WILD FLOWERS WORTH KNOWING
ASA DON DICKINSON
From Nature's Garden
BY NELTJE BLANCHAN
A still more popular edition of what has proved to the author to be a
surprisingly popular book, has been prepared by the able hand of Mr.
Don Dickinson, and is now offered in the hope that many more people
find the wild flowers in Nature's garden all about us well worth
knowing. For flowers have distinct objects in life and are everything
they are for the most justifiable of reasons, i.e., the
and the improvement of their species. The means they employ to
accomplish these ends are so various and so consummately clever that,
learning to understand them, we are brought to realize how similar they
are to the fundamental aims of even the human race. Indeed there are
life principles that plants have not worked out satisfactorily. The
problems of adapting oneself to one's environment, of insuring healthy
families, of starting one's children well in life, of founding new
colonies in distant lands, of the cooperative method of conducting
business as opposed to the individualistic, of laying up treasure in
bank for future use, of punishing vice and rewarding virtue--these and
many other problems of mankind the flowers have worked out with the
of insects, through the ages. To really understand what the wild
are doing, what the scheme of each one is, besides looking beautiful,
to give one a broader sympathy with both man and Nature and to add a
real interest and joy to life which cannot be too widely shared.
Oyster Bay, New York, January 2, 1917.
Editor's Note.--The nomenclature and classification of
Manual of Botany, as rearranged and revised by Professors Robinson and
Fernald, have been followed throughout the book. This system is based
upon that of Eichler, as developed by Engler and Prantl. A variant form
of name is also sometimes given to assist in identification.--A.D.D.
Preface, and Editor's Note
Leaf and Root Forms
List of Illustrations
WATER-PLANTAIN FAMILY (Alismaceae)
ARUM FAMILY (Araceae)
SPIDERWORT FAMILY (Commelinaceae)
Virginia or Common Day-flower
PICKEREL-WEED FAMILY (Pontederiaceae)
LILY FAMILY (Liliaceae)
American White Hellebore;
Wild Yellow, Meadow,
Field or Canada Lily;
Red, Wood, Flame or Philadelphia Lily;
Yellow Adder's Tongue or Dog-tooth "Violet";
Wild Spikenard or False Solomon's Seal;
Hairy, True or Twin-flowered Solomon's Seal;
Early or Dwarf Wake-Robin;
Ill-scented Wake-Robin or Birth-root;
AMARYLLIS FAMILY (Amaryllidaceae)
IRIS FAMILY (Iridaceae)
Larger Blue Flag, Blue Iris or Fleur-de-lis;
Pointed Blue-eyed Grass, Eye-bright or Blue Star
ORCHIS FAMILY (Orchidaceae)
Large Yellow Lady's Slipper, Whippoorwill's Shoe or Yellow
Moccasin Flower or Pink, Venus' or Stemless Lady's Slipper;
Showy, Gay or Spring Orchis;
Large, Early or Purple-fringed Orchis;
Calopagon or Grass Pink;
Arethusa or Indian Pink;
Nodding Ladies' Tresses
BUCKWHEAT FAMILY (Polygonaceae)
Common Persicaria, Pink Knotweed or Jointweed or Smartweed
POKEWEED FAMILY (Phytolaccaceae)
Pokeweed, Scoke, Pigeon-berry, Ink-berry or Garget
PINK FAMILY (Caryophyllaceae)
Corn Cockle, Corn Rose, Corn or Red Campion, or
Wild Pink or Catchfly;
Soapwort, Bouncing Bet or Old Maid's Pink
PURSLANE FAMILY (Portulacaceae)
Spring Beauty or Claytonia
WATER-LILY FAMILY (Nymphaeaceae)
Large Yellow Pond or Water Lily, Cow Lily or Spatterdock;
Sweet-scented White Water or Pond Lily
CROWFOOT FAMILY (Ranunculaceae)
Common Meadow Buttercup, Tall Crowfoot or Cuckoo Flower;
Tall Meadow Rue; Liver-leaf, Hepatica, Liverwort or
Wood Anemone or Wind Flower;
Virgin's Bower, Virginia Clematis or Old Man's Beard;
Marsh Marigold, Meadow-gowan or American Cowslip;
Gold-thread or Canker-root;
Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot or Tall Bugbane;
White Bane-berry or Cohosh
BARBERRY FAMILY (Berberidaceae)
May Apple, Hog Apple or Mandrake;
Barberry or Pepperidge-bush
POPPY FAMILY (Papaveraceae)
Greater Celandine or Swallow-wort
FUMITORY FAMILY (Fumariaceae)
MUSTARD FAMILY (Cruciferae)
PITCHER-PLANT FAMILY (Sarraceniaceae)
Pitcher-plant, Side-saddle Flower or Indian Dipper
SUNDEW FAMILY (Dioseraceae)
Round-leaved Sundew or Dew-plant
SAXIFRAGE FAMILY (Saxifragaceae)
False Miterwort, Coolwort or Foam Flower;
Grass of Parnassus
WITCH-HAZEL FAMILY (Hamamelidaceae)
ROSE FAMILY (Rosaceae)
Hardhack or Steeple Bush;
Meadow-Sweet or Quaker Lady;
Common Hawthorn, White Thorn, Red Haw or Mayflower;
Five-finger or Common Cinquefoil;
High Bush Blackberry, or Bramble;
Purple-flowering or Virginia Raspberry;
PULSE FAMILY (Leguminosae)
Wild or American Senna;
Wild Indigo, Yellow or Indigo Broom, or Horsefly-Weed;
Wild Lupine, Sun Dial or Wild Pea;
Common Red, Purple, Meadow or Honeysuckle Clover;
White Sweet, Bokhara or Tree Clover;
Blue, Tufted or Cow Vetch or Tare;
Wild or Hog Peanut
WOOD-SORREL FAMILY (Oxalidaceae)
White or True Wood-sorrel or Alleluia;
GERANIUM FAMILY (Geraniaceae)
Wild or Spotted Geranium or Crane's-Bill;
Herb Robert, Red Robin or Red Shanks
MILKWORT FAMILY (Polygalaceae)
Fringed Milkwort or Polygala or Flowering Wintergreen;
Common Field or Purple Milkwort
TOUCH-ME-NOT FAMILY (Balsaminaceae)
Jewel-weed, Spotted Touch-me-not or Snap Weed
BUCKTHORN FAMILY (Rhamnaceae)
New Jersey Tea
MALLOW FAMILY (Malvaceae)
Swamp Rose-mallow or Mallow Rose
ST. JOHN'S-WORT FAMILY (Hypericaceae)
Common St. John's-wort
ROCKROSE FAMILY (Cistaceae)
Long-branched Frost-weed or Canadian Rockrose
VIOLET FAMILY (Violaceae)
Blue and Purple Violets;
EVENING PRIMROSE FAMILY (Onagraceae)
Great or Spiked Willow-herb or Fire-weed;
Evening Primrose or Night Willow-herb
GINSENG FAMILY (Araliaceae)
Spikenard or Indian Root
PARSLEY FAMILY (Umbelliferae)
Wild or Field Parsnip;
Wild Carrot or Queen Anne's Lace
DOGWOOD FAMILY (Cornaceae)
HEATH FAMILY (Ericaceae)
Pipsissewa or Prince's Pine;
Indian Pipe, Ice-plant, Ghost flower or Corpse-plant;
Pine Sap or False Beech-drops;
Wild Honeysuckle, Pink, Purple or Wild Azalea, or
American or Great Rhododendron, Great Laurel, or Bay;
Mountain or American Laurel or Broad-leaved Kalmia;
Trailing Arbutus or Mayflower;
Creeping Wintergreen, Checker-berry or Partridge-berry
PRIMROSE FAMILY (Primulaceae)
Four-leaved or Whorled Loosestrife;
Scarlet Pimpernel, Poor Man's Weatherglass or Shepherd's
Shooting Star or American Cowslip
GENTIAN FAMILY (Gentianaceae)
Bitter-bloom or Rose-Pink;
Closed or Blind Gentian
DOGBANE FAMILY (Apocynaceae)
Spreading or Fly-trap Dogbane
MILKWEED FAMILY (Asclepiadaceae)
Common Milkweed or Silkweed;
CONVOLVULUS FAMILY (Convolvulaceae)
Hedge or Great Bindweed;
Gronovius' or Common Dodder or Strangle-weed
POLEMONIUM FAMILY (Polemoniaceae)
Ground or Moss Pink
BORAGE FAMILY (Boraginaceae)
Viper's Bugloss or Snake-flower
VERVAIN FAMILY (Verbenaceae)
Blue Vervain, Wild Hyssop or Simpler's Joy
MINT FAMILY (Labiatae)
Mad-dog Skullcap or Madweed;
Self-heal, Heal-all, Blue Curls or Brunella;
Oswego Tea, Bee Balm or Indian's Plume;
NIGHTSHADE FAMILY (Solanaceae)
Nightshade, Blue Bindweed or Bittersweet;
Jamestown Weed, Thorn Apple or Jimson Weed
FIGWORT FAMILY (Scrophulariaceae)
Great Mullein, Velvet or Flannel Plant or Aaron's Rod;
Butter-and-eggs or Yellow Toadflax;
Blue or Wild Toadflax or Blue Linaria;
Snake-head, Turtle-head or Cod-head;
Common Speedwell, Fluellin or Paul's Betony;
Downy False Foxglove;
Large Purple Gerardia;
Scarlet Painted Cup or Indian Paint-brush;
Wood Betony or Loosewort
BROOM-RAPE FAMILY (Orobanchaceae)
MADDER FAMILY (Rubiaceae)
Partridge Vine or Squaw-berry;
Button-bush or Honey-balls;
Bluets, Innocence or Quaker Ladies
BLUEBELL FAMILY (Campanulaceae)
Harebell, Hairbell or Blue Bells of Scotland; Venus'
or Clasping Bellflower
LOBELIA FAMILY (Lobeliaceae)
COMPOSITE FAMILY (Compositae)
Iron-weed or Flat Top;
Joe Pye Weed, Trumpet Weed, or Tall or Purple Boneset or
Blue and Purple Asters or Starworts;
White Asters or Starworts;
Daisy Fleabane or Sweet Scabious;
Robin's or Robert's Plantain or Blue Spring Daisy;
Pearly or Large-flowered Everlasting or Immortelle,
Black-eyed Susan or Yellow or Ox-eye Daisy;
Tall or Giant Sunflower;
Sneezeweed or Swamp Sunflower;
Yarrow or Milfoil;
Dog's or Fetid Camomile or Dog-fennel;
Common Daisy, Marguerite, or White Daisy;
Tansy or Bitter Buttons;
Thistles; Chicory or Succory;
Tall or Wild Lettuce;
Orange or Tawny Hawkweed or Devil's Paint-brush
GENERAL INDEX OF NAMES
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
BLACK-EYED SUSAN (Rudbeckia
ARROW-HEAD (Sagittaria latifolia)
SOAPWORT OR BOUNCING BET (Saponaria
LIVERWORT OR HEPATICA (Hepatica
MARSH MARIGOLD (Caltha palustris)
BLACK COHOSH (Cimifuga racemosa)
MANDRAKE OR MAY APPLE (Podophyllum
BLOODROOT (Sanguinaria canadensis)
STEEPLEBUSH OR HARDHACK (Spiraea
PURPLE-FLOWERING RASPBERRY (Rubus
TOUCH-ME-NOT OR JEWEL WEED (Impatiens
SHRUBBY ST. JOHN'S WORT (Hypericum
COMMON PURPLE VIOLET (Viola
DOWNY YELLOW VIOLET (Viola
FIRE WEED (Epilobium angustifolium)
EVENING PRIMROSE (Oenothera
SILKY CORNEL OR KINNIKINNIK (Cornus
MOUNTAIN LAUREL (Kalmia
TRAILING ARBUTUS OR MAYFLOWER (Epigala
SEA OR MARSH PINK (Sabataria
CLOSED OR BLIND GENTIAN (Gentiana
PURPLE MILKWEED (Asclepias
BLUE VERVAIN OR WILD HYSSOP (Verbena
HYSSOP SKULLCAP (Scutellaria
SELF-HEAL OR BLUE CURLS (Prunella
GREAT MULLEIN OR VELVET DOCK (Verbascum
MOTH MULLEIN (Verbascum blattaria)
MONKEY-FLOWER (Mimulus ringens)
DOWNY FALSE FOXGLOVE (Gerardia
PAINTED CUP (Castilleja coccinea)
BUTTON-BUSH OR HONEY BALL (Cephalanthus
CARDINAL FLOWER (Lobelia
GREAT LOBELIA OR BLUE CARDINAL (Lobelia
CANADA GOLDEN-ROD (Solidago
LATE PURPLE ASTER (Aster Patens)
TALL OR GIANT SUNFLOWER (Helianthus
TANSY OR BITTER BUTTONS (Tanacteum
PASTURE OR FRAGRANT THISTLE (Cirsium
BUR OR SPEAR THISTLE (Cirsium
CHICORY OR SUCCORY (Cichorium Intybus)
Sagittaria latifolia (S. variabilis)
Flowers--White, 1 to 1-1/2 in. wide, in 3-bracted whorls
near the summit of a leafless scape 4 in. to 4 ft. tall. Calyx of 3
sepals; corolla of 3 rounded, spreading petals. Stamens and pistils
numerous, the former yellow in upper flowers; usually absent or
imperfect in lower pistillate flowers. Leaves: Exceedingly
those under water usually long and grass-like; upper ones sharply
arrow-shaped or blunt and broad, spongy or leathery, on long petioles.
Preferred Habitat--Shallow water and mud.
Distribution--From Mexico northward throughout our area to
Wading into shallow water or standing on some muddy shore, like a
this striking plant, so often found in that bird's haunts, is quite as
decorative in a picture, and, happily, far more approachable in life.
Indeed, one of the comforts of botany as compared with bird study is
that we may get close enough to the flowers to observe their last
detail, whereas the bird we have followed laboriously over hill and
dale, through briers and swamps, darts away beyond the range of
field-glasses with tantalizing swiftness.
While no single plant is yet thoroughly known to scientists, in spite
the years of study devoted by specialists to separate groups, no plant
remains wholly meaningless. When Keppler discovered the majestic order
of movement of the heavenly bodies, he exclaimed, "O God, I think Thy
thoughts after Thee!"--the expression of a discipleship every reverent
soul must be conscious of in penetrating, be it ever so little a way,
into the inner meaning of the humblest wayside weed.
Any plant which elects to grow in shallow water must be amphibious: it
must be able to breathe beneath the surface as the fish do, and also be
adapted to thrive without those parts that correspond to gills; for
ponds and streams have an unpleasant way of drying up in summer,
leaving it stranded on the shore. This accounts in part for the
variable leaves on the arrow-head, those underneath the water being
long and ribbon-like, to bring the greatest possible area into contact
with the air with which the water is charged. Broad leaves would be
torn to shreds by the current through which grass-like blades glide
harmlessly; but when this plant grows on shore, having no longer use
for its lower ribbons, it loses them, and expands only broad
arrow-shaped surfaces to the sunny air, leaves to be supplied with
carbonic acid to assimilate, and sunshine to turn off, the oxygen and
store up the carbon into their system.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit; Indian Turnip
Flowers--Minute, greenish yellow, clustered on the lower
smooth, club-shaped, slender spadix within a green and maroon or
whitish-striped spathe that curves in a broad-pointed flap above it.
Leaves: 3-foliate, usually overtopping the spathe, their
petioles 9 to 30 in. high, or as tall as the scape that rises from an
acrid corm. Fruit: Smooth, shining red berries clustered on the
Preferred Habitat--Moist woodland and thickets.
Distribution--Nova Scotia westward to Minnesota, and
A jolly-looking preacher is Jack, standing erect in his parti-colored
pulpit with a sounding-board over his head; but he is a gay deceiver, a
wolf in sheep's clothing, literally a "brother to dragons," an arrant
upstart, an ingrate, a murderer of innocent benefactors! "Female
botanizing classes pounce upon it as they would upon a pious young
clergyman," complains Mr. Ellwanger. A poor relation of the stately
calla lily one knows Jack to be at a glance, her lovely white robe
corresponding to his striped pulpit, her bright yellow spadix to his
sleek reverence. In the damp woodlands where his pulpit is erected
beneath leafy cathedral arches, minute flies or gnats, recently emerged
from maggots in mushrooms, toadstools, or decaying logs, form the main
part of his congregation.
