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Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis, Convolvulaceae) in North America, from Medicine to Menace

Daniel F. Austin
The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society
Vol. 127, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 2000), pp. 172-177
Published by: Torrey Botanical Society
DOI: 10.2307/3088694
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088694
Page Count: 6
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Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis, Convolvulaceae) in North America, from Medicine to Menace
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Abstract

Convolvulus arvensis L. is considered one of the worst weeds in the world by agriculturists and horticulturists; it has at least 84 common names. Bindweed is native to the Mediterranean region of the Old World, where it and a morphologically similar species, scammony (C. scammonia L.), both still are used medicinally. Although the first literature on C. arvensis referred to medicinal uses, it was also dispersed for ornament and by accident. Herbarium vouchers and literature were used to map the first occurrences of C. arvensis in each state. Bindweed was first reported in North America (Virginia) in the 1730s, and was sold commercially by mail in and from Pennsylvania by 1807. Over the decades, the reputation as a medicinal plant became lost. It was not until the 1880s that C. arvensis came to be considered a naturalized weed in North America, but efforts to eliminate this twining herb were not made until the early 1900s. Almost 100 years of battling this medicine-turned-pest have failed to effectively control the species.

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