Welsh, Cynhafawg. - French, Liseron, Liset. - German, Winde. - Dutch, Vinde. - Danish, Snerli. - Italian, Vilucchio, Vi-tecchio. - Spanish, Convolvulo. - Portuguese, Oliserao. lllyric, Slek, Slak. - Arabic, Olleyk, Lubbayn, Middayd.
The Convolvulaceae are an order of peculiar beauty and interest, which occur both in temperate and tropical regions; assuming, in some parts of South America, quite an arboreous character; but everywhere preserving the beauty of their vase-like blossoms, and the grace of their wandering and flexile stems. This is even the case in the leafless genus cuscuta, or dodder. In the valley of the Nile the common striped-bindweed (C.arvensis) grows everywhere in the fields; and one name it bears, olleyk, applies to its "suspending," or "climbing," habits, as the other, lubbayn, does to its "milky" juice. That of the desert derives its name, middayd, from its "stretching forth," or "creeping," habit; and it is probably the same as the C. Forskalii, whose other appellation, bayad, signifying "white," is derived from its juice. There are also other natives of the desert, as the G. armalus; and, besides the large white convolvulus, the gardens of Cairo abound in the rich blue and red-striped C Cairicus, known there as Sit-el-hosn, "the beautiful lady," and Sherk-felek, or "rainbow;" but this last is properly the passion-flower.
SEA BIND-WEED AND SMALL BIND-WEED.
Convolvulus (calystegia) Soldanella. and Convolvulus arvensis.
London: Published by John Van Voorst 1858 .
Almost the whole of the convolvulus tribe possess medicinal powers of high order; as, for instance, the C scammonia, and the Exogonium purga (Ipo-Tncea purga, or Convolvulus jalapa), which, respectively, yield scammony and jalap. Some are stimulant - as the G.floridus, and scoparius, and Ipomcea quamoclit; while others do not contain sufficient of the acrid juice belonging to the order, to prevent their use as a common article of food. This is more especially observable in the G. batata, or sweet potato, and the C. edulis, which are both wholesome. In every case it is the root of the convolvulus which is used, whether for food or medicine.
Correctly speaking, we have but one British species of convolvulus; the small-bindweed (C arvensis; see plate), which is remarkable for the sweetness of its scent; but as the Calystegias form a very artificial genus, being distinguished from the true convolvulus only by the presence of bracteas, and by the capsule being one-celled; and as, moreover, they have only recently been separated from the convolvulus - being still retained under that head in some of the most valuable of our standard works - I shall follow this example; feeling that to call the great-bindweed (Calystegia [Convolvulus] sepium) "by any other name" than convolvulus, would be despite the authority of the poet in an analagous case - to take away half its beauty, by depriving it of an appellation by which it has been so long known. I think that it will not be necessary to offer any description of this most beautiful plant; which wreathes in the most graceful festoons over our hedgerows, or around the gooseberry and currant-bushes in our gardens, opening its large tender white or rose-tinted blossoms in the bright sunshine; or gathering their convolute folds together when a threatening rain-cloud obscures his beams, as if to husband its beauties till the return of fair weather after the summer shower.
Instead, therefore, of presenting a melancholy wreck after the storm, or hanging in unsightly decay on the shrubs from which, in brighter hours, it received support, it opens its flowers as if they were merely refreshed by the storm which has destroyed blossoms of a far less tender description. How often, in watching the re-opening of these fair blossoms, are the lines of the poet recalled to the memory:
"Summer showers, that fall above Fainting blossoms, leave with them Freshened leaf, and straightened stem; Sunshine oft doth give again Bloom the bitter storm hath ta'en; And this human love of ours, To the world's poor faded flowers, May be found as dear a boon As God's blessed rain and sun, To restore their native hue And their native fragrance too:"
- lines which recall those of the older Italian poet:-
"I pianti pietosi Dei teneri amici Pe'l cuore infelice, Che '1 duolo colpi, Son come del Cielo Le molli rugiade, Sul languido stelo Del fior' che appassi".
These are the "hedge bells" and "withiwinde" of the old writers; of which every flower, leaf, stem, and spiral fold, is a perfect study for the artist; whether as regards form, the play of light, or the shade on its surface. And were an artist, from any cause to be restricted to a single plant, he might well be satisfied with this, so innumerable are the models it presents for his pencil.
Nor is beauty the only merit of the plant: the root has properties similar to those of the G. scam-monia, and has been used as its substitute, under the names of Montpellier, Bourbon, and scammony; and Galen, as we are informed by Gerarde, recommends the leaves to be laid on hard swellings, in order to disperse them. Gerarde, however, will by no means admit that any plants of the tribe are medicinal, treating the whole of them with the utmost contempt as "not fit for medicine, and unprofitable weedes, and hurtfulle unto each thing that groweth next them:" and classing them amongst the herbs employed by "runnagat physick-mongers, quacksaluers, old women leeches, and abusers of physick, and deceiuers of people!" But in spite of this strange category of ill names, Gerarde admits that the Calystegia (Convolvulus) Soldanella which was however made admissable by not bearing the objectionable name* - was used for scurvy in the county of Hampshire, and was good for flesh wounds, and efficacious in dropsy, though from its acrid qualities it, he says, "hurteth the stomachs of delicate persons".
This handsome flower, which is represented in the engraving, is almost as large as that of the great-bindweed; though the plant itself is low and creeping, with small and scantily distributed leaves, resembling in shape a horse-shoe; from which the plant obtains the old names of sea-foal-hoof and seahorse-hoof, corresponding to the Welsh name Ebol-garn-y-mor. It occurs on sandy dunes, as they are termed on the Eastern coast - or sand-hills as we more generally designate them, and is a very common plant on all our sandy shores; seldom rising to a greater height than two or three inches; it trails along the ground, and makes the desolate spots where it grows bright and gay with its pink blossoms, whose effect is considerably increased by the reddish-yellow tint assumed at a very early period by its bracts, stems, and leaves. The seed of this convolvulus furnishes a curious example of germination, not merely while the seed-vessel is remaining on the plant, but actually within it when still closed; and in this, though deprived of light and air, the seminal leaves of the cotyledon assume a large size, and even a green colour, some time before they burst from their bonds and take root in the earth on which their cradle already lies, affording a very clear idea of the relative arrangements of the different internal parts of the dicotyledonous seed.
The same peculiarity of internal growth from a seed sometimes occurs in hot climates within the water-melon while still entire, and may possibly be met with in other plants.
* Soldanella was then the generic name.
It is almost unnecessary to remark that the botanical name of this tribe is derived from the Latin convolvo, from its entwining character. The name Calystegia is formed of two Greek words, signifying beautiful and a covering, and has been adapted to the plants it distinguishes, in allusion to the office of the bracteas before referred to.
Most of the European names are synonymous with our bindweed and withiwinde.