Now, to drop the clerical simile, let us peep within the sheathing
spathe, or, better still, strip it off altogether. Doctor Torrey states
that the dark-striped spathes are the fertile plants, those with green
and whitish lines, sterile. Within are smooth, glossy columns, and near
the base of each we shall find the true flowers, minute affairs, some
staminate; others, on distinct plants, pistillate, the berry bearers;
rarely both male and female florets seated on the same club, as if
Jack's elaborate plan to prevent self-fertilization were not yet
complete. Plants may be detected in process of evolution toward their
ideals just as nations and men are. Doubtless when Jack's mechanism is
perfected, his guilt will disappear. A little way above the florets the
club enlarges abruptly, forming a projecting ledge that effectually
closes the avenue of escape for many a guileless victim. A fungous
enticed perhaps by the striped house of refuge from cold spring winds,
and with a prospect of food below, enters and slides down the inside
walls or the slippery, colored column: in either case descent is very
easy; it is the return that is made so difficult, if not impossible,
the tiny visitors. Squeezing past the projecting ledge, the gnat finds
himself in a roomy apartment whose floor--the bottom of the pulpit--is
dusted over with fine pollen; that is, if he is among staminate flowers
already mature. To get some of that pollen, with which the gnat
presently covers himself, transferred to the minute pistillate florets
waiting for it in a distant chamber is, of course, Jack's whole aim in
enticing visitors within his polished walls; but what means are
for their escape? Their efforts to crawl upward over the slippery
surface only land them weak and discouraged where they started. The
projecting ledge overhead prevents them from using their wings; the
passage between the ledge and the spathe is far too narrow to permit
flight. Now, if a gnat be persevering, he will presently discover a gap
in the flap where the spathe folds together in front, and through this
tiny opening he makes his escape, only to enter another pulpit, like
trusted, but too trusting, messenger he is, and leave some of the
vitalizing pollen on the fertile florets awaiting his coming.
But suppose the fly, small as he is, is too large to work his way out
through the flap, or too bewildered or stupid to find the opening, or
too exhausted after his futile efforts to get out through the overhead
route to persevere, or too weak with hunger in case of long detention
a pistillate trap where no pollen is, what then? Open a dozen of Jack's
pulpits, and in several, at least, dead victims will be found--pathetic
little corpses sacrificed to the imperfection of his executive system.
Had the flies entered mature spathes, whose walls had spread outward
away from the polished column, flight through the overhead route might
have been possible. However glad we may be to make every due allowance
for this sacrifice of the higher life to the lower, as only a temporary
imperfection of mechanism incidental to the plant's higher development,
Jack's present cruelty shocks us no less. Or, it may be, he will become
insectivorous like the pitcher plant in time. He comes from a rascally
family, anyhow. His cousin, the cuckoo-pint, as is well known, destroys
the winged messenger bearing its offspring to plant fresh colonies in a
distant bog, because the decayed body of the bird acts as the best
possible fertilizer into which the seedling may strike its roots.
In June and July the thick-set club, studded over with bright berries,
becomes conspicuous, to attract hungry woodland rovers in the hope that
the seeds will be dropped far from the parent plant. The Indians used
boil the berries for food. The farinaceous root (corm) they likewise
boiled or dried to extract the stinging, blistering juice, leaving an
edible little "turnip," however insipid and starchy.
Skunk or Swamp Cabbage
Flowers--Minute, perfect, foetid; many scattered over a
rounded, fleshy spadix, and hidden within a swollen, shell-shaped,
purplish-brown to greenish-yellow, usually mottled, spathe, close to
ground, that appears before the leaves. Spadix much enlarged and spongy
in fruit, the bulb-like berries imbedded in its surface. Leaves:
large crowns like cabbages, broadly ovate, often 1 ft. across, strongly
nerved, their petioles with deep grooves, malodorous.
Preferred Habitat--Swamps, wet ground.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Florida, and westward to
This despised relative of the stately calla lily proclaims spring in
very teeth of winter, being the first bold adventurer above ground.
the lovely hepatica, the first flower worthy the name to appear, is
still wrapped in her fuzzy furs, the skunk cabbage's dark, incurved
horn shelters within its hollow, tiny, malodorous florets. Why is the
entire plant so foetid that one flees the neighborhood, pervaded as it
is with an odor that combines a suspicion of skunk, putrid meat, and
garlic? After investigating the Carrion-flower and the Purple Trillium,
among others, we learned that certain flies delight in foul odors
loathsome to higher organisms; that plants dependent on these pollen
carriers woo them from long distances with a stench, and in addition
sometimes try to charm them with color resembling the sort of meat it
their special mission, with the help of beetles and other scavengers of
Nature, to remove from the face of the earth. In such marshy ground as
the Skunk Cabbage lives in, many small flies and gnats live in embryo
under the fallen leaves during the winter. But even before they are
warmed into active life, the hive-bees, natives of Europe, and with
habits not perfectly adapted as yet to our flora, are out after pollen.
After the flowering time come the vivid green crowns of leaves that at
least please the eye. Lizards make their home beneath them, and many a
yellowthroat, taking advantage of the plant's foul odor, gladly puts up
with it herself and builds her nest in the hollow of the cabbage as a
protection for her eggs and young from four-footed enemies. Cattle let
the plant alone because of the stinging acrid juices secreted by it,
although such tender, fresh, bright foliage must be especially
like the hellebore's, after a dry winter diet. Sometimes tiny insects
are found drowned in the wells of rain water that accumulate at the
of the grooved leafstalks.
Virginia, or Common Day-flower
Flowers--Blue, 1 in. broad or less, irregular, grouped at
and upheld by long leaf-like bracts. Calyx of 3 unequal sepals; 3
petals, 1 inconspicuous, 2 showy, rounded. Perfect stamens 3; the
of 1 incurved stamen largest; 3 insignificant and sterile stamens; 1
pistil. Stem: Fleshy, smooth, branched, mucilaginous. Leaves:
Lance-shaped, 3 to 5 in. long, sheathing the stem at base; upper leaves
in a spathe-like bract folding like a hood about flowers. Fruit:
3-celled capsule, 1 seed in each cell.
Preferred Habitat--Moist, shady ground.
Distribution--"Southern New York to Illinois and Michigan,
Texas, and through tropical America to Paraguay."--Britton and Browne.
Delightful Linnaeus, who dearly loved his little joke, himself
to have named the day-flowers after three brothers Commelyn, Dutch
botanists, because two of them--commemorated in the two showy blue
petals of the blossom--published their works; the third, lacking
application and ambition, amounted to nothing, like the inconspicuous
whitish third petal! Happily Kaspar Commelyn died in 1731, before the
joke was perpetrated in "Species Plantarum." Soon after noon, the
day-flower's petals roll up, never to open again.
Flowers--Bright purplish blue, including filaments,
style; crowded in a dense spike; quickly fading; unpleasantly odorous.
Perianth tubular, 2-lipped, parted into 6 irregular lobes, free from
ovary; middle lobe of upper lip with 2 yellow spots at base within.
Stamens 6, placed at unequal distances on tube, 3 opposite each lip.
Pistil 1, the stigma minutely toothed. Stem: Erect, stout,
to 4 ft. tall, not often over 2 ft. above water line. Leaves:
bract-like, sheathing stem at base; 1 leaf only, midway on
thick, polished, triangular, or arrow-shaped, 4 to 8 in. long, 2 to 6
in. across base.
Preferred Habitat--Shallow water of ponds and streams.
Distribution--Eastern half of United States and Canada.
Grace of habit and the bright beauty of its long blue spikes of ragged
flowers above rich, glossy leaves give a charm to this vigorous wader.
Backwoodsmen will tell you that pickerels lay their eggs among the
leaves; but so they do among the sedges, arums, wild rice, and various
aquatic plants, like many another fish. Bees and flies, that congregate
about the blossoms to feed, may sometimes fly too low, and so give a
plausible reason for the pickerel's choice of haunt. Each blossom lasts
but a single day; the upper portion, withering, leaves the base of the
perianth to harden about the ovary and protect the solitary seed. But
the gradually lengthened spike keeps up an uninterrupted succession of
bloom for months, more than ample provision is made for the
of the race--a necessity to any plant that refuses to thrive unless it
stands in water. Ponds and streams have an unpleasant habit of drying
in summer, and often the Pickerel Weed looks as brown as a bullrush
where it is stranded in the baked mud in August. When seed falls on
ground, if indeed it germinates at all, the young plant naturally
Of the three kinds of blossoms, one raises its stigma on a long style
reaching to the top of the flower; a second form reaches its stigma
half-way up, and the third keeps its stigma in the bottom of the tube.
The visiting bee gets his abdomen, his chest, and his tongue dusted
pollen from long, middle-length, and short stamens respectively. When
visits another flower, these parts of his body coming in contact with
the stigmas that occupy precisely the position where the stamens were
other individuals, he brushes off each lot of pollen just where it will
do the most good.
American White Hellebore; Indian Poke; Itch-weed
Flowers--Dingy, pale yellowish or whitish green, growing
age, 1 in. or less across, very numerous, in stiff-branching,
spike-like, dense-flowered panicles. Perianth of 6 oblong segments; 6
short curved stamens; 3 styles. Stem: Stout, leafy, 2 to 8 ft.
Leaves: Plaited, lower ones broadly oval, pointed, 6 to 12
parallel ribbed, sheathing the stem where they clasp it; upper leaves
gradually narrowing; those among flowers small.
Preferred Habitat--Swamps, wet woods, low meadows.
Distribution--British Possessions from ocean to ocean;
the United States to Georgia, Tennessee, and Minnesota.
"Borage and hellebore fill two scenes--
Sovereign plants to purge the veins
Of melancholy, and cheer the heart
Of those black fumes which make it smart."
Such are the antidotes for madness prescribed by Burton in his
of Melancholy." But like most medicines, so the homoeopaths have taught
us, the plant that heals may also poison; and the coarse, thick
rootstock of this hellebore sometimes does deadly work. The shining
plaited leaves, put forth so early in the spring they are especially
tempting to grazing cattle on that account, are too well known by most
animals, however, to be touched by them--precisely the end desired, of
course, by the hellebore, nightshade, aconite, cyclamen, Jamestown
and a host of others that resort, for protection, to the low trick of
mixing poisonous chemicals with their cellular juices. Pliny told how
the horses, oxen, and swine of his day were killed by eating the
of the black hellebore. But the flies which cross-fertilize this plant
seem to be uninjured by its nectar.
Wild Yellow, Meadow, or Field Lily; Canada Lily
Flowers--Yellow to orange-red, of a deeper shade within,
with dark, reddish-brown dots. One or several (rarely many) nodding on
long peduncles from the summit. Perianth bell-shaped, of 6 spreading
segments 2 to 3 in. long, their tips curved backward to the middle; 6
stamens, with reddish-brown linear anthers; 1 pistil, club-shaped; the
stigma 3-lobed. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. tall, leafy, from a bulbous
composed of numerous fleshy white scales. Leaves: Lance-shaped
oblong; usually in whorls of fours to tens, or some alternate. Fruit:
An erect, oblong, 3-celled capsule, the flat, horizontal seeds packed
2 rows in each cavity.
Preferred Habitat--Swamps, low meadows, moist fields.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Georgia, westward beyond the
Not our gorgeous lilies that brighten the low-lying meadows in early
summer with pendent, swaying bells; possibly not a true lily at all was
chosen to illustrate the truth which those who listened to the Sermon
the Mount, and we, equally anxious, foolishly overburdened folk of
to-day, so little comprehend.
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not,
do they spin:
"And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not
arrayed like one of these."
Opinions differ as to the lily of Scripture. Eastern peoples use the
same word interchangeably for the tulip, anemone, ranunculus, iris, the
water-lilies, and those of the field. The superb scarlet Martagon Lily
(L. chalcedonicum), grown in gardens here, is not uncommon
Palestine; but whoever has seen the large anemones there "carpeting
every plain and luxuriantly pervading the land" is inclined to believe
that Jesus, who always chose the most familiar objects in the daily
of His simple listeners to illustrate His teachings, rested His eyes on
the slopes about Him glowing with anemones in all their matchless
loveliness. What flower served Him then matters not at all. It is
that scientists--now more plainly than ever before--see the universal
application of the illustration the more deeply they study nature, and
can include their "little brothers of the air" and the humblest flower
at their feet when they say with Paul, "In God we live and move and
Tallest and most prolific of bloom among our native lilies, as it is
most variable in color, size, and form, the Turk's Cap, or Turban Lily
(L. superbum), sometimes nearly merges its identity into
sister's. Travellers by rail between New York and Boston know how
gorgeous are the low meadows and marshes in July or August, when its
clusters of deep yellow, orange, or flame-colored lilies tower above
surrounding vegetation. Like the color of most flowers, theirs
intensifies in salt air. Commonly from three to seven lilies appear in
terminal group; but under skilful cultivation even forty will crown the
stalk that reaches a height of nine feet where its home suits it
perfectly; or maybe only a poor array of dingy yellowish caps top a
shrivelled stem when unfavorable conditions prevail. There certainly
are times when its specific name seems extravagant.
Red, Wood, Flame, or Philadelphia Lily
Flowers--Erect, tawny, or red-tinted outside; vermilion,
reddish orange, and spotted with madder brown within; 1 to 5, on
separate peduncles, borne at the summit. Perianth of 6 distinct,
spreading, spatulate segments, each narrowed into a claw, and with a
nectar groove at its base; 6 stamens; 1 style, the club-shaped stigma
3-lobed. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. tall, from a bulb composed of narrow,
jointed, fleshy scales. Leaves: In whorls of 3's to 8's,
seated at intervals on the stem.
Preferred Habitat--Dry woods, sandy soil, borders, and
Distribution--Northern border of United States, westward
south to the Carolinas and West Virginia.
Erect, as if conscious of its striking beauty, this vivid lily lifts a
chalice that suggests a trap for catching sunbeams from fiery old Sol.
Defiant of his scorching rays in its dry habitat, it neither nods nor
droops even during prolonged drought; and yet many people confuse it
with the gracefully pendent, swaying bells of the yellow Canada Lily,
which will grow in a swamp rather than forego moisture. La, the
for white, from which the family derived its name, makes this
bright-hued flower blush to own it. Seedsmen, who export quantities of
our superb native lilies to Europe, supply bulbs so cheap that no one
should wait four years for flowers from seed, or go without their
splendor in our over-conventional gardens.
Yellow Adder's Tongue; Trout Lily; Dog-tooth "Violet"
Flower--Solitary, pale russet yellow, rarely tinged with
slightly fragrant, 1 to 2 in. long, nodding from the summit of a
root-stalk 6 to 12 in, high, or about as tall as the leaves. Perianth
bell-shaped, of 6 petal-like, distinct segments, spreading at tips,
dark spotted within; 6 stamens; the club-shaped style with 3 short,
stigmatic ridges. Leaves: 2, unequal, grayish green, mottled
streaked with brown or all green, oblong, 3 to 8 in. long, narrowing
into clasping petioles.
Preferred Habitat--Moist open woods and thickets,
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Florida, westward to the
Colonies of these dainty little lilies, that so often grow beside
leaping brooks where and when the trout hide, justify at least one of
their names; but they have nothing in common with the violet or a dog's
tooth. Their faint fragrance rather suggests a tulip; and as for the
bulb, which in some of the lily-kin has toothlike scales, it is in this
case a smooth, egg-shaped corm, producing little round offsets from its
base. Much fault is also found with another name on the plea that the
curiously mottled and delicately pencilled leaves bring to mind, not a
snake's tongue, but its skin, as they surely do. Whoever sees the sharp
purplish point of a young plant darting above ground in earliest
however, at once sees the fitting application of adder's tongue. But
few recognize their plant friends at all seasons of the year!
Every one must have noticed the abundance of low-growing spring flowers
in deciduous woodlands, where, later in the year, after the leaves
overhead cast a heavy shade, so few blossoms are to be found, because
their light is seriously diminished. The thrifty adder's tongue, by
laying up nourishment in its storeroom underground through the winter,
is ready to send its leaves and flower upward to take advantage of the
sunlight the still naked trees do not intercept, just as soon as the
Flowers--Straw color or greenish yellow, less than 1 in.
nodding on slender pedicels from the summit of a leafless
15 in. tall. Perianth of 6 spreading divisions, the 6 stamens attached;
style, 3-lobed. Leaves: Dark, glossy, large, oval to oblong, 2
(usually 3), sheathing at the base. Fruit: Oval blue berries on
Preferred Habitat--Moist, rich, cool woods and thickets.
Distribution--From the Carolinas and Wisconsin far
To name canals, bridges, city thoroughfares, booming factory towns
De Witt Clinton seems to many appropriate enough; but why a shy little
woodland flower? As fitly might a wee white violet carry down the name
of Theodore Roosevelt to posterity! "Gray should not have named the
flower from the Governor of New York," complains Thoreau. "What is he
the lovers of flowers in Massachusetts? If named after a man, it must
a man of flowers." So completely has Clinton, the practical man of
affairs, obliterated Clinton, the naturalist, from the popular mind,
that, were it not for this plant keeping his memory green, we should be
in danger of forgetting the weary, overworked governor, fleeing from
care to the woods and fields; pursuing in the open air the study which
above all others delighted and refreshed him; revealing in every
moment a too-often forgotten side of his many-sided greatness.
