by 2 large bracts at base. Corolla 5-lobed, the 5 included stamens inserted on its tube; style with 2 oblong stigmas. Stem: Smooth or hairy, 3 to 10 ft. long, twining or trailing over ground. Leaves: Triangular or arrow-shaped, 2 to 5 in. long, on slender petioles. Preferred Habitat—Wayside hedges, thickets, fields, walls. Flowering Season—June—September.

Distribution—Nova Scotia to North Carolina, westward to Nebraska. Europe and Asia.

No one need be told that the pretty, bell-shaped pink and white flower on the vigorous vine clambering over stone walls and winding about the shrubbery of wayside thickets in a suffocating embrace is akin to the morning-glory of the garden trellis (C. Major). An exceedingly rapid climber, the twining stein often describes a complete circle in two hours, turning against the sun, or just contrary to the hands of a watch. Late in the season, when an abundance of seed has been set, the flower can well afford to keep open longer hours, also in rainy weather; but early in the summer, at least, it must attend to business only while the sun shines and its benefactors are flying. Usually it closes at sundown. On moonlight nights, however, the hospitable blossom keeps open for the benefit of certain moths.

From July until hard frost look for that exquisite little beetle, Cassida aurichalcea, like a drop of molten gold, clinging beneath the bindweed's leaves. The small perforations reveal his hiding places. "But you must be quick if you would capture him," says William Hamilton Gibson, "for he is off in a spangling streak of glitter. Nor is this golden sheen all the resource of the little insect; for in the space of a few seconds, as you hold him in your hand, he has become a milky, iridescent opal, and now mother-of-pearl, and finally crawls before you in a coat of dull orange." A dead beetle loses all this wonderful lustre. Even on the morning-glory in our gardens we may some-times find these. jewelled mites, or their fork-tailed, black larvae, or the tiny chrysalids suspended by their tails, although it is the wild bindweed that is ever their favorite abiding place.

Gronovius' or Common Dodder; Strangle-weed; Love Vine; Angel's Hair Cuscuta Gronovii

Flowers—Dull, white minute, numerous, in dense clusters. Calyx inferior, greenish white, 5-parted; corolla bell-shaped, the 5 lobes spreading, 5 fringed scales within; 5 stamens, each inserted on corolla throat above a scale; 2 slender, styles. Stem: Bright orange yellow, thread-like, twining high, leafless.

Preferred Habitat—Moist soil, meadows, ditches, beside streams.

Flowering Season—July—September.

Distribution—Nova Scotia and Manitoba, south to the Gulf states.

Like tangled yellow yarn wound spirally about the herbage and shrubbery in moist thickets, the dodder grows, its beautiful bright threads plentifully studded with small flowers tightly bunched. Try to loosen its hold on the support it is climbing up, and the secret of its guilt is out at once; for no honest vine is this, but a parasite, a de-generate of the lowest type, with numerous sharp suckers (haustoria) penetrating the bark of its victim, and spreading in the softer tissues beneath to steal all their nourishment. So firmly are these suckers attached, that the golden thread-like stem will break before they can be torn from their hold. -

Not a leaf now remains on the vine to tell of virtue in its remote ancestors; the absence of green matter (chlorophyll) testifies to dishonest methods of gaining a living (see Indian Pipe), not even a root is left after the seedling is old enough to twine about its hard-working, respectable neighbors. Starting out in life with apparently the best intentions, suddenly the tender young twiner develops an. appetite for strong drink and murder combined, such as would terrify any budding criminal in Five Points or Seven Dials! No sooner has it laid hold of its victim and tapped it, than the now useless root and lower portion wither away leaving the dodder in mid-air, without any connection with the soil below, but abundantly nourished with juices al-ready stored up, and even assimilated, at its host's expense. By rapidly lengthening the cells on the outer side of its stem more than on the inner side, the former becomes convex, the latter concave; that is to say, a section of spiral is formed by the new shoot, which, twining upward, devitalizes its benefactor as it goes. Abundant, globular seed-vessels, which develop rapidly while the blossoming continues unabated, soon sink into the soft soil to begin their piratical careers close beside the criminals which bore them; or better still, from their point of view, float downstream to found new colonies afar. When the beautiful jewel-weed—a conspicuous sufferer—is hung about with dodder, one must be grateful for at least such symphony of yellows.



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