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Ligustrum quidam exponunt quod est volubilis maior que per sepes et macerias serpit alii vero caprifolium dicunt quicquid sit flores habet albos Virgilius in bucolicis alba ligustra cadunt.


macerias | materias j
flores | florem f
albos | album f
bucolicis (-cis f) B fp | bucholicis e | bucholitis j | buco. AC


Some people state that ligustrum is really volubilis maior {"greater bindweed"}, a plant that creeps through hedges and walls, but others say it is caprifolium {"honeysuckle"}, whatever it may be, it has white flowers. Virgil in his Bucolica speaks of "the white ligustra {"bindweeds, privets"} falling".


Simon alludes to Virgil, Eclogue 2, ed. Fairclough (1938: 10.18). It is from the shepherd Corydon's lament:

O formose puer, nimium ne crede colori:
Alba ligustra cadunt, vaccinia nigra leguntur,

which Rushton Fairclough translates (1938: 11): "Ah, lovely boy, trust not too much to your bloom // The white privets fall, the dark hyacinths are culled". This translation shows up the pitfalls inherent in the translation of ancient Greek/Latin plant names, because Virgil's lines may just as well be translated:
"O handsome boy, do not trust your {youthful} colour,// For just as the white bindweed must fall, thus too are the black bilberries picked".

Botanical identification:

Ligustrum: André (1956: 187) identifies ligustrum 1) Ligustrum vulgare L., the "common" or "European privet" [[1]], an identification shared by Rushton Fairclough. But this cannot be the plant Simon had in mind because, although it has creamy white flowers, it is a shrub and not a climber.

Similarly André's second identification: Lawsonia inermis L. [[2]] is unlikely since we are again dealing with a tall shrub or small tree, the "henna tree" and not a climbing plant.

Hunt (1989: 159f.) suggests these further possible identifications:
- Primula veris L. "cowslip" [[3]], which can be discarded since it is a low growing plant and certainly no climber.

However the next two of his suggestions are climbing plants:
- Lonicera periclymenum L. "honeysuckle" [[4]], with an almost pan-European distribution; and
- Convolvulus arvensis L. "Bindweed" [[5]], again with a wide distribution.

Volubilis maior, if we are to believe Simon's contemporary Rufinus, who gives a detailed botanical description p. 332, vollubilis {sic} maior is clearly a bindweed, most likely the "greater bindweed", Calystegia sepium (L.) R.Br. [[6]] or Convolvulus arvensis L. "field bindweed" [[7]], an identification also offered by Hunt (1989: 265), s.v. Volubilis. These plants fit Simon's description that it "creeps up (serpit) hedges and walls".

For more information on volubilis maior see the Botanical identification section of Volubilis.

For caprifolium see Caprifolium.

WilfGunther (talk) 15/12/2013

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