Wild Spikenard; False Solomon's Seal; Solomon's Zig-zag
Flowers--White or greenish, small, slightly fragrant, in a
flowered terminal raceme. Perianth of 6 separate, spreading segments; 6
stamens; 1 pistil. Stem: Simple, somewhat angled, 1 to 3 ft.
scaly below, leafy, and sometimes finely hairy above. Leaves:
Alternate and seated along stem, oblong, lance-shaped, 3 to 6 in. long,
finely hairy beneath. Rootstock: Thick, fleshy. Fruit:
A cluster of
aromatic, round, pale red speckled berries.
Preferred Habitat--Moist woods, thickets, hillsides.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Georgia; westward to Arizona
As if to offer opportunities for comparison to the confused novice, the
true Solomon's Seal and the so-called false species--quite as honest a
plant--usually grow near each other. Grace of line, rather than beauty
of blossom, gives them both their chief charm. But the feathery plume
greenish-white blossoms that crowns the false Solomon's Seal's somewhat
zig-zagged stem is very different from the small, greenish, bell-shaped
flowers, usually nodding in pairs along the stem, under the leaves,
the axils of the true Solomon's Seal. Later in summer, when hungry
wander through the woods with increased families, the Wild Spikenard
offers them branching clusters of pale red speckled berries, whereas
former plant feasts them with blue-black fruit.
Hairy, or True, or Twin-flowered Solomon's Seal
Flowers--Whitish or yellowish green, tubular, bell-shaped,
usually 2, drooping on slender peduncles from leaf axils. Perianth
6-lobed at entrance, but not spreading; 6 stamens, the filaments
roughened; 1 pistil. Stem: Simple, slender, arching, leafy, 8
in. to 3
ft. long. Leaves: Oval, pointed, or lance-shaped, alternate, 2
in. long, seated on stem, pale beneath and softly hairy along veins.
Rootstock: Thick, horizontal, jointed, scarred. (Polygonatum
joints.) Fruit: A blue-black berry.
Preferred Habitat--Woods, thickets, shady banks.
Distribution--New Brunswick to Florida, westward to
From a many-jointed, thick rootstock a single graceful curved stem
arises each spring, withers after fruiting, and leaves a round scar,
whose outlines suggested to the fanciful man who named the genus the
seal of Israel's wise king. Thus one may know the age of a root by its
seals, as one tells that of a tree by the rings in its trunk.
Early or Dwarf Wake-Robin
Flowers--Solitary, pure white, about 1 in. long, on an
peduncle, from a whorl of 3 leaves at summit of stem. Three spreading,
green, narrowly oblong sepals; 3 oval or oblong petals; 6 stamens, the
anthers about as long as filaments; 3 slender styles stigmatic along
inner side. Stem: 2 to 6 in. high, from a short, tuber-like
Leaves: 3 in a whorl below the flower, 1 to 2 in. long,
rounded at end, on short petioles. Fruit: A 3-lobed reddish
about 1/2 in. diameter, the sepals adhering.
Preferred Habitat--Rich, moist woods and thickets.
Distribution--Pennsylvania, westward to Minnesota and
Only this delicate little flower, as white as the snow it sometimes
push through to reach the sunshine melting the last drifts in the
leafless woods, can be said to wake the robins into song; a full chorus
of feathered love-makers greets the appearance of the more widely
distributed, and therefore better known, species.
By the rule of three all the trilliums, as their name implies,
regulate their affairs. Three sepals, three petals, twice three
stamens, three styles, a three-celled ovary, the flower growing out
from a whorl of three leaves, make the naming of wake-robins a simple
matter to the novice.
One of the most chastely beautiful of our native wild flowers--so
that many shady nooks in English rock-gardens and ferneries contain
imported clumps of the vigorous plant--is the Large-flowered
or White Wood Lily (T. grandiflorum). Under favorable conditions
waxy, thin, white, or occasionally pink, strongly veined petals may
exceed two inches; and in Michigan a monstrous form has been found. The
broadly rhombic leaves, tapering to a point, and lacking petioles, are
seated in the usual whorl of three, at the summit of the stem, which
attain a foot and a half in height; from the centre the decorative
flower arises on a long peduncle.
Certainly the commonest trillium in the East, although it thrives as
westward as Ontario and Missouri, and south to Georgia, is the Nodding
Wake-Robin (T. cernuum), whose white or pinkish flower droops
peduncle until it is all but hidden under the whorl of broadly rhombic,
tapering leaves. The wavy margined petals, about as long as the
sepals--that is to say, half an inch long or over--curve backward at
maturity. One finds the plant in bloom from April to June, according to
the climate of its long range.
Perhaps the most strikingly beautiful member of the tribe is the
Trillium (T. undulatum or T. erythrocarpum). At the
summit of the
slender stem, rising perhaps only eight inches, or maybe twice as high,
this charming flower spreads its long, wavy-edged, waxy-white petals
veined and striped with deep pink or wine color. The large ovate
long-tapering to a point, are rounded at the base into short petioles.
The rounded, three-angled, bright red, shining berry is seated in the
persistent calyx. With the same range as the nodding trillium's, the
Painted Wake-Robin comes into bloom nearly a month later--in May and
June--when all the birds are not only wide awake, but have finished
courting, and are busily engaged in the most serious business of life.
Purple Trillium, Ill-scented Wake-Robin, or Birth-root
Flowers--Solitary, dark, dull purple, or purplish red;
greenish, white, or pinkish; on erect or slightly inclined footstalk.
Calyx of 3 spreading sepals, 1 to 1-1/2 in. long, or about length of 3
pointed, oval petals; stamens, 6; anthers longer than filaments; pistil
spreading into 3 short, recurved stigmas. Stem: Stout, 8 to 16
high, from tuber-like rootstock. Leaves: In a whorl of 3;
ovate, abruptly pointed, netted-veined. Fruit: A 6-angled,
Preferred Habitat--Rich, moist woods.
Distribution--Nova Scotia westward to Manitoba, southward
Carolina and Missouri.
Some weeks after the jubilant, alert robins have returned from the
South, the Purple Trillium unfurls its unattractive, carrion-scented
flower. In the variable colors found in different regions, one can
almost trace its evolution from green, white, and red to purple, which,
we are told, is the course all flowers must follow to attain to blue.
The white and pink forms, however attractive to the eye, are never more
agreeable to the nose than the reddish-purple ones. Bees and
butterflies, with delicate appreciation of color and fragrance, let the
blossom alone, since it secretes no nectar; and one would naturally
infer either that it can fertilize itself without insect aid--a theory
which closer study of its organs goes far to disprove--or that the
carrion-scent, so repellent to us, is in itself an attraction to
insects needful for cross-pollination. Which are they? Beetles have
observed crawling over the flower, but without effecting any methodical
result. One inclines to accept Mr. Clarence M. Weed's theory of special
adaptation to the common green flesh-flies (Lucilia carnicina),
would naturally be attracted to a flower resembling in color and odor a
raw beefsteak of uncertain age. These little creatures, seen in every
butcher shop throughout the summer, the flower furnishes with a free
lunch of pollen in consideration of the transportation of a few grains
to another blossom. Absence of the usual floral attractions gives the
carrion flies a practical monopoly of the pollen food, which no doubt
tastes as it smells.
The Sessile-flowered Wake-Robin (T. sessile), whose dark purple,
purplish-red, or greenish blossom, narrower of sepal and petals than
preceding, is seated in a whorl of three egg-shaped, sometimes
leaves, possesses a rather pleasant odor; nevertheless, it seems to
no great attraction for insects. The stigmas, which are very large,
almost touch the anthers surrounding them; therefore the beetles which
one frequently sees crawling over them to feed on the pollen so jar
them, no doubt, as to self-fertilize the flower; but it is scarcely
probable these slow crawlers often transfer the grains from one blossom
to another. A degraded flower like this has little need of color and
perfume, one would suppose; yet it may be even now slowly perfecting
way toward an ideal of which we see a part only complete. In deep,
moist woods and thickets the sessile trillium blooms in April or May,
from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Minnesota southward nearly to the Gulf.
Flowers--Carrion-scented, yellowish-green, 15 to 80 small,
ones clustered in an umbel on a long peduncle. Stem: Smooth,
climbing with the help of tendril-like appendages from the base of
leafstalks. Leaves: Egg-shaped, heart-shaped, or rounded,
tipped, parallel-nerved, petioled. Fruit: Bluish-black berries.
Preferred Habitat--Moist soil, thickets, woods, roadside
Distribution--Northern Canada to the Gulf states, westward
"It would be safe to say," says John Burroughs, "that there is a
of smilax with an unsavory name, that the bee does not visit,
herbacea. The production of this plant is a curious freak
nature.... It would be a cruel joke to offer it to any person not
acquainted with it, to smell. It is like the vent of a charnel-house."
(Thoreau compared its odor to that of a dead rat in a wall!) "It is
first cousin to the trilliums, among the prettiest of our native wild
flowers," continues Burroughs, "and the same bad blood crops out in the
Purple Trillium or Birth-root."
Strange that so close an observer as Burroughs or Thoreau should not
have credited the carrion-flower with being something more intelligent
than a mere repellent freak! Like the Purple Trillium, it has
deliberately adapted itself to please its benefactors, the little green
flesh-flies so commonly seen about untidy butcher shops in summer.
Hypoxis hirsuta (H. erecta)
Flowers--Bright yellow within, greenish and hairy outside,
in. across, 6-parted; the perianth divisions spreading, narrowly
a few flowers at the summit of a rough, hairy scape 2 to 6 in. high.
Leaves: All from an egg-shaped corm; mostly longer than
slender, grass-like, more or less hairy.
Preferred Habitat--Dry, open woods, prairies, grassy waste
Distribution--From Maine far westward, and south to the
Usually only one of these little blossoms in a cluster on each plant
opens at a time; but that one peers upward so brightly from among the
grass it cannot well be overlooked. Sitting in a meadow sprinkled over
with these yellow stars, we see coming to them many small bees--chiefly
Halictus--to gather pollen for their unhatched babies' bread. Of course
they do not carry all the pollen to their tunnelled nurseries; some
often be rubbed off on the sticky pistil tip in the centre of other
stars. The stamens radiate, that self-fertilization need not take place
except as a last extremity. Visitors failing, the little flower closes,
bringing its pollen-laden anthers in contact with its own stigma.
Larger Blue Flag; Blue Iris; Fleur-de-lis; Flower-de-luce
Flowers--Several, 2 to 3 in. long, violet-blue variegated
green, or white, and purple veined. Six divisions of the perianth: 3
outer ones spreading, recurved; 1 of them bearded, much longer and
than the 3 erect inner divisions; all united into a short tube. Three
stamens under 3 overhanging petal-like divisions of the style, notched
at end; under each notch is a thin plate, smooth on one side, rough and
moist (stigma) on side turned away from anther. Stem: 2 to 3
stout, straight, almost circular, sometimes branching above. Leaves:
Erect, sword-shaped, shorter than stem, somewhat hoary, from 1/2 to 1
in. wide, folded, and in a compact flat cluster at base; bracts usually
longer than stem of flower. Fruit: Oblong capsule, not
3-lobed, and with 2 rows of round, flat seeds closely packed in each
cell. Rootstock: Creeping, horizontal, fleshy.
Preferred Habitat--Marshes, wet meadows.
Distribution--Newfoundland and Manitoba to Arkansas and
This gorgeous flower is thought by scientists to be all that it is for
the bees' benefit, which, of course, is its own also. Abundant
from which to manufacture nectar--a prime necessity with most
irises--certainly is for our blue flag. The large, showy blossom cannot
but attract the passing bee, whose favorite color (according to Sir
Lubbock) it waves. The bee alights on the convenient, spreading
platform, and, guided by the dark veining and golden lines leading to
the nectar, sips the delectable fluid shortly to be changed to honey.
Now, as he raises his head and withdraws it from the nectary, he must
rub it against the pollen-laden anther above, and some of the pollen
necessarily falls on the visitor. As the sticky side of the plate
(stigma), just under the petal-like division of the style, faces away
from the anther, which is below it in any case, the flower is
marvellously guarded against fertilization from its own pollen. The
flying off to another iris, must first brush past the projecting lip of
the overarching style, and leave on the stigmatic outer surface of the
plate some of the pollen brought from the first flower, before reaching
the nectary. Thus cross-fertilization is effected; and Darwin has shown
how necessary this is to insure the most vigorous and beautiful
offspring. Without this wonderful adaptation of the flower to the
requirements of its insect friends, and of the insect to the needs of
the flower, both must perish; the former from hunger, the latter
unable to perpetuate its race. And yet man has greedily appropriated
the beauties of the floral kingdom as designed for his sole delight!
"The fleur-de-lys, which is the flower of chivalry," says Ruskin, "has
sword for its leaf and a lily for its heart." When that young and pious
Crusader, Louis VII, adopted it for the emblem of his house, spelling
was scarcely an exact science, and the fleur-de-Louis soon
corrupted into its present form. Doubtless the royal flower was the
white iris, and as li is the Celtic for white, there is room
another theory as to the origin of the name. It is our far more regal
looking, but truly democratic blossom, jostling its fellows in the
marshes, that is indeed "born in the purple."
The name iris, meaning a deified rainbow, which was given this
group of plants by the ancients, shows a fine appreciation of their
superb coloring, their ethereal texture, and the evanescent beauty
of the blossom.
Belamcanda chinensis (Pardanthus chinensis)
Flowers--Deep orange color, speckled irregularly with
purple within (Pardos = leopard; anthos = flower);
terminal, forked clusters. Perianth of 6 oblong, petal-like, spreading
divisions; 6 stamens with linear anthers; style thickest above, with 3
branches. Stem: 1-1/2 to 4 ft. tall, leafy. Leaves:
Like the iris;
erect, folded blades, 8 to 10 in. long. Fruit: Resembling a
blackberry; an erect mass of round, black, fleshy seeds, at first
concealed in a fig-shaped capsule, whose 3 valves curve backward, and
finally drop off.
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides and hills.
Distribution--Connecticut to Georgia, westward to Indiana
How many beautiful foreign flowers, commonly grown in our gardens here,
might soon become naturalized Americans were we only generous enough to
lift a few plants, scatter a few seeds over our fences into the fields
and roadsides--to raise the bars of their prison, as it were, and let
them free! Many have run away, to be sure. Once across the wide
Atlantic, or wider Pacific, their passage paid (not sneaking in among
the ballast like the more fortunate weeds), some are doomed to stay in
prim, rigidly cultivated flower beds forever; others, only until a
chance to bolt for freedom presents itself, and away they go. Lucky are
they if every flower they produce is not picked before a single seed
can be set.
This Blackberry Lily of gorgeous hue originally came from China.
Escaping from gardens here and there, it was first reported as a wild
flower at East Rock, Connecticut; other groups of vagabonds were met
marching along the roadsides on Long Island; near Suffern, New York;
then farther southward and westward, until it has already attained a
very respectable range. Every plant has some good device for sending
offspring away from home to found new colonies, if man would but let it
alone. Better still, give the eager travellers a lift!
Pointed Blue-eyed Grass; Eye-bright; Blue Star
Flowers--From blue to purple, with a yellow centre; a
variety, white; usually several buds at the end of the stem, between 2
erect unequal bracts; about 1/2 in. across; perianth of 6 spreading
divisions, each pointed with a bristle from a notch; stamens 3, the
filaments united to above the middle; pistil 1, its tip 3-cleft.
Stem: 3 to 14 in. tall, pale hoary green, flat, rigid,
Leaves: Grass-like, pale, rigid, mostly from base. Fruit:
capsule, nearly globose.
Preferred Habitat--Moist fields and meadows.
Distribution--Newfoundland to British Columbia, from
Rocky Mountains to Atlantic, south to Virginia and Kansas.
Only for a day, and that must be a bright one, will this "little sister
of the stately blue flag" open its eyes, to close them in indignation
being picked; nor will any coaxing but the sunshine's induce it to open
them again in water, immediately after. The dainty flower, growing in
dense tufts, makes up in numbers what it lacks in size and lasting
power, flecking our meadows with purplish ultramarine blue on a sunny
June morning. Later in the day, apparently there are no blossoms there,
for all are tightly closed, never to bloom again. New buds will unfold
to tinge the field on the morrow.
Usually three buds nod from between a pair of bracts, the lower one of
which may be twice the length of the upper one; but only one flower
opens at a time. Slight variations in this plant have been considered
sufficient to differentiate several species formerly included by Gray
and other American botanists under the name of S. Bermudiana.
