Calystegia silvatica

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Calystegia silvatica FloralImagesName: Calystegia silvatica (Kit.) Griseb.

Family: Convolvulaceae, the bindweed or morning glory family.

Common Names: shortstalk false bindweed, giant bindweed, greater bindweed (1, 8)

Etymology: Calystegia comes is Greek for “a covering cup,” derived from two Greek words kalux, “cup” and stegos, “a covering.” The word silvatica means “pertaining to woods” and comes from the Latin silva, which can mean “woods,” “trees” or “forest” (3, 10).

Botanical synonyms: see subspecies below.

Quick Notable Features (8, 9, 15):
¬ Large white flowers sometimes with a slight tinge of pink or purple when exposed to sunlight
¬ Glabrous stems that twine vigorously
¬ Copious white latex, especially in younger parts of vegetative plant

Plant Height: climbs to a height of 3 m (8).

Subspecies/varieties recognized (1):
C. silvatica (Kit.) Griseb. ssp. disjuncta Brummitt
C. silvatica (Kit.) Griseb. ssp. fraterniflora (Mackenzie & Bush) Brummitt [syn: C. fraterniflora (Mackenzie & Bush) Brummitt, C. sepium (L.) R. Br. var. fraterniflora (Mackenzie & Bush) Shinners, Convolvulus fraterniflorus (Mackenzie & Bush) Mackenzie & Bush, Convolvulus sepium L. var. fraterniflorus Mackenzie & Bush]
C. silvatica (Kit.) Griseb. ssp. silvatica

Most Likely Confused with: Calystegia sepium, Calystegia spithamaea, Convolvulus arvensis, Ipomoea spp., and Polygonum covolvulus. 

Habitat Preference: Found in thickets and along borders of lakes. It is also found in croplands and pasturelands, both abandoned and active. It is also found near “hedges, forest and plantation margins close to settlements, also a troublesome weed in gardens” (7, 9).

Geographic Distribution in Michigan: According to the USDA website (1) and Gleason & Cronquist’s Flora (14) this species is not found in Michigan. However the online update to Voss’ Michigan Flora (11) lists the species in Berrien and Monroe counties. Brummitt (13) cites a collection by Farwell [#8836] from Taylor, MI. Our lab group has collected it in flower in July in Coldwater, MI, Branch County.

Known Elevational Distribution: no information yet located.

Complete Geographic Distribution: Calystegia silvatica ssp. fraterniflora is native to the eastern and midwestern United States in all states except ME, NH, RI, MA, NJ, DE, MI, WI, and MN, and also in several states in the western U.S. The species is also found in Canada, China, most of Europe, Australia and New Zealand (1,17, 18). The other two subspecies are not recognized outside of Florida and New York. Treated broadly, it can be expected throughout the U.S. and is included here because of the distribution in all states to the immediate south of Michigan. It is considered invasive in many parts of the world.

Calystegia_silvatica_leafVegetative Plant Description: The vigorously twining individuals have an extensive and far-reaching rhizome system. The simple, alternate, entire, pinnately veined leaves are 5-18 cm long and 3.5-15 cm wide. They are triangular-ovate, sagittate-ovate or hastate and usually glabrous. The base is deeply cordate with rounded sinuses and 1-2 small lobes on each side, while the apex is acute to acuminate. The 3-11cm petiole is glabrous, but can be hairy, while the stems are usually glabrous. Calystegia silvatica is a perennial, herb with large, sepaloid bracts below the calyx. (1,2,4,7, 9). White latex of a lipid nature is found throughout the plant but especially abundantly flowing from the younger leaves and stems (15).

Climbing Mechanism: The stem twines vigorously in a dextral orientation using its stem apices (9).

Calystegia_silvatica_flowerFlower Description: The inflorescence is a solitary, perfect flower with parts in fives borne on a 8-20 (sometimes 30) cm long, narrowly winged peduncle. Peduncles are shorter than the petioles (12). The 5 sepals are 1.5-1.8 cm long and more or less ovate-lanceolate, while the 5 corolla lobes are 5.2-8cm long and 5.5-8cm across. The corolla is usually white and very rarely pale pink, with lobes that are very shallow and inconspicuous. The mid-petal area of the tube is shining on the outside. The five stamens are 3cm long with filaments that bear glandular hairs along the lower half. The ovary is 1-locular and superior with a glabrous style. The 2 stigmas are oblong and cylindrical (2, 7, 9, 19).

Flowering Time: In Illinois, the species flowers from June to August (7).

Pollinator: No evidence was found in literature.

Fruit Type and Description: The fruit is a 1-1.5cm long subglobose indehiscent capsule with four seeds (7,19).

Seed Description: The seed is triangular-ovoid with a rounded outer surface and with slightly concave inner faces; it has a smooth, black seed, that is 4-5mm in diameter (9).

Dispersal Syndrome: no direct evidence was found reported for this species.

