The Convolvulus is a genius of about over 200 flowering plant species of the Bindweed or Morning Glory family, mostly climbing or trailing vines or herbs. In the Maltese Islands, over 20 Bindweed species are recorded. All are quite easy to recognise since the flowers look like the horn of old gramophones or trumpet!
Two of the most common bindweeds in the Maltese Islands, which grow in steppes, garrigue and disturbed areas, are the Mallow Bindweed (Leblieba tax-Xagħri, Convolvulus althaeoides) and the Slender Bindweed (Leblieba tax-Xagħri Ċar, Convolvulus elegantissimus). With greyish leaves, the flowers bloom mid-April to June. Both species are very common with minor differences e.g. the flower centre of the Slender Bindweed is white, while that of the Mallow Bindweed are a darker shade of pink. The stem of the Slender Bindweed is thin, with arrow-head shaped leaves covered by fine, white hairs.
The genus name Convolvulus comes from the Latin or Italian word “convolvere”, meaning to entwine, a reference to the stem’s habit of twining around other plants. Roots are very deep and are extensive, and this plant is often regarded as a weed in agricultural fields. The caterpillars of a particular type of migrating rare large moth, called Convolvulus/Bindweed Hawkmoth (Agrius convolvuli, Baħrija tal-Leblieb), found throughout Europe and Africa, eat the leaves of the Bindweed. The caterpillar, which is dark in colour with whitish stripes, is hidden during the day and resumes feeding on the leaves at night.