Large Yellow Lady's Slipper; Whippoorwill's Shoe; Yellow Moccasin
Cypripedium pubescens (C. hirsutum)
Flower--Solitary, large, showy, borne at the top of a
2 ft. high. Sepals 3, 2 of them united, greenish or yellowish, striped
with purple or dull red, very long, narrow; 2 petals, brown, narrower,
twisting; the third an inflated sac, open at the top, 1 to 2 in. long,
pale yellow, purple lined; white hairs within; sterile stamen
triangular; stigma thick. Leaves: Oval or elliptic, pointed, 3
in. long, parallel-nerved, sheathing.
Preferred Habitat--Moist or boggy woods and thickets;
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Alabama, westward to
Swinging outward from a leaf-clasped stem, this orchid attracts us by
its flaunted beauty and decorative form from tip to root, not less than
the aesthetic little bees for which its adornment and mechanism are so
marvellously adapted. Doubtless the heavy, oily odor is an additional
attraction to them.
These common orchids, which are not at all difficult to naturalize in a
well-drained, shady spot in the garden, should be lifted with a good
ball of earth and plenty of leaf-mould immediately after flowering.
The similar Small Yellow Lady's Slipper (C. parviflorum), a
fragrant orchid about half the size of its big sister, has a brighter
yellow pouch, and occasionally its sepals and petals are purplish. As
they usually grow in the same localities, and have the same blooming
season, opportunities for comparison are not lacking. This fairer,
sweeter, little orchid roams westward as far as the State of
Moccasin Flower; Pink, Venus', or Stemless Lady's Slipper
Flowers--Fragrant, solitary, large, showy, drooping from
6 to 12 in. high. Sepals lance-shaped, spreading, greenish purple, 2
long or less; petals narrower and longer than sepals. Lip an inflated
sac, often more than 2 in. long, slit down the middle, and folded
inwardly above, pale magenta, veined with darker pink; upper part of
interior crested with long white hairs. Stamens united with style into
unsymmetrical declined column, bearing an anther on either side, and a
dilated triangular petal-like sterile stamen above, arching over the
broad concave stigma. Leaves: 2, from the base; elliptic,
thick, 6 to
8 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Deep, rocky, or sandy woods.
Distribution--Canada southward to North Carolina, westward
Minnesota and Kentucky.
Because most people cannot forbear picking this exquisite flower that
seems too beautiful to be found outside a millionaire's hothouse, it is
becoming rarer every year, until the finding of one in the deep forest,
where it must now hide, has become the event of a day's walk. Once it
was the commonest of the orchids.
"Cross-fertilization," says Darwin, "results in offspring which
the offspring of self-fertilization in the struggle for existence."
has been the motto of the orchid family for ages. No group of plants
taken more elaborate precautions against self-pollination or developed
more elaborate and ingenious mechanism to compel insects to transfer
their pollen than this.
The fissure down the front of the Pink Lady's Slipper is not so wide
that a bee must use some force to push against its elastic sloping
and enter the large banquet chamber where he finds generous
entertainment secreted among the fine white hairs in the upper part.
Presently he has feasted enough. Now one can hear him buzzing about
inside, trying to find a way out of the trap. Toward the two little
gleams of light through apertures at the end of a passage beyond the
nectary hairs he at length finds his way. Narrower and narrower grows
the passage until it would seem as if he could never struggle through;
nor can he until his back has rubbed along the sticky, overhanging
stigma, which is furnished with minute, rigid, sharply pointed
all directed forward, and placed there for the express purpose of
combing out the pollen he has brought from another flower on his back
or head. The imported pollen having been safely removed, he still has
struggle on toward freedom through one of the narrow openings, where an
anther almost blocks his way.
As he works outward, this anther, drawn downward on its hinge, plasters
his back with yellow granular pollen as a parting gift, and away he
flies to another lady's slipper to have it combed out by the sticky
stigma as described above. The smallest bees can squeeze through the
passage without paying toll. To those of the Andrena and Halictus tribe
the flower is evidently best adapted. Sometimes the largest bumblebees,
either unable or unwilling to get out by the legitimate route, bite
their way to liberty. Mutilated sacs are not uncommon. But when unable
to get out by fair means, and too bewildered to escape by foul, the
large bee must sometimes perish miserably in his gorgeous prison.
Showy, Gay, or Spring Orchis
Flowers--Purplish pink, of deeper and lighter shade, the
white, and thick of texture; from 3 to 6 on a spike; fragrant. Sepals
pointed, united, arching above the converging petals, and resembling a
hood; lip large, spreading, prolonged into a spur, which is largest at
the tip and as long as the twisted footstem. Stem: 4 to 12 in.
thick, fleshy, 5-sided. Leaves: 2, large, broadly ovate, glossy
silvery on underside, rising from a few scales from root. Fruit:
sharply angled capsule, 1 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Rich, moist woods, especially under
Distribution--From New Brunswick and Ontario southward to
states, westward to Nebraska.
Of the six floral leaves which every orchid, terrestrial or aerial,
possesses, one is always peculiar in form, pouch-shaped, or a
filled with nectar, or a flaunted, fringed banner, or a broad platform
for the insect visitors to alight on. Some orchids look to imaginative
eyes as if they were masquerading in the disguise of bees, moths,
birds, butterflies. A number of these queer freaks are to be found in
Europe. Spring traps, adhesive plasters, and hair-triggers attached to
explosive shells of pollen are among the many devices by which orchids
compel insects to cross-fertilize them, these flowers as a family
showing the most marvellous mechanism adapted to their requirements
insects in the whole floral kingdom. No other blossoms can so well
afford to wear magenta, the ugliest shade nature produces, the "lovely
rosy purple" of Dutch bulb growers.
Large, or Early, Purple-fringed Orchis
Habenaria fimbriata (H. grandiflora)
Flowers--Pink-purple and pale lilac, sometimes nearly
alternate, clustered in thick, dense spikes from 3 to 15 in. long.
sepal and toothed petals erect; the lip of deepest shade, 1/2 in. long,
fan-shaped, 3-parted, fringed half its length, and prolonged at base
into slender, long spur; stamen united with style into short column; 2
anther sacs slightly divergent, the hollow between them glutinous,
stigmatic. Stem: 1 to 5 ft. high, angled, twisted. Leaves:
large, sheathing the stem below; smaller, lance-shaped ones higher up
bracts above. Root: Thick, fibrous.
Preferred Habitat--Rich, moist meadows, muddy places,
Distribution--New Brunswick to Ontario; southward to North
westward to Michigan.
Because of the singular and exquisitely unerring adaptations of orchids
as a family to their insect visitors, no group of plants has greater
interest for the botanist since Darwin interpreted their marvellous
mechanism, and Gray, his instant disciple, revealed the hidden purposes
of our native American species, no less wonderfully constructed than
most costly exotic in a millionaire's hothouse.
A glance at the spur of this orchid, one of the handsomest and most
striking of its clan, and the heavy perfume of the flower, would seem
indicate that only a moth with a long proboscis could reach the nectar
secreted at the base of the thread-like passage. Butterflies, attracted
by the conspicuous color, sometimes hover about the showy spikes of
bloom, but it is probable that, to secure a sip, all but possibly the
very largest of them must go to the smaller Purple-fringed Orchis,
shorter spur holds out a certain prospect of reward; for, in these two
cases, as in so many others, the flower's welcome for an insect is in
exact proportion to the length of its visitor's tongue. Doubtless it is
one of the smaller sphinx moths, such as we see at dusk working about
the evening primrose and other flowers deep of chalice, and heavily
perfumed to guide visitors to their feast, that is the great
Purple-fringed Orchid's benefactor, since the length of its tongue is
perfectly adapted to its needs. Attracted by the showy, broad lower
petal, his wings ever in rapid motion, the moth proceeds to unroll his
proboscis and drain the cup that is frequently an inch and a half deep.
Thrusting in his head, either one or both of his large, projecting eyes
are pressed against the sticky button-shaped discs to which the pollen
masses are attached by a stalk, and as he raises his head to depart,
feeling that he is caught, he gives a little jerk that detaches them,
and away he flies with these still fastened to his eyes.
Even while he is flying to another flower, that is to say, in half a
minute, the stalks of the pollen masses bend downward from the
perpendicular and slightly toward the centre, or just far enough to
require the moth, in thrusting his proboscis into the nectary, to
the glutinous, sticky stigma. Now, withdrawing his head, either or both
of the golden clubs he brought in with him will be left on the precise
spot where they will fertilize the flower. Sometimes, but rarely, we
catch a butterfly or moth from the smaller or larger purple orchids
a pollen mass attached to his tongue, instead of to his eyes; this is
when he does not make his entrance from the exact centre--as in these
flowers he is not obliged to do--and in order to reach the nectary his
tongue necessarily brushes against one of the sticky anther sacs. The
performance may be successfully imitated by thrusting some blunt point
about the size of a moth's head, a dull pencil or a knitting-needle,
into the flower as an insect would enter. Withdraw the pencil, and one
or both of the pollen masses will be found sticking to it, and already
automatically changing their attitude. In the case of the large,
round-leaved orchis, whose greenish-white flowers are fertilized in a
similar manner by the sphinx moth, the anther sacs converge, like
horns; and their change of attitude while they are being carried to
fertilize another flower is quite as exquisitely exact.
Flowers--Pure white, fragrant, borne on a spike from 3 to
Spur long, slender; oval sepals; smaller petal toothed; the oblong lip
deeply fringed. Stem: Slender, 1 to 2 ft. high. Leaves:
Lance-shaped, parallel-veined, clasping the stem; upper ones smallest.
Preferred Habitat--Peat-bogs and swamps.
Distribution--Northeastern United States and eastern
One who selfishly imagines that all the floral beauty of the earth was
created for man's sole delight will wonder why a flower so exquisitely
beautiful as this dainty little orchid should be hidden in inaccessible
peat-bogs, where overshoes and tempers get lost with deplorable
frequency, and the water-snake and bittern mock at man's intrusion of
their realm by the ease with which they move away from him. Not for
but for the bee, the moth, and the butterfly, are orchids where they
and what they are.
Flowers--Bright yellow or orange, borne in a showy,
oblong spike, 3 to 6 in. long. The lip of each flower copiously
the slender spur 1 to 1-1/2 in. long; similar to White-fringed Orchis
(see above); and between the two, intermediate pale yellow hybrids may
be found. Stem: Slender, leafy, 1 to 2-1/2 feet high. Leaves:
Preferred Habitat--Moist meadows and sandy bogs.
Distribution--Vermont to Florida; Ontario to Texas.
Where this brilliant, beautiful orchid and its lovely white sister grow
together in the bog--which cannot be through a very wide range, since
one is common northward, where the other is rare, and vice versa--the
Yellow-fringed Orchis will be found blooming a few days later. In
general structure the plants closely resemble each other.
From Ontario and the Mississippi eastward, and southward to the Gulf,
the Tubercled or Small Pale Green Orchis (H. flava) lifts a
inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers, more attractive to the eye of
structural botanist than to the aesthete. It blooms in moist places, as
most orchids do, since water with which to manufacture nectar enough to
fill their deep spurs is a prime necessity. Orchids have arrived at
pinnacle of achievement that it is impossible for them to fertilize
themselves. More than that, some are absolutely sterile to their own
pollen when it is applied to their stigmas artificially! With insect
aid, however, a single plant has produced more than 1,000,700 seeds. No
wonder, then, that as a family, they have adopted the most marvellous
blandishments and mechanism in the whole floral kingdom to secure the
visits of that special insect to which each is adapted, and, having
secured him, to compel him unwittingly to do their bidding. In the
steaming tropical jungles, where vegetation is luxuriant to the point
suffocation, and where insect life swarms in myriads undreamed of here,
we can see the best of reasons for orchids mounting into trees and
living on air to escape strangulation on the ground, and for donning
larger and more gorgeous apparel to attract attention in the fierce
competition for insect trade waged about them. Here, where the struggle
for survival is incomparably easier, we have terrestrial orchids,
and quietly clad, for the most part.
Calopogon; Grass Pink
Calopogon pulchellus (Limodorum tuberosum)
Flowers--Purplish pink, 1 in. long, 3 to 15 around a long,
spike. Sepals and petals similar, oval, acute; the lip on upper side of
flower is broad at the summit, tapering into a claw, flexible as if
hinged, densely bearded on its face with white, yellow, and magenta
hairs (Calopogon = beautiful beard). Column below lip (ovary not
twisted in this exceptional case); sticky stigma at summit of column,
and just below it a 2-celled anther, each cell containing 2 pollen
masses, the grain lightly connected by threads. Scape: 1 to
high, slender, naked. Leaf: Solitary, long, grass-like, from a
bulb arising from bulb of previous year.
Preferred Habitat--Swamps, cranberry bogs, and low
Distribution--Newfoundland to Florida, and westward to the
Fortunately this lovely orchid, one of the most interesting of its
highly organized family, is far from rare, and where we find the Rose
Pogonia and other bog-loving relatives growing, the Calopogon usually
outnumbers them all. Limodorum translated reads meadow-gift;
find the flower less frequently in grassy places than those who have
waded into its favorite haunts could wish.
Arethusa; Indian Pink
Flowers--1 to 2 in. long, bright purple pink, solitary,
scented, rising from between a pair of small scales at end of smooth
scape from 5 to 10 in. high. Lip dropping beneath sepals and petals,
broad, rounded, toothed, or fringed, blotched with purple, and with
three hairy ridges down its surface. Leaf: Solitary, hidden at
coming after the flower, but attaining length of 6 in. Root:
Fruit: A 6-ribbed capsule, 1 in. long, rarely maturing.
Preferred Habitat--Northern bogs and swamps.
Distribution--From North Carolina and Indiana northward to
One flower to a plant, and that one rarely maturing seed; a temptingly
beautiful prize which few refrain from carrying home, to have it wither
on the way; pursued by that more persistent lover than Alpheus, the
orchid-hunter who exports the bulbs to European collectors--little
wonder this exquisite orchid is rare, and that from certain of those
cranberry bogs of eastern New England, which it formerly brightened
its vivid pink, it has now gone forever. Like Arethusa, the nymph whom
Diana changed into a fountain that she might escape from the infatuated
river god, Linnaeus fancied this flower a maiden in the midst of a
spring bubbling from wet places where presumably none may follow her.
Nodding Ladies' Tresses or Traces
Flowers--Small, white or yellowish, without a spur,
or spreading in 3 rows on a cylindrical, slightly twisted spike 4 or 5
in. long. Side sepals free, the upper ones arching, and united with
petals; the oblong, spreading lip crinkle-edged, and bearing minute,
hairy callosities at base. Stem: 6 in. to 2 ft. tall, with
pointed, wrapping bracts. Leaves: From or near the base,
Preferred Habitat--Low meadows, ditches, and swamps.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico, and
This last orchid of the season, and perhaps the commonest of its
interesting tribe in the eastern United States, at least, bears flowers
that, however insignificant in size, are marvellous pieces of
to which such men as Charles Darwin and Asa Gray have devoted hours of
study and, these two men particularly, much correspondence.
Just as a woodpecker begins at the bottom of a tree and taps his way
upward, so a bee begins at the lower and older flowers on a spike and
works up to the younger ones; a fact on which this little orchid, like
many another plant that arranges its blossoms in long racemes, depends.
Let us not note for the present what happens in the older flowers, but
begin our observations, with the help of a powerful lens, when the bee
has alighted on the spreading lip of a newly opened blossom toward the
top of the spire. As nectar is already secreted for her in its
receptacle, she thrusts her tongue through the channel provided to
it aright, and by the slight contact with the furrowed rostellum, it
splits, and releases a boat-shaped disk standing vertically on its
in the passage. Within the boat is an extremely sticky cement that
hardens almost instantly on exposure to the air. The splitting of the
rostellum, curiously enough, never happens without insect aid; but if a
bristle or needle be passed over it ever so lightly, a stream of
milky fluid exudes, hardens, and the boat-shaped disk, with pollen
masses attached, may be withdrawn on the bristle just as the bee
them with her tongue. Each pollinium consists of two leaves of pollen
united for about half their length in the middle with elastic threads.
As the pollinia are attached parallel to the disk, they stick parallel
on the bee's tongue, yet she may fold up her proboscis under her head,
if she choose, without inconvenience from the pollen masses, or without
danger of loosening them. Now, having finished sucking the newly-opened
flowers at the top of the spike, away she flies to an older flower at
the bottom of another one. Here a marvellous thing has happened. The
passage which, when the flower first expanded, scarcely permitted a
bristle to pass, has now widened through the automatic downward
movement of the column in order to expose the stigmatic surfaces to
contact with the pollen masses brought by the bee. Without the bee's
help this orchid, with a host of other flowers, must disappear from the
face of the earth. So very many species which have lost the power to
fertilize themselves now depend absolutely on these little pollen
carriers, it is safe to say that, should the bees perish, one half our
flora would be exterminated with them. On the slight downward movement
of the column in the ladies' tresses, then, as well as on the bee's
ministrations, the fertilization of the flower absolutely depends. "If
the stigma of the lowest flower has already been fully fertilized,"
Darwin, "little or no pollen will be left on its dried surface; but on
the next succeeding flower, of which the stigma is adhesive, large
sheets of pollen will be left. Then as soon as the bee arrives near the
summit of the spike she will withdraw fresh pollinia, will fly to the
lower flowers on another plant, and fertilize them; and thus, as she
goes her rounds and adds to her store of honey, she continually
fertilizes fresh flowers and perpetuates the race of autumnal
spiranthes, which will yield honey to future generations of bees."