Distinguished by: The flowers of C. silvatica are much larger than those of C. sepium and the bracts of C. silvatica are obviously imbricate, while those of C. sepium are not or are only scarcely touching (12,13).  Bracteoles are described as being saccate and overlapping.  The base of the leaf blade in C. sepium is a clear V- or U-shape with leaf tissue extending close to the petiole, while the leaf sinus in C. silvatica is quadrate, with the basal veins along the margin of the leaf base (9, 20).  The petioles are longer than the peduncles in C. silvaticaCalystegia spithamaea rarely twines and generally stays low to the ground. Convolvulus arvensis has smaller bracts, freely branching stems, and flowers that are smaller (1.5-2 cm) (11).   Although similar in form, the foliage of C. silvatica is larger than in Polygonum convolvulus, however the inflorescences are very different.  C. silvatica bear large, white, showy flowers, while flowers of P. convolvulus are small, green, apetalous, and hardly noticeable (15, pers. obs.). All species of Ipomoea in Michigan lack the sepaloid bracts below the flowers, which will be obvious even during fruit development. 

Other members of the family in Michigan (number species): Calystegia (3), Convolvulus (1), Ipomoea (5), and Cuscuta (8) (source 12).

Ethnobotanical Uses: It is not known to be dangerous to humans (8).

CONVCalystegiasilvaticaMAPPhylogenetic Information: Within the family Convolvulaceae the genus Calystegia is placed in the tribe Convolvuleae, according to recent molecular studies (6). Also included in this tribe are the widespread species of Convolvulus, in which Calystegia previously was included, and the genus Polymeria, endemic to Australia. Within the family, this tribe is closest to the tribe Jacquemontieae (only consisting of the genus Jacquemontia), and both tribes are close to the tribe Aniseieae (including Aniseia, Iseia, Odonellia, and Tetralocularia). Convolvulaceae is part of the Solanales, which is one of the four clades of the Euasterids I, which is in turn part of the Core Asterids. Finally, of course, they are Tricolpate Angiosperms (5, 6).

Interesting Factoid: This species can grow among asparagus in fields and reduces the asparagus’ ability to store carbohydrates for the following year and reduce the yield for the current year. It has grown immune to the herbicides typically used to rid asparagus crops of weeds (8).

Literature and websites used:

  1. USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database (, 8 November 2006). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
  2. Gleason, H.A. & A. Cronquist 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. New York: The New York Botanical Garden Press.
  3. Brown, R.W. 1956. Composition of Scientific Words. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  4. Cooperrider, T.S. 1995. The Dicotyledoneae of Ohio: Part 2. Linaceae through Campanulaceae. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press.
  5. Judd, W.S., C. S. Campbell, E.A. Kellogg & P.F. Stevens 1999. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.
  6. Stefanovic, S., D.F. Austin, & R.G. Olmstead 2003. Classification of Convolvulaceae: A Phylogenetic Approach. Systematic Botany 28(4): 791-806.
  7. Iverson, L.R., D. Ketzner, & J. Karnes 1999. Illinois Plant Information Network. Database at Illinois Natural History Survey and USDA Forest Service.
  8. Impact Assessment – Greater bindweed. Victoria Resources Online.
  9. Moore, L.B. & Edgar, E. 1970. Flora of New Zealand. Volume II. Indigenous Tracheophyta – Monocotyledons except Graminae. Electronic Edition, Landcare Research, June 2004. Transcr.
  10. A.D. Wilton & I.M.L. Andres. [Accessed March 2007].
  11. Charters, M.L. 2007. California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations A Dictionary of Botanical Etymology.
  12. Voss, E.G. 1985. Michigan Flora Part III. Cranbrook Institute: Bloomfield Hills, MI.
  13. Mohlenbrock, R.H. 1982. Illinois Convolvulaceae in the Missouri Botanical Garden Herbarium. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 69(2): 393-401.
  14. Brummit, R.K. 1980. Further new names in the genus Calystegia. Kew Bulletin 35(2): 327-334.
  15. Gleason, H.A. & A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Bronx, New York, USA: New York Botanical Garden Press.
  16. Condon, J.M. & B.A. Fineran 1989. Distribution and organization of articulated laticifers in Calystegia silvatica (Convolvulaceae). Botanical Gazette 150(3):289-302.
  17. Missouri Botanical Garden. 14 Nov 2012 <>
  18. Global Biodiversity Information Facility Website. Accessed: 14 November 2012.
  19. Rhui-cheng, F. & R.K. Brummitt 2010. Flora of China, Vol. 16. Science Press, Beijing, and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis. (Online).
  20. Voss, E.G. & A.A. Reznicek 2012. Field Manual of Michigan Flora.  The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.

Image Credits (all used with permission): All three images are copyright John Crellin and, except for the species distribution map, derived from the Michigan Flora Online.

Primary Authors: Marko Melymuka, Cristine Santanna, John Bradtke, and Robyn J. Burnham

For additional information on these web pages please contact Robyn J. Burnham via email:
© Robyn J. Burnham, University of Michigan