Common Persicaria, Pink Knotweed, or Jointweed; Smartweed
Flowers--Very small, pink, collected in terminal, dense,
spikes, 1 to 2 in. long. Calyx pink or greenish, 5-parted, like petals;
no corolla; stamens 8 or less; style 2-parted. Stem: 1
to 3 ft.
high, simple or branched; often partly red, the joints swollen and
sheathed; the branches above, and peduncles glandular. Leaves:
lance-shaped, entire edged, 2 to 11 in. long, with stout midrib,
tapering at tip, rounded into short petioles below.
Preferred Habitat--Waste places, roadsides, moist soil.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico; westward
Everywhere we meet this commonest of plants or some of its similar kin,
the erect pink spikes brightening roadsides, rubbish heaps, fields, and
waste places, from midsummer to frost. The little flowers, which open
without method anywhere on the spike they choose, attract many insects,
the smaller bees (Andrena) conspicuous among the host. As the
spreading divisions of the perianth make nectar-stealing all too easy
for ants and other crawlers that would not come in contact with anthers
and stigma where they enter a flower near its base, most buckwheat
plants whose blossoms secrete sweets protect themselves from theft by
coating the upper stems with glandular hairs that effectually
the pilferers. Shortly after fertilization, the little rounded,
flat-sided fruit begins to form inside the persistent pink calyx. At
time the spike-like racemes contain more bright pink buds and shining
seeds than flowers. Familiarity alone breeds contempt for this plant,
that certainly possesses much beauty. The troublesome and wide-ranging
weed called lady's thumb is a near relative.
POKEWEED FAMILY (Phytolaccaceae)
Pokeweed; Scoke; Pigeon-berry; Ink-berry; Garget
Flowers--White, with a green centre, pink tinted outside,
in. across, in bracted racemes 2 to 8 in. long. Calyx of 4 or 5 rounded
persistent sepals, simulating petals; no corolla; 10 short stamens;
10-celled ovary, green, conspicuous; styles curved. Stem:
pithy, erect, branching, reddening toward the end of summer, 4 to 10
tall, from a large, perennial, poisonous root. Leaves:
petioled, oblong to lance-shaped, tapering at both ends, 8 to 12 in.
long. Fruit: Very juicy, dark purplish berries, hanging in long
clusters from reddened footstalks; ripe, August-October.
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides, thickets, field borders, and
especially in burnt-over districts.
Distribution--Maine and Ontario to Florida and Texas.
When the Pokeweed is "all on fire with ripeness," as Thoreau said; when
the stout vigorous stem (which he coveted for a cane), the large
and even the footstalks, take on splendid tints of crimson lake, and
dark berries hang heavy with juice in the thickets, then the birds,
increased hungry families, gather in flocks as a preliminary step to
travelling southward. Has the brilliant, strong-scented plant no
ulterior motive in thus attracting their attention at this particular
time? Surely! Robins, flickers, and downy woodpeckers, chewinks and
rose-breasted grosbeaks, among other feathered agents, may be detected
in the act of gormandizing on the fruit, whose undigested seeds they
will disperse far and wide. Their droppings form the best of
for young seedlings; therefore the plants which depend on birds to
distribute seeds, as most berry-bearers do, send their children abroad
to found new colonies, well equipped for a vigorous start in life. What
a hideous mockery to continue to call this fruit the Pigeon-berry, when
the exquisite bird whose favorite food it once was, has been
from this land of liberty by the fowler's net! And yet flocks of wild
pigeons, containing not thousands but millions of birds, nested here
even thirty years ago. When the market became glutted with them, they
were fed to hogs in the West!
Children, and some grown-ups, find the deep magenta juice of the
Ink-berry useful. Notwithstanding the poisonous properties of the root,
in some sections the young shoots are boiled and eaten like asparagus,
evidently with no disastrous consequences.
Stellaria media (Alsine media)
Flowers--Small, white, on slender pedicels from leaf
terminal clusters. Calyx (usually) of 5 sepals, much longer than the 5
(usually) 2-parted petals; 2-10 stamens; 3 or 4 styles. Stem:
branched, tufted, leafy, 4 to 6 in. long, a hairy fringe on one side.
Leaves: Opposite, actually oval, lower ones petioled,
seated on stem.
Preferred Habitat--Moist, shady soil; woods; meadows.
Flowering Season--Throughout the year.
The sole use man has discovered for this often pestiferous weed with
which nature carpets moist soil the world around is to feed caged
song-birds. What is the secret of the insignificant little plant's
triumphal progress? Like most immigrants that have undergone ages of
selective struggle in the Old World, it successfully competes with our
native blossoms by readily adjusting itself to new conditions filling
places unoccupied, and chiefly by prolonging its season of bloom beyond
theirs, to get relief from the pressure of competition for insect trade
in the busy season. Except during the most cruel frosts, there is
scarcely a day in the year when we may not find the little star-like
Corn Cockle; Corn Rose; Corn or Red Campion; Crown-of-the-Field
Flowers--Magenta or bright purplish crimson, 1 to 3 in.
solitary at end of long, stout footstem; 5 lobes of calyx leaf-like,
very long and narrow, exceeding petals. Corolla of 5 broad, rounded
petals; 10 stamens; 5 styles alternating with calyx lobes, opposite
petals. Stem,: 1 to 3 ft. high, erect, with few or no branches,
leafy, the plant covered with fine white hairs. Leaves:
seated on stem, long, narrow, pointed, erect. Fruit: a
Preferred Habitat--Wheat and other grain fields; dry,
Distribution--United States at large; most common in
Western states. Also in Europe and Asia.
"Allons! allons! sow'd cockle, reap'd no corn," exclaims Byron in
"Love's Labor's Lost." Evidently the farmers even in Shakespeare's day
counted this brilliant blossom the pest it has become in many of our
grain fields just as it was in ancient times, when Job, after solemnly
protesting his righteousness, called on his own land to bear record
against him if his words were false. "Let thistles grow instead of
wheat, and cockle instead of barley," he cried, according to
First's translators; but the "noisome weeds" of the original text seem
to indicate that these good men were more anxious to give the English
people an adequate conception of Job's willingness to suffer for his
honor's sake than to translate literally. Possibly the cockle grew in
Southern Asia in Job's time: to-day its range is north.
Flowers--White, about 1/2 in. broad or over, loosely
showy, pyramidal panicle. Calyx bell-shaped, swollen, 5-toothed,
5 fringed and clawed petals; 10 long, exserted stamens; 3 styles.
Stem: Erect, leafy, 2 to 3-1/2 ft. tall, rough-hairy. Leaves:
tapering to a point, 2 to 4 in. long, seated in whorls of 4 around
stem, or loose ones opposite.
Preferred Habitat--Woods, shady banks.
Distribution--Rhode Island westward to Mississippi, south
Carolinas and Arkansas.
Feathery white panicles of the Starry Campion, whose protruding stamens
and fringed petals give it a certain fleeciness, are dainty enough for
spring; by midsummer we expect plants of ranker growth and more gaudy
flowers. To save the nectar in each deep tube for the moths and
butterflies which cross-fertilize all this tribe of night and day
blossoms, most of them--and the campions are notorious examples--spread
their calices, and some their pedicels as well, with a sticky substance
to entrap little crawling pilferers. Although a popular name for the
genus is catchfly, it is usually the ant that is glued to the viscid
parts, for the fly that moves through the air alights directly on the
flower it is too short-lipped to suck. An ant catching its feet on the
miniature lime-twig, at first raises one foot after another and draws
through its mouth, hoping to rid it of the sticky stuff, but only with
the result of gluing up its head and other parts of the body. In ten
minutes all the pathetic struggles are ended. Let no one guilty of
torturing flies to death on sticky paper condemn the Silenes!
Wild Pink or Catchfly
Silene pennsylvanica (S. caroliniana)
Flowers--Rose pink, deep or very pale; about 1 inch broad,
footstalks, in terminal clusters. Calyx tubular, 5-toothed, much
enlarged in fruit, sticky; 5 petals with claws enclosed in calyx,
wedge-shaped above, slightly notched. Stamens 10; pistil with 3 styles.
Stem: 4 to 10 in. high, hairy, sticky above, growing in
Leaves: Basal ones spatulate; 2 or 3 pairs of
leaves seated on stem.
Preferred Habitat--Dry, gravelly, sandy, or rocky soil.
Distribution--New England, south to Georgia, westward to
Fresh, dainty, and innocent-looking as Spring herself are these bright
flowers. Alas, for the tiny creatures that try to climb up the rosy
tufts to pilfer nectar, they and their relatives are not so innocent as
they appear! While the little crawlers are almost within reach of the
cup of sweets, their feet are gummed to the viscid matter that coats
and here their struggles end as flies' do on sticky fly-paper, or
on limed twigs. A naturalist counted sixty-two little corpses on the
sticky stem of a single pink. All this tragedy to protect a little
nectar for the butterflies which, in sipping it, transfer the pollen
from one flower to another, and so help them to produce the most
beautiful and robust offspring.
Soapwort; Bouncing Bet; Hedge Pink; Bruisewort; Old Maid's Pink;
Flowers--Pink or whitish, fragrant, about 1 inch broad,
clustered at end of stem, also sparingly from axils of upper leaves.
Calyx tubular, 5-toothed, about 3/4 in. long; 5 petals, the claws
inserted in deep tube. Stamens 10, in 2 sets; 1 pistil with 2 styles.
Flowers frequently double. Stem: 1 to 2 ft. high, erect, stout,
sparingly branched, leafy. Leaves: Opposite, acutely oval, 2 to
long, about 1 in. wide, 3 to 5 ribbed. Fruit: An oblong
shorter than calyx, opening at top by 4 short teeth or valves.
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides, banks, and waste places.
Distribution--Generally common. Naturalized from Europe.
A stout, buxom, exuberantly healthy lassie among flowers is Bouncing
Bet, who long ago escaped from gardens whither she was brought from
Europe, and ran wild beyond colonial farms to roadsides, along which
has travelled over nearly our entire area. Underground runners and
abundant seed soon form thrifty colonies. This plant, to which our
grandmothers ascribed healing virtues, makes a cleansing, soap-like
lather when its bruised leaves are agitated in water.
Spring Beauty; Claytonia
Flowers--White veined with pink, or all pink, the veinings
shade, on curving, slender pedicels, several borne in a terminal loose
raceme, the flowers mostly turned one way (secund). Calyx of 2 ovate
sepals; corolla of 5 petals slightly united by their bases; 5 stamens,
1 inserted on base of each petal; the style 3-cleft. Stem:
Weak, 6 to
12 in. long, from a deep, tuberous root. Leaves: Opposite
linear to lance-shaped, shorter than basal ones, which are 3 to 7 in.,
long; breadth variable.
Preferred Habitat--Moist woods, open groves, low meadows.
Distribution--Nova Scotia and far westward, south to
Very early in the spring a race is run with the hepatica, arbutus,
adder's tongue, bloodroot, squirrel corn, and anemone for the honor of
being the earliest wild flower; and although John Burroughs and Doctor
Abbot have had the exceptional experience of finding the claytonia even
before the hepatica--certainly the earliest spring blossom worthy the
name in the Middle and New England states--of course the rank Skunk
Cabbage, whose name is snobbishly excluded from the list of fair
competitors, has quietly opened dozens of minute florets in its
horn before the others have even started.
Large Yellow Pond, or Water, Lily; Cow Lily; Spatterdock
Nymphaea advena (Nuphar advena)
Flowers--Yellow or greenish outside, rarely purple tinged,
depressed, 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 in. across. Sepals 6, unequal, concave,
fleshy; petals stamen-like, oblong, fleshy, short; stamens very
numerous, in 5 to 7 rows; pistil compounded of many carpels, its
stigmatic disc pale red or yellow, with 12 to 24 rays. Leaves:
Floating, or some immersed, large, thick, sometimes a foot long,
egg-shaped or oval, with a deep cleft at base, the lobes rounded.
Preferred Habitat--Standing water, ponds, slow streams.
Distribution--Rocky Mountains eastward, south to the Gulf
north to Nova Scotia.
Comparisons were ever odious. Because the Yellow Water-lily has the
misfortune to claim relationship with the sweet-scented white species
must it never receive its just meed of praise? Hiawatha's canoe, let it
"Floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily."
But even those who admire Longfellow's lines see less beauty in the
golden flower-bowls floating among the large, lustrous, leathery
Sweet-scented White Water-lily; Pond Lily; Water Nymph; Water
Castalia odorata (Nymphaea odorata)
Flowers--Pure white or pink tinged, rarely deep pink,
3 to 8
in. across, deliciously fragrant, floating. Calyx of 4 sepals, green
outside; petals of indefinite number, overlapping in many rows, and
gradually passing into an indefinite number of stamens; outer row of
stamens with petaloid filaments and short anthers, the inner yellow
stamens with slender filaments and elongated anthers; carpels of
indefinite number, united into a compound pistil, with spreading and
projecting stigmas. Leaves: Floating, nearly round, slit at
shining green above, reddish and more or less hairy below, 4 to 12 in.
across, attached to petiole at centre of lower surface. Petioles and
peduncles round and rubber-like, with 4 main air-channels. Rootstock:
(Not true stem) thick, simple or with few branches, very long.
Preferred Habitat--Still water, ponds, lakes, slow
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Gulf of Mexico, and westward
Sumptuous queen of our native aquatic plants, of the royal family to
which the gigantic Victoria regia of Brazil belongs, and all
lovely rose, lavender, blue, and golden exotic water-lilies in the
fountains of our city parks, to her man, beast, and insect pay grateful
homage. In Egypt, India, China, Japan, Persia, and Asiatic Russia, how
many millions have bent their heads in adoration of her relative the
sacred lotus! From its centre Brahma came forth; Buddha, too, whose
symbol is the lotus, first appeared floating on the mystic flower
(Nelumbo nelumbo). Happily the lovely pink or white
"rose-lily" of the Nile, often cultivated here, has been successfully
naturalized in ponds about Bordentown, New Jersey, and may be
If he who planteth a tree is greater than he who taketh a city, that
should be canonized who introduces the magnificent wild flowers of
foreign lands to our area of Nature's garden.
Common Meadow Buttercup; Tall Crowfoot; Kingcups; Cuckoo Flower;
Goldcups; Butter-flowers; Blister-flowers
Flowers--Bright, shining yellow, about 1 in. across,
terminating long slender footstalks. Calyx of 5 spreading sepals;
corolla of 5 petals; yellow stamens and carpels. Stem: Erect,
above, hairy (sometimes nearly smooth), 2 to 3 feet tall, from fibrous
roots. Leaves: In a tuft from the base, long petioled, of 3 to
divisions cleft into numerous lobes; stem leaves nearly sessile,
Preferred Habitat--Meadows, fields, roadsides, grassy
Distribution--Naturalized from Europe in Canada and the
most common North.
What youngster has not held these shining golden flowers under his chin
to test his fondness for butter? Dandelions and Marsh Marigolds may
reflect their color in his clear skin, too, but the buttercup is every
child's favorite. When
"Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,"
daisies, pink clover, and waving timothy bear them company here; not
the "daisies pied," violets, and lady-smocks of Shakespeare's England.
How incomparably beautiful are our own meadows in June! But the glitter
of the buttercup, which is as nothing to the glitter of a gold dollar
the eyes of a practical farmer, fills him with wrath when this
takes possession of his pastures. Cattle will not eat the acrid,
plant--a sufficient reason for most members of the Ranunculaceae
stoop to the low trick of secreting poisonous or bitter juices.
Self-preservation leads a cousin, the garden monk's hood, even to
murderous practices. Since children will put everything within reach
into their mouths, they should be warned against biting the buttercup's
stem and leaves, that are capable of raising blisters. "Beggars use the
juice to produce sores upon their skin," says Mrs. Creevy. A designer
might employ these exquisitely formed leaves far more profitably.
By having its nourishment thriftily stored up underground all winter,
the Bulbous Buttercup (R. bulbosus) is able to steal a march on
fibrous-rooted sister that must accumulate hers all spring;
it is first to flower, coming in early May, and lasting through June.
is a low and generally more hairy plant, but closely resembling the
buttercup in most respects, and, like it, a naturalized European
immigrant now thoroughly at home in fields and roadsides in most
sections of the United States and Canada.
Commonest of the early buttercups is the Tufted species (R.
fascicularis), a little plant seldom a foot high, found in the
and on rocky hillsides from Texas and Manitoba east to the Atlantic,
flowering in April or May. The long-stalked leaves are divided into
from three to five parts; the bright yellow flowers, with rather
distant petals, measure about an inch across. They open sparingly,
usually only one or two at a time on each plant, to favor pollination
from another one.
Scattered patches of the Swamp or Marsh Buttercup (R.
brighten low, rich meadows also with their large satiny yellow flowers,
whose place in the botany even the untrained eye knows at sight. The
smooth, spreading plant sometimes takes root at the joints of its
branches and sends forth runners, but the stems mostly ascend. The
lower mottled leaves are raised well out of the wet, or above the
on long petioles. They have three divisions, each lobed and cleft. From
Georgia and Kentucky far northward this buttercup blooms from April to
July, opening only a few flowers at a time--a method which may make it
less showy, but more certain to secure cross-pollination between
Thalictrum polygamum (T. Cornuti)
Flowers--Greenish white, the calyx of 4 or 5 sepals,
petals; numerous white, thread-like, green-tipped stamens, spreading in
feathery tufts, borne in large, loose, compound terminal clusters 1 ft.
long or more. Stem: Stout, erect, 3 to 11 ft. high, leafy,
above. Leaves: Arranged in threes, compounded of various shaped
leaflets, the lobes pointed or rounded, dark above, paler below.
Preferred Habitat--Open sunny swamps, beside sluggish
Distribution--Quebec to Florida, westward to Ohio.
Masses of these soft, feathery flowers, towering above the ranker
of midsummer, possess an unseasonable, ethereal, chaste, spring-like
beauty. On some plants the flowers are fleecy white and exquisite;
others, again, are dull and coarser. Why is this? Because these are
botanists term polygamous flowers, i.e., some of them are
containing both stamens and pistils; some are male only; others, again,
are female. Naturally an insect, like ourselves, is first attracted to
the more beautiful male blossoms, the pollen bearers, and of course it
transfers the vitalizing dust to the dull pistillate flowers visited
later. But the meadow-rue, which produces a super-abundance of very
light, dry pollen, easily blown by the wind, is often fertilized
that agent also, just as grasses, plantains, sedges, birches, oaks,
pines, and all cone-bearing trees are. As might be expected, a plant
which has not yet ascended the evolutionary scale high enough to
economize its pollen by making insects carry it invariably overtops
surrounding vegetation to take advantage of every breeze that blows.
The Early Meadow-rue (T. dioicum), found blooming in open, rocky
during April and May, from Alabama northward to Labrador, and westward
to Missouri, grows only one or two feet high, and, like its tall
bears fleecy, greenish-white flowers, the staminate and the pistillate
ones on different plants.
Liver-leaf; Hepatica; Liverwort; Round-lobed, or Kidney
Noble Liverwort; Squirrel Cup
Hepatica triloba (H. Hepatica)
Flowers--Blue, lavender, purple, pinkish, or white;
always, fragrant; 6 to 12 petal-like, colored sepals (not petals, as
they appear to be), oval or oblong; numerous stamens, all bearing
anthers; pistils numerous; 3 small, sessile leaves, forming an
directly under flower, simulate a calyx, for which they might be
mistaken. Stems: Spreading from the root, 4 to 6 in. high, a
flower or leaf borne at end of each furry stem. Leaves: 3-lobed
rounded, leathery, evergreen; sometimes mottled with, or entirely,
reddish purple; spreading on ground, rusty at blooming time, the new
leaves appearing after the flowers. Fruit: Usually as many as
dry, 1-seeded, oblong, sharply pointed, never opening.
Preferred Habitat--Woods; light soil on hillsides.
Distribution--Canada to northern Florida, Manitoba to Iowa
Missouri. Most common East.
Even under the snow itself bravely blooms the delicate hepatica,
in fuzzy furs as if to protect its stems and nodding buds from cold.
After the plebeian Skunk Cabbage, that ought scarcely to be reckoned
among true flowers--and William Hamilton Gibson claimed even before
it--it is the first blossom to appear. Winter sunshine, warming the
hillsides and edges of woods, opens its eyes.
"Blue as the heaven it gazes at,
Startling the loiterer in the naked groves
With unexpected beauty; for the time
Of blossoms and green leaves is yet afar."
"There are many things left for May," says John Burroughs, "but nothing
fairer, if as fair, as the first flower, the hepatica. I find I have
never admired this little firstling half enough. When at the maturity
its charms, it is certainly the gem of the woods. What an individuality
it has! No two clusters alike; all shades and sizes. ... A solitary
blue-purple one, fully expanded and rising over the brown leaves or the
green moss, its cluster of minute anthers showing like a group of pale
stars on its little firmament, is enough to arrest and hold the dullest
eye. Then, ... there are individual hepaticas, or individual families
among them, that are sweet scented. The gift seems as capricious as the
gift of genius in families. You cannot tell which the fragrant ones are
till you try them. Sometimes it is the large white ones, sometimes the
large purple ones, sometimes the small pink ones. The odor is faint,
recalls that of the sweet violets. A correspondent, who seems to have
carefully observed these fragrant hepaticas, writes me that this gift
odor is constant in the same plant; that the plant which bears
sweet-scented flowers this year will bear them next."
Pollen-feeding flies and female hive bees frequent these blossoms on
first warm days. Whether or not they are rewarded by finding nectar is
still a mooted question. They seem to do so.
Wood Anemone; Wind-flower
Flowers--Solitary, about 1 in. broad, white or delicately
blue or pink outside. Calyx of 4 to 9 oval, petal-like sepals; no
petals; stamens and carpels numerous, of indefinite number. Stem:
Slender, 4 to 9 in. high, from horizontal elongated rootstock. Leaves:
On slender petioles, in a whorl of 3 to 5 below the flower, each leaf
divided into 3 to 5 variously cut and lobed parts; also a
leaf from the base.
Preferred Habitat--Woodlands, hillsides, light soil,
Distribution--Canada and United States, south to Georgia,
According to one poetical Greek tradition, Anemos, the wind, employs
these exquisitely delicate little star-like namesakes as heralds of his
coming in early spring, while woods and hillsides still lack foliage to
break his gusts' rude force. Pliny declared that only the wind could
open anemones! Another legend utilized by countless poets pictures
wandering through the forests grief-stricken over the death of her
"Alas, the Paphian! fair Adonis slain!
Tears plenteous as his blood she pours amain;
But gentle flowers are born and bloom around
From every drop that falls upon the ground:
Where streams his blood, there blushing springs the rose;
And where a tear has dropped, a wind-flower blows."
Indeed, in reading the poets ancient and modern for references to this
favorite blossom, one realizes as never before the significance of an
anthology, literally a flower gathering.
But it is chiefly the European Anemone that is extolled by the poets.
Nevertheless our more slender, fragile, paler-leaved, and
smaller-flowered species, known, strange to say, by the same scientific
name, possesses the greater charm. Doctors, with more prosaic eyes than
the poets, find acrid and dangerous juices in the anemone and its kin.
Certain European peasants will run past a colony of these pure,
blossoms in the belief that the very air is tainted by them. Yet the
Romans ceremonially picked the first anemone of the year, with an
incantation supposed to guard them against fever. The identical plant
that blooms in our woods, which may be found also in Asia, is planted
graves by the Chinese, who call it the "death flower."
Note the clusters of tuberous, dahlia-like roots, the whorl of thin,
three-lobed rounded leaflets on long, fine petioles immediately below
the smaller pure white or pinkish flowers usually growing in loose
clusters, to distinguish the more common Rue Anemone (Anemonella
thalictroides or Syndesmon thalictroides or Thalictrum
anemonoides) from its cousin the solitary flowered wood or true
anemone. Generally there are three blossoms of the Rue Anemone to a
cluster, the central one opening first, the side ones only after it has
developed its stamens and pistils to prolong the season of bloom and
encourage cross-pollination by insects. In the eastern half of the
United States, and less abundantly in Canada, these are among the most
familiar spring wild flowers. Pick them and they soon wilt miserably;
lift the plants early, with a good ball of soil about the roots, and
they will unfold their fragile blossoms indoors, bringing with them
something of the unspeakable charm of their native woods and hillsides
just waking into life.
Virgin's Bower; Virginia Clematis; Traveller's Joy; Old Man's Beard
Flowers--White and greenish, about 1 in. across or less,
clusters from the axils. Calyx of 4 or 5 petal-like sepals; no petals;
stamens and pistils numerous, of indefinite number; the staminate and
pistillate flowers on separate plants; the styles feathery, and more
than 1 in. long in fruit. Stem: Climbing, slightly woody. Leaves:
Opposite, slender petioled, divided into 3 pointed and 2 widely toothed
or lobed leaflets.
Preferred Habitat--Climbing over woodland borders,
shrubbery, fences, and walls; rich, moist soil.
Distribution--Georgia and Kansas northward; less common
Charles Darwin, who made so many interesting studies of the power of
movement in various plants, devoted special attention to the clematis
clan, of which about one hundred species exist; but, alas! none to our
traveller's joy, that flings out the right hand of good fellowship to
every twig within reach, winds about the sapling in brotherly embrace,
drapes a festoon of flowers from shrub to shrub, hooks even its
sensitive leafstalks over any available support as it clambers and
on its lovely way. By rubbing the footstalk of a young leaf with a twig
a few times on any side, Darwin found a clematis leaf would bend to
side in the course of a few hours, but return to the straight again if
nothing remained on which to hook itself.
In early autumn, when the long, silvery, decorative plumes attached to
ball of seeds form feathery, hoary masses even more fascinating than
flower clusters, the name of old man's beard is most suggestive. These
seeds never open, but, when ripe, each is borne on the autumn gales, to
sink into the first moist, springy resting place.
Marsh Marigold; Meadow-gowan; American Cowslip
Flowers--Bright, shining yellow, 1 to 1-1/2 in. across, a
terminal and axillary groups. No petals; usually 5 (often more) oval,
petal-like sepals; stamens numerous; many pistils (carpels) without
styles. Stem: Stout, smooth, hollow, branching, 1 to 2 ft.
Leaves: Mostly from root, rounded, broad, and heart-shaped
kidney-shaped, upper ones almost sessile, lower ones on fleshy
Preferred Habitat--Springy ground, low meadows, swamps,
Distribution--Carolina to Iowa, the Rocky Mountains, and
Not a true marigold, and even less a cowslip, it is by these names
that this flower, which looks most like a buttercup, will continue to
be called, in spite of the protests of scientific classifiers.
Doubtless the first of these folk-names refers to its use in church
festivals during the Middle Ages as one of the blossoms devoted to the
"And winking Mary-buds begin
To ope their golden eyes,"
sing the musicians in "Cymbeline." Whoever has seen the watery Avon
meadows in April, yellow and twinkling with marsh marigolds when "the
lark at heaven's gate sings," appreciates why the commentators incline
to identify Shakespeare's Mary-buds with the Caltha of these
But we know well that not for poets' high-flown rhapsodies but rather
for the more welcome hum of bees and flies intent on breakfasting, do
these flowers open in the morning sunshine.
Some country people who boil the young plants declare these "greens"
as good as spinach. What sacrilege to reduce crisp, glossy, beautiful
leaves like these to a slimy mess in a pot! The tender buds, often used
in white sauce as a substitute for capers, probably do not give it the
same piquancy where piquancy is surely most needed--on boiled mutton,
said to be Queen Victoria's favorite dish. Hawked about the streets in
tight bunches, the Marsh Marigold blossoms--with half their yellow
sepals already dropped--and the fragrant, pearly, pink arbutus are the
most familiar spring wild flowers seen in Eastern cities.
Flowers--Small, white, solitary, on a slender scape 3 to 6
Sepals 5 to 7, petal-like, falling early; petals 5 to 6, inconspicuous,
like club-shaped columns; stamens numerous; carpels few, the stigmatic
surfaces curved. Leaves: From the base, long petioled, divided
somewhat fan-shaped, shining, evergreen, sharply toothed leaflets.
Rootstock: Thread-like, long, bright yellow, wiry, bitter.
Preferred Habitat--Cool mossy bogs, damp woods.
Distribution--Maryland and Minnesota northward to
Dig up a plant, and the fine, tangled, yellow roots tell why it was
given its name. In the good old days when decoctions of any herb that
was particularly nauseous were swallowed in the simple faith that
virtue resided in them in proportion to their revolting taste, the
gold-thread's bitter roots furnished a tea much valued as a spring
tonic and as a cure for ulcerated throats and canker-sore mouths of
Flower--Red outside, yellow within, irregular, 1 to 2 in.
solitary, nodding from a curved footstalk from the upper leaf axils.
Petals 5, funnel-shaped, but quickly narrowing into long, erect, very
slender hollow spurs, rounded at the tip and united below by the 5
spreading red sepals, between which the straight spurs ascend; numerous
stamens and 5 pistils projecting. Stem: 1 to 2 ft. high,
soft-hairy or smooth. Leaves: More or less divided, the lobes
rounded teeth; large lower compound leaves on long petioles. Fruit:
erect pod, each of the 5 divisions tipped with a long, sharp beak.
Preferred Habitat--Rocky places, rich woodland.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territory;
Gulf states. Rocky Mountains.
Although under cultivation the columbine nearly doubles its size, it
never has the elfin charm in a conventional garden that it possesses
wild in Nature's. Dancing, in red and yellow petticoats, to the rhythm
of the breeze along the ledge of overhanging rocks, it coquettes with
some Punchinello as if daring him to reach her at his peril. Who is he?
Let us sit a while on the rocky ledge and watch for her lovers.
Presently a big muscular bumblebee booms along. Owing to his great
strength, an inverted, pendent blossom, from which he must cling upside
down, has no more terrors for him than a trapeze for the trained
acrobat. His long tongue--if he is one of the largest of our sixty-two
species of Bombus--can suck almost any flower unless it is
adapted to night-flying sphinx moths, but can he drain this? He is the
truest benefactor of the European Columbine (A. vulgaris),
suggested the talons of an eagle (aquila) to imaginative
he gave this group of plants its generic name. Smaller bumblebees,
unable through the shortness of their tongues to feast in a legitimate
manner, may be detected nipping holes in the tips of all columbines,
where the nectar is secreted, just as they do in larkspurs, Dutchman's
breeches, squirrel corn, butter and eggs, and other flowers whose
hidden nectaries make dining too difficult for the little rogues.
Fragile butterflies, absolutely dependent on nectar, hover near our
showy wild columbine with its five tempting horns of plenty, but sail
away again, knowing as they do that their weak legs are not calculated
to stand the strain of an inverted position from a pendent flower, nor
are their tongues adapted to slender tubes unless these may be entered
from above. The tongues of both butterflies and moths bend readily only
when directed beneath their bodies. It will be noticed that our
columbine's funnel-shaped tubes contract just below the point where the
nectar is secreted--doubtless to protect it from small bees. When we
the honey-bee or the little wild bees--Halictus chiefly--on the
flower, we may know they get pollen only.
Finally a ruby-throated humming bird whirs into sight. Poising before a
columbine, and moving around it to drain one spur after another until
the five are emptied, he flashes like thought to another group of
inverted red cornucopias, visits in turn every flower in the colony,
then whirs away quite as suddenly as he came. Probably to him, and no
longer to the outgrown bumblebee, has the flower adapted itself. The
European species wears blue, the bee's favorite color according to Sir
John Lubbock; the nectar hidden in its spurs, which are shorter,
stouter, and curved, is accessible only to the largest bumblebees.
There are no humming birds in Europe. Our native columbine, on the
contrary, has longer, contracted, straight, erect spurs, most easily
drained by the ruby-throat which, like Eugene Field, ever delights in
"any color at all so long as it's red."
To help make the columbine conspicuous, even the sepals become red; but
the flower is yellow within, it is thought to guide visitors to the
nectaries. The stamens protrude like a golden tassel. After the anthers
pass the still immature stigmas, the pollen of the outer row ripens,
ready for removal, while the inner row of undeveloped stamens still
as a sheath for the stigmas. Owing to the pendent position of the
flower, no pollen could fall on the latter in any case. The columbine
too highly organized to tolerate self-fertilization. When all the
stamens have discharged their pollen, the styles then elongate; and the
feathery stigmas, opening and curving sidewise, bring themselves at the
entrance of each of the five cornucopias, just the position the anthers
previously occupied. Probably even the small bees, collecting pollen
only, help carry some from flower to flower; but perhaps the largest
bumblebees, and certainly the humming bird, must be regarded as the
columbine's legitimate benefactors. Caterpillars of one of the dusky
wings (Papilio lucilius) feed on the leaves.
Black Cohosh; Black Snakeroot; Tall Bugbane
Flowers--Foetid, feathery, white, in an elongated
in. to 2 ft. long, at the end of a stem 3 to 8 ft. high. Sepals
petal-like, falling early; 4 to 8 small stamen-like petals 2-cleft;
stamens very numerous, with long filaments; 1 or 2 sessile pistils with
broad stigmas. Leaves: Alternate, on long petioles, thrice
of oblong, deeply toothed or cleft leaflets, the end leaflet often
compound. Fruit: Dry oval pods, their seeds in 2 rows.
Preferred Habitat--Rich woods and woodland borders,
Distribution--Maine to Georgia, and westward from Ontario
Tall white rockets, shooting upward from a mass of large handsome
in some heavily shaded midsummer woodland border, cannot fail to
themselves through more than one sense, for their odor is as
disagreeable as the fleecy white blossoms are striking. Obviously such
flowers would be most attractive to the carrion and meat flies.
Cimicifuga, meaning to drive away bugs, and the old
bugbane testify to a degree of offensiveness to other insects, where
flies' enjoyment begins. As these are the only insects one is likely to
see about the fleecy wands, doubtless they are their benefactors. The
countless stamens which feed them generously with pollen willingly left
for them alone must also dust them well as they crawl about before
flying to another foetid lunch.
The close kinship with the baneberries is detected at once on examining
one of these flowers. Were the vigorous plant less offensive to the
nostrils, many a garden would be proud to own so decorative an addition
to the shrubbery border.
White Baneberry; Cohosh
Flowers--Small, white, in a terminal oblong raceme. Calyx
petal-like, early-falling sepals; petals very small, 4 to 10,
clawed; stamens white, numerous, longer than petals; 1 pistil with a
broad stigma. Stem: Erect, bushy, 1 to 2 ft. high. Leaves:
thrice compounded of sharply toothed and pointed, sometimes lobed,
leaflets, petioled. Fruit: Clusters of poisonous oval white
with dark purple spot on end, formed from the pistils. Both pedicels
peduncles much thickened and often red after fruiting.
Preferred Habitat---Cool, shady, moist woods.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Georgia and far West.
However insignificant the short fuzzy clusters of flowers lifted by
bushy little plant, we cannot fail to name it after it has set those
curious white berries with a dark spot on the end, which Mrs. Starr
graphically compares to "the china eyes that small children
manage to gouge from their dolls' heads." For generations they have
called "dolls' eyes" in Massachusetts. Especially after these poisonous
berries fully ripen and the rigid stems which bear them thicken and
redden, we cannot fail to notice them. As the sepals fall early, the
white stamens and stigmas are the most conspicuous parts of the
May Apple; Hog Apple; Mandrake; Wild Lemon
Flowers--White, solitary, large, unpleasantly scented,
the fork between a pair of terminal leaves. Calyx of 6 short-lived
sepals; 6 to 9 rounded, flat petals; stamens as many as petals or
(usually) twice as many; 1 pistil, with a thick stigma. Stem: 1
1-1/2 ft. high, from a long, running rootstock. Leaves: Of
stems (from separate rootstock), solitary, on a long petiole from,
base, nearly 1 ft. across, rounded, centrally peltate, umbrella
fashion, 5 to 7 lobed, the lobes 2-cleft, dark above, light green
below. Leaves of flowering stem 1 to 3, usually a pair, similar to
others, but smaller. Fruit: A fleshy, yellowish, egg-shaped,
many-seeded fruit about 2 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Rich, moist woods.
Distribution--Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico, westward to
In giving this plant its abridged scientific name, Linnaeus seemed to
see in its leaves a resemblance to a duck's foot (Anapodophyllum);
equally imaginative American children call them green umbrellas, and
declare they unfurl only during April showers. In July, a sweetly
mawkish many-seeded fruit, resembling a yellow egg-tomato, delights the
uncritical palates of the little people, who should be warned, however,
against putting any other part of this poisonous, drastic plant in
mouths. Physicians best know its uses. Dr. Asa Gray's statement about
the harmless fruit "eaten by pigs and boys" aroused William Hamilton
Gibson, who had happy memories of his own youthful gorges on anything
edible that grew. "Think of it, boys!" he wrote; "and think of what
he says of it: 'Ovary ovoid, stigma sessile, undulate, seeds covering
the lateral placenta each enclosed in an aril.' Now it may be safe for
pigs and billygoats to tackle such a compound as that, but we boys all
like to know what we are eating, and I cannot but feel that the public
health officials of every township should require this formula of
Gray's to be printed on every one of these big loaded pills, if that is
what they are really made of."
Flowers--Yellow, small, odor disagreeable, 6-parted, borne
drooping, many-flowered racemes from the leaf axils along arching
Stem: A much-branched, smooth, gray shrub, 5 to 8 ft.
sharp spines. Leaves: From the 3-pronged spines (thorns); oval
obovate, bristly edged. Fruit: Oblong, scarlet, acid berries.
Preferred Habitat--Thickets, roadsides, dry or gravelly
Distribution--Naturalized in New England and Middle
common in Canada and the West. Europe and Asia.
When the twigs of barberry bushes arch with the weight of clusters of
beautiful bright berries in September, every one must take notice of a
shrub so decorative, which receives scant attention from us, however,
when its insignificant little flowers are out.
In the barberry bushes, as in the gorse, when grown in dry, gravelly
situations, we see many leaves and twigs modified into thorns to
diminish the loss of water through evaporation by exposing too much
surface to the sun and air. That such spines protect the plants which
bear them from the ravages of grazing cattle is, of course, an
additional motive for their presence. Under cultivation, in
garden soil--and how many charming varieties of barberries are
cultivated--the thorny shrub loses much of its armor, putting forth
more leaves, in rosettes, along more numerous twigs, instead. Even the
prickly pear cactus might become mild as a lamb were it to forswear
sandy deserts and live in marshes instead. Country people sometimes rob
the birds of the acid berries to make preserves. The wood furnishes a
Bloodroot; Indian Paint; Red Puccoon
Flowers--Pure white, rarely pinkish, golden centred, 1 to
across, solitary, at end of a smooth, naked scape 6 to 14 in. tall.
Calyx of 2 short-lived sepals; corolla of 8 to 12 oblong petals, early
falling; stamens numerous; 1 short pistil composed of 2 carpels.
Leaves: Rounded, deeply and palmately lobed, the 5 to 9
cleft. Rootstock: Thick, several inches long, with fibrous
filled with orange-red juice.
Preferred Habitat--Rich woods and borders; low hillsides.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Florida, westward to
Snugly protected in a papery sheath enfolding a silvery-green
leaf-cloak, the solitary erect bud slowly rises from its embrace, sheds
its sepals, expands into an immaculate golden-centred blossom that,
poppy-like, offers but a glimpse of its fleeting loveliness ere it
its snow-white petals and is gone. But were the flowers less ephemeral,
were we always certain of hitting upon the very time its colonies are
starring the woodland, would it have so great a charm? Here to-day, if
there comes a sudden burst of warm sunshine; gone to-morrow, if the
spring winds, rushing through the nearly leafless woods, are too rude
the fragile petals--no blossom has a more evanescent beauty, none is
more lovely. After its charms have been displayed, up rises the
leaf-cloak on its smooth reddish petiole, unrolls, and at length
overtops the narrow, oblong seed-vessel. Wound the plant in any part,
and there flows an orange-red juice, which old-fashioned mothers used
drop on lumps of sugar and administer when their children had coughs
colds. As this fluid stains whatever it touches--hence its value to the
Indians as a war-paint--one should be careful in picking the flower. It
has no value for cutting, of course; but in some rich, shady corner of
the garden, a clump of the plants will thrive and bring a suggestive
picture of the spring woods to our very doors. It will be noticed that
plants having thick rootstock, corms, and bulbs, which store up food
during the winter, like the irises, Solomon's seals, bloodroot, adder's
tongue, and crocuses, are prepared to rush into blossom far earlier in
spring than fibrous-rooted species that must accumulate nourishment
after the season has opened.
Greater Celandine; Swallow-wort
Flowers--Lustreless yellow, about 1/2 in. across, on
in a small umbel-like cluster. Sepals 2, soon falling; 4 petals, many
yellow stamens, pistil prominent. Stem: Weak, 1 to 2 ft. high,
branching, slightly hairy, containing bright orange acrid juice.
Leaves: Thin, 4 to 8 in. long, deeply cleft into 5
oval lobes, the terminal one largest. Fruit: Smooth, slender,
pods, 1 to 2 in. long, tipped with the persistent style.
Preferred Habitat--Dry waste land, fields, roadsides,
Distribution--Naturalized from Europe in eastern United
Not this weak invader of our roadsides, whose four yellow petals
one of the cross-bearing mustard tribe, but the pert little Lesser
Celandine, Pilewort, or Figwort Buttercup (Ficaria Ficaria), one
the crowfoot family, whose larger solitary satiny yellow flowers so
commonly star European pastures, was Wordsworth's special delight--a
tiny, turf-loving plant, about which much poetical association
Having stolen passage across the Atlantic, it is now making itself at
home about College Point, Long Island; on Staten Island; near
Philadelphia, and maybe elsewhere. Doubtless it will one day overrun
fields, as so many other European immigrants have done.
The generic Greek name of the greater celandine, meaning a swallow, was
given it because it begins to bloom when the first returning swallows
are seen skimming over the water and freshly ploughed fields in a
perfect ecstasy of flight, and continues in flower among its erect seed
capsules until the first cool days of autumn kill the gnats and small
winged insects not driven to cover. Then the swallows, dependent on
fare, must go to warmer climes where plenty still fly. Quaint old
Gerarde claims that the Swallow-wort was so called because "with this
herbe the dams restore eyesight to their young ones when their eye be
put out" by swallows. Coles asserts "the swallow cureth her dim eyes
Dutchman's Breeches; White Hearts; Soldier's Cap; Ear-drops
Flowers--White, tipped with yellow, nodding in a 1-sided
scale-like sepals; corolla of 4 petals, in 2 pairs, somewhat cohering
into a heart-shaped, flattened, irregular flower, the outer pair of
petals extended into 2 widely spread spurs, the small inner petals
united above; 6 stamens in 2 sets; style slender, with a 2-lobed
Scape: 5 to 10 in. high, smooth, from a bulbous root. Leaves:
cut, thrice compound, pale beneath, on slender petioles, all from base.
Preferred Habitat--Rich, rocky woods.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to the Carolinas, west to
Rich leaf mould, accumulated between crevices of rock, makes the ideal
home of this delicate yet striking flower, coarse-named, but refined in
all its parts. Consistent with the dainty, heart-shaped blossoms that
hang trembling along the slender stem like pendants from a lady's ear,
are the finely dissected, lace-like leaves, the whole plant repudiating
by its femininity its most popular name. It was Thoreau who observed
that only those plants which require but little light, and can stand
drip of trees, prefer to dwell in the woods--plants which have commonly
more beauty in their leaves than in their pale and almost colorless
blossoms. Certainly few woodland dwellers have more delicately
foliage than the fumitory tribe.
Flowers--Irregular, greenish white tinged with rose,
fragrant, heart-shaped, with 2 short rounded spurs, more than 1/2 in.
long, nodding on a slender Calyx of 2 scale-like sepals; corolla
heart-shaped at base, consisting of 4 petals in 2 united pairs, a
prominent crest on tips of inner ones; 6 stamens in 2 sets; style with
2-lobed stigma. Scape; Smooth, 6 to 12 in. high, the rootstock
many small, round, yellow tubers like kernels of corn. Leaves:
from root, delicate, compounded of 3 very finely dissected divisions.
Preferred Habitat--Rich, moist woods.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Virginia, and westward to the
Any one familiar with the Bleeding-heart (Dicentra eximia) of
old-fashioned gardens, found growing wild in the Alleghanies, and with
the exquisite White Mountain Fringe (Adlumia fungosa) often
from the woods to be planted over shady trellises, or with the
Dutchman's breeches, need not be told that the little squirrel corn is
next of kin or far removed from the Pink Corydalis. It is not until we
dig up the plant and look at its roots that we see why it received its
name. A delicious perfume like hyacinths, only fainter and subtler,
rises from the dainty blossoms.
Shepherd's Purse; Mother's Heart
Flowers--Small, white, in a long, loose raceme, followed
and notched (somewhat heart-shaped) pods, the valves boat-shaped and
keeled. Sepals and petals 4; stamens 6; 1 pistil. Stem: 6 to 18
high, from a deep root. Leaves: Forming a rosette at base, 2 to
long, more or less cut (pinnatifid), a few pointed, arrow-shaped leaves
also scattered along stem and partly clasping it.
Preferred Habitat--Fields, roadsides, waste places.
Flowering Season--Almost throughout the year.
Distribution--Over nearly all parts of the earth.
From Europe this little low plant found its way, to become the
of our weeds, so completing its march around the globe. At a glance one
knows it to be related to the alyssum and candytuft of our gardens,
albeit a poor relation in spite of its vaunted purses--the tiny,
heart-shaped seed-pods that so rapidly succeed the flowers. What is the
secret of its successful march over the face of the earth? Like the
equally triumphant chickweed, it is easily satisfied with unoccupied
waste land, it avoids the fiercest competition for insect trade by
prolonging its season of bloom far beyond that of any native flower,
there is not a month in the year when one may not find it even in New
England in sheltered places.
Flowers--Bright yellow, fading pale, 1/4 to 1/2 in.
in elongated racemes; quickly followed by narrow, upright 4-sided pods
about 1/2 in. long appressed against the stem. Stem: Erect, 2
to 7 ft.
tall, branching. Leaves: Variously lobed and divided, finely
the terminal lobe larger than the 2 to 4 side ones.
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides, fields, neglected gardens.
Distribution--Common throughout our area; naturalized from
Europe and Asia.
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of
which a man took and sowed in his field: which
indeed is less
than all seeds; but when it is grown, it is
greater than the
herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds
of the air come
and lodge in the branches thereof."
Commentators differ as to which is the mustard of the parable--this
common Black Mustard, or a rarer shrub-like tree (Salvadora Persica),
with an equivalent Arabic name, a pungent odor, and a very small seed.
Inasmuch as the mustard which is systematically planted for fodder by
Old World farmers grows with the greatest luxuriance in Palestine, and
the comparison between the size of its seed and the plant's great
was already proverbial in the East when Jesus used it, evidence
favors this wayside weed. Indeed, the late Doctor Royle, who endeavored
to prove that it was the shrub that was referred to, finally found that
it does not grow in Galilee.
Now, there are two species which furnish the most powerfully pungent
condiment known to commerce; but the tiny dark brown seeds of the Black
Mustard are sharper than the serpent's tooth, whereas the pale brown
seeds of the White Mustard, often mixed with them, are far more mild.
The latter (Brassica alba) is a similar, but more hairy, plant,
slightly larger yellow flowers. Its pods are constricted like a
necklace between the seeds.
The coarse Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), with rigid,
spreading branches, and spikes of tiny pale yellow flowers, quickly
followed by awl-shaped pods that are closely appressed to the stem,
abounds in waste places throughout our area. It blooms from May to
November, like the next species.
Another common and most troublesome weed from Europe is the Field or
Corn Mustard, Charlock or Field Kale (Brassica arvensis) found
grain fields, gardens, rich waste lands, and rubbish heaps. The
alternate leaves, which stand boldly out from the stem, are oval,
coarsely saw-toothed, or the lower ones more irregular, and lobed at
their bases, all rough to the touch, and conspicuously veined.
Pitcher-plant; Side-saddle Flower; Huntsman's Cup; Indian Dipper
Flower--Deep reddish purple, sometimes partly greenish,
2 in. or more across, globose; solitary, nodding from scape 1 to 2 ft.
tall. Calyx of 5 sepals, with 3 or 4 bracts at base; 5 overlapping
petals, enclosing a yellowish, umbrella-shaped dilation of the style,
with 5 rays terminating in 5-hooked stigmas; stamens indefinite.
Leaves: Hollow, pitcher-shaped through the folding
margins, leaving a broad wing; much inflated, hooded, yellowish green
with dark maroon or purple lines and veinings, 4 to 12 in. long,
in a tuft from the root.
Preferred Habitat--Peat-bogs; spongy, mossy swamps.
Distribution--Labrador to the Rocky Mountains, south to
Kentucky, and Minnesota.
"What's this I hear
About the new carnivora?
Can little plants
Eat bugs and ants
And gnats and flies?
A sort of retrograding:
Surely the fare
Of flowers is air
Or sunshine sweet;
They shouldn't eat
Or do aught so degrading!"
There must always be something shocking in the sacrifice of the higher
life to the lower, of the sensate to what we are pleased to call the
insensate, although no one who has studied the marvellously intelligent
motives that impel a plant's activities can any longer consider the
vegetable creation as lacking sensibility. Science is at length giving
us a glimmering of the meaning of the word universe, teaching, as it
does, that all creatures in sharing the One Life share in many of its
powers, and differ from one another only in degree of possession, not
kind. The transition from one so-called kingdom into another presumably
higher one is a purely arbitrary line marked by man, and often
impossible to define. The animalcule and the insectivorous plant know
boundaries between the animal and the vegetable. And who shall say that
the sundew or the bladderwort is not a higher organism than the amoeba?
Animated plants and vegetating animals parallel each other. Several
hundred carnivorous plants in all parts of the world have now been
It is well worth a journey to some spongy, sphagnum bog to gather
of pitcher-plants which will furnish an interesting study to an entire
household throughout the summer while they pursue their nefarious
business in a shallow bowl on the veranda. A modification of the
forms a deep, hollow pitcher having for its spout a modification of the
blade of the leaf. Usually the pitchers are half filled with water and
tiny drowned victims when we gather them. Some of this fluid must be
rain, but the open pitcher secretes much juice, too. Certain relatives,
whose pitchers have hooded lids that keep out rain, are nevertheless
filled with fluid. On the Pacific Coast the golden jars of Darlingtonia
californica, with their overarching hoods, are often so large and
watery as to drown small birds and field mice. Note in passing that
these otherwise dark prisons have translucent spots at the top, whereas
our pitcher-plant is lighted through its open transom.
A sweet secretion within the pitcher's rim, which some say is
intoxicating, others that it is an anesthetic, invites insects to a
fatal feast. It is a simple enough matter for them to walk into the
pitcher over the band of stiff hairs pointing downward like the withes
of a lobster pot, that form an inner covering, or to slip into the well
if they attempt crawling over its polished upper surface. To fly upward
in a perpendicular line, once their wings are wet, is additionally
hopeless, because of the hairs that guard the mouth of the trap; and
so, after vain attempts to fly or crawl out of the prison, they usually
sink exhausted into a watery grave.
When certain plants live in soil that is so poor in nitrogen compounds
that proteid formation is interfered with, they have come to depend
or less on a carnivorous diet. The sundew actually digests its prey
the help of a gastric juice similar to what is found in the stomach of
animals; but the bladderwort and pitcher-plants can only absorb in the
form of soup the products of their victims' decay. Flies and gnats
drowned in these pitchers quickly yield their poor little bodies; but
owing to the beetle's hard shell covering, many a rare specimen may be
rescued intact to add to a collection.
A similar ogre plant is the yellow-flowered Trumpet-leaf (S. flava)
found in bogs in the Southern states.
Round-leaved Sundew; Dew-plant
Flowers--Small, white, growing in a 1-sided, curved raceme
chiefly. Calyx usually 5-parted; usually 5 petals, and as many stamens
as petals; usually 3 styles, but 2-cleft, thus appearing to be twice as
many. Scape: 4 to 10 in. high. Leaves: Growing in an
open rosette on
the ground; round or broader, clothed with reddish bristly hairs tipped
with purple glands, and narrowed into long, flat, hairy petioles; young
leaves curled like fern fronds.
Preferred Habitat--Bogs, sandy and sunny marshes.
Distribution--Labrador to the Gulf of Mexico and westward.
to California. Europe and Asia.
Here is a bloodthirsty little miscreant that lives by reversing the
natural order of higher forms of life preying upon lower ones, an
anomaly in that the vegetable actually eats the animal. The dogbane, as
we shall see, simply catches the flies that dare trespass upon the
butterflies' preserves, for excellent reasons of its own; the Silenes
and phloxes, among others, spread their calices with a sticky gum that
acts as limed twigs do to birds, in order to guard the nectar secreted
for flying benefactors from pilfering ants; the honey bee being an
imported, not a native, insect, and therefore not perfectly adapted to
the milkweed, occasionally gets entrapped by it; the big bumblebee is
sometimes fatally imprisoned in the moccasin flower's gorgeous
punishment of insects that do not benefit the flowers is infinite in
variety. But the local Venus's flytrap (Dionaea muscipula),
only from the low savannas in North Carolina to entertain the owners of
hothouses as it promptly closes the crushing trap at the end of its
sensitive leaves over a hapless fly, and the common sundew that tinges
the peat-bogs of three continents with its little reddish leaves,
to a distinct class of carnivorous plants which actually masticate
animal food, depending upon it for nourishment as men do upon cattle
slaughtered in an abattoir. Darwin's luminous account of these two
species alone, which occupies more than three hundred absorbingly
interesting pages of his "Insectivorous Plants," should be read by
every one interested in these freaks of nature.
When we go to some sunny cranberry bog to look for these sundews,
nothing could be more innocent looking than the tiny plant, its nodding
raceme of buds, usually with only a solitary little blossom (that opens
only in the sunshine) at the top of the curve, its leaves glistening
with what looks like dew, though the midsummer sun may be high in the
heavens. A little fly or gnat, attracted by the bright jewels, alights
on a leaf only to find that the clear drops, more sticky than honey,
instantly glue his feet, that the pretty reddish hairs about him act
like tentacles, reaching inward, to imprison him within their slowly
closing embrace. Here is one of the horrors of the Inquisition
operating in this land of liberty before our very eyes! Excited by the
struggles of the victim, the sensitive hairs close only the faster,
working on the same principle that a vine's tendrils do when they come
in contact with a trellis. More of the sticky fluid pours upon the
hapless fly, plastering over his legs and wings and the pores on his
body through which he draws his breath. Slowly, surely, the leaf rolls
inward, making a temporary stomach; the cruel hairs bind, the glue
suffocates and holds him fast. Death alone releases him. And now the
leaf's orgy begins: moistening the fly with a fresh peptic fluid, which
helps in the assimilation, the plant proceeds to digest its food.
Curiously enough, chemical analysis proves that this sundew secrets a
complex fluid corresponding almost exactly to the gastric juice in the
stomach of animals.
Darwin, who fed these leaves with various articles, found that they
could dissolve matter out of pollen, seeds, grass, etc.; yet without a
human caterer, how could a leaf turn vegetarian? When a bit of any
undesirable substance, such as chalk or wood, was placed on the hairs
and excited them, they might embrace it temporarily; but as soon as the
mistake was discovered, it would be dropped! He also poisoned the
by administering acids, and gave them fatal attacks of indigestion by
overfeeding them with bits of raw beef!
Flowers--White, small, numerous, perfect, spreading into a
panicle. Calyx 5-lobed; 5 petals; 10 stamens; 1 pistil with 2
styles. Scape: 4 to 12 in. high, naked, sticky-hairy. Leaves:
Clustered at the base, rather thick, obovate, toothed, and narrowed
into spatulate-margined petioles. Fruit: Widely spread,
Preferred Habitat--Rocky woodlands, hillsides.
Distribution--New Brunswick to Georgia, and westward a
miles or more.
Rooted in clefts of rock that, therefore, appears to be broken by this
vigorous plant, the saxifrage shows rosettes of fresh green leaves in
earliest spring, and soon whitens with its blossoms the most forbidding
niches. (Saxum = a rock; frango = I break.) At first a
small ball of
green buds nestles in the leafy tuffet, then pushes upward on a bare
scape, opening its tiny, white, five-pointed star flowers as it
until, having reached the allotted height, it scatters them in
clusters that last a fortnight.
Foam-flower; False Miterwort; Cool wort; Nancy-over-the-Ground
Flowers--White, small, feathery, borne in a close raceme
a scape 6 to 12 in. high. Calyx white, 5-lobed; 5 clawed petals; 10
stamens, long-exserted; 1 pistil with 2 styles. Leaves:
from the rootstock or runners, rounded or broadly heart-shaped, 3 to
7-lobed, toothed, often downy along veins beneath.
Preferred Habitat---Rich, moist woods, especially along
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Georgia, and westward
Fuzzy, bright white foam-flowers are most conspicuous in the forest
seen against their unevenly colored leaves that carpet the ground. A
relative, the true Miterwort or Bishop's Cap (Mittella diphylla),
similar foliage, except that two opposite leaves may be found almost
seated near the middle of its hairy stem, has its flowers rather
distantly scattered on the raceme, and their fine petals deeply cut
fringe. Both species may be found in bloom at the same time, offering
opportunity for comparison to the confused novice. Now, tiarella,
meaning a little tiara, and mitella, a little miter, refer, of
course, to the odd forms of their seed-cases; but all of us are not
gifted with the imaginative eyes of Linnaeus, who named the plants.
Xenophon's assertion that the royal tiara or turban of the Persians was
encircled with a crown helps us no more to see what Linnaeus saw in the
one case than the fact that the papal miter is encircled by three
helps in the other. And as for the lofty, two-peaked cap worn by
in the Roman Church, a dozen plants, with equal propriety, might be
to wear it.
Grass of Parnassus
Flowers--Creamy white, delicately veined with greenish,
in. broad or over, at the end of a scape 8 in. to 2 ft. high, 1 ovate
leaf clasping it. Calyx deeply 5-lobed; corolla of 5 spreading,
veined petals; 5 fertile stamens alternating with them, and 3 stout
imperfect stamens clustered at base of each petal; 1 very short pistil
with 4 stigmas. Leaves: From the root, on long petioles,
or rounded, heart-shaped at base, rather thick.
Preferred Habitat--Wet ground, low meadows, swamps.
Distribution--New Brunswick to Virginia, west to Iowa.
What's in a name? Certainly our common grass of Parnassus, which is no
grass at all, never starred the meadows round about the home of the
Muses, nor sought the steaming savannas of the Carolinas. The European
counterpart (P. palustris), fabled to have sprung up on Mount
Parnassus, is at home here only in the Canadian border states and
Flowers--Yellow, fringy, clustered in the axils of
4-parted; 4 very narrow curving petals about 3/4 in. long; 4 short
stamens, also 4 that are scale-like; 2 styles. Stem: A tall,
shrub. Leaves: Broadly oval, thick, wavy-toothed, mostly fallen
flowering time. Fruit: Woody capsules maturing the next season
remaining with flowers of the succeeding year (Hama = together
mela = fruit).
The literature of Europe is filled with allusions to the witch-hazel,
which, however, is quite distinct from our shrub. Swift wrote:
"They tell us something strange and odd
About a certain magic rod
That, bending down its top divines
Where'er the soil has hidden mines;
Where there are none, it stands erect
Scorning to show the least respect."
A good story is told on Linnaeus in Baring-Gould's "Curious Myths of
the Middle Ages": "When the great botanist was on one of his voyages,
hearing his secretary highly extol the virtues of his divining-wand,
he was willing to convince him of its insufficiency, and for that
purpose concealed a purse of one hundred ducats under a ranunculus,
which grew by itself in a meadow, and bid the secretary find it if he
could. The wand discovered nothing, and Linnaeus's mark was soon
trampled down by the company present, so that when he went to finish
the experiment by fetching the gold himself, he was utterly at a loss
where to find it. The man with the wand assisted him, and informed him
that it could not lie in the way they were going, but quite the
contrary; so they pursued the direction of the wand, and actually dug
out the gold. Linnaeus said that another such experiment would be
sufficient to make a proselyte of him."
Many a well has been dug even in this land of liberty where our
witch-hazel indicated; but here its kindly magic is directed chiefly
through the soothing extract distilled from its juices. Its yellow,
thread-like blossoms are the latest to appear in the autumn woods.
ROSE FAMILY (Rosaceae)
Hardhack; Steeple Bush
Flowers--Pink or magenta, rarely white, very small, in
pyramidal clusters. Calyx of 5 sepals; corolla of 5 rounded petals;
stamens, 20 to 60; usually 5 pistils, downy. Stem: 2 to 3 ft.
erect, shrubby, simple, downy. Leaves: Dark green above,
whitish woolly hairs beneath; oval, saw-edged, 1 to 2 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Low, moist ground, roadside ditches,
Distribution--Nova Scotia westward, and southward to
An instant's comparison shows the steeple bush to be closely related to
the fleecy, white meadow-sweet, often found growing near. The pink
spires, which bloom from the top downward, have pale brown tips where
the withered flowers are, toward the end of summer.
Why is the underside of the leaves so woolly? Not as a protection
against wingless insects crawling upward, that is certain; for such
could only benefit these tiny clustered flowers. Not against the sun's
rays, for it is only the under surface that is coated. When the upper
leaf surface is hairy, we know that the plant is protected in this way
from perspiring too freely. Doubtless these leaves of the steeple bush,
like those of other plants that choose a similar habitat, have woolly
hairs beneath as an absorbent to protect their pores from clogging with
the vapors that must rise from the damp ground where the plant grows.
these pores were filled with moisture from without, how could they
possibly throw off the waste of the plant? All plants are largely
dependent upon free perspiration for health, but especially those whose
roots, struck in wet ground, are constantly sending up moisture through
the stem and leaves.
Meadow-sweet; Quaker Lady; Queen-of-the-Meadow
Flowers--Small, white, or flesh pink, clustered in dense,
terminal panicles. Calyx 5 cleft; corolla of 5 rounded petals; stamens
numerous; pistils 5 to 8. Stem: 2 to 4 ft. high, simple or
smooth, usually reddish. Leaves: Alternate, oval, or oblong,
Preferred Habitat--Low meadows, swamps, fence-rows,
Distribution--Newfoundland to Georgia, west to Rocky
Europe and Asia.
Fleecy white plumes of meadow-sweet, the "spires of closely clustered
bloom" sung by Dora Read Goodale, are surely not frequently found near
dusty "waysides scorched with barren heat," even in her Berkshires;
their preference is for moister soil, often in the same habitat with a
first cousin, the pink steeple-bush. But plants, like humans, are
capricious creatures. If the meadow-sweet always elected to grow in
ground whose rising mists would clog the pores of its leaves, doubtless
they would be protected with a woolly absorbent, as its cousins are.
Inasmuch as perfume serves as an attraction to the more highly
specialized, aesthetic insects, not required by the spiraeas, our
meadow-sweet has none, in spite of its misleading name. Small bees,
flies, and beetles, among other visitors, come in great numbers,
the accessible pollen, and, in this case, nectar also, secreted in a
conspicuous orange-colored disk.
Common Hawthorn; White Thorn; Scarlet-fruited Thorn; Red Haw;
Flowers--White, rarely pinkish, usually less than 1 in.
numerous, in terminal corymbs. Calyx 5-lobed; 5 spreading petals
inserted in its throat; numerous stamens; styles 3 to 5. Stem:
shrub or small tree, rarely attaining 30 ft. in height (Kratos =
strength, in reference to hardness and toughness of the wood); branches
spreading, and beset with stout spines (thorns) nearly 2 in. long.
Leaves: Alternate, petioled, 2 to 3 in. long, ovate, very
or lobed, the teeth glandular-tipped. Fruit: Coral red, round
oval; not edible.
Preferred Habitat--Thickets, fence-rows, woodland borders.
Distribution--Newfoundland and Manitoba southward to the
"The fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be."
Here is a popular recipe omitted from that volume of heart-to-heart
talks entitled "How to Be Pretty Though Plain!"
The sombre-thoughted Scotchman, looking for trouble, tersely observes:
But in delicious, blossoming May, when the joy of living fairly
intoxicates one, and every bird's throat is swelling with happy music,
who but a Calvinist would croak dismal prophecies? In Ireland, old
crones tell marvellous tales about the hawthorns, and the banshees
have a predilection for them.
Five-finger; Common Cinquefoil
Flowers--Yellow, 1/4 to 1/2 in. across, growing singly on
peduncles from the leaf axils. Five petals longer than the 5 acute
lobes with 5 linear bracts between them; about 20 stamens; pistils
numerous, forming a head. Stem: Spreading over ground by
runners or ascending. Leaves: 5-fingered, the digitate,
leaflets (rarely 3 or 4) spreading from a common point, petioled; some
in a tuft at base.
Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, roadsides, hills, banks.
Distribution--Quebec to Georgia, and westward beyond the
Every one crossing dry fields in the eastern United States and Canada
least must have trod on a carpet of cinquefoil (cinque = five,
feuilles = leaves), and have noticed the bright little
the pretty foliage, possibly mistaking the plant for its cousin, the
trefoliate barren strawberry. Both have flowers like miniature wild
yellow roses. During the Middle Ages, when misdirected zeal credited
almost any plant with healing virtues for every ill that flesh is heir
to, the cinquefoils were considered most potent remedies, hence their
High Bush Blackberry; Bramble
Flowers--White, 1 in. or less across, in terminal
clusters. Calyx deeply 5-parted, persistent; 5 large petals; stamens
carpels numerous, the latter inserted on a pulpy receptacle. Stem:
to 10 ft. high, woody, furrowed, curved, armed with stout, recurved
prickles. Leaves: Compounded of 3 to 5 ovate, saw-edged
end one stalked, all hairy beneath. Fruit: Firmly attached to
receptacle; nearly black, oblong juicy berries 1 in. long or less,
hanging in clusters. Ripe, July-August.
Preferred Habitat--Dry soil, thickets, fence-rows, old
waysides. Low altitudes.
Distribution--New England to Florida, and far westward.
"There was a man of our town,
And he was wondrous wise,
He jumped into a bramble bush"--
If we must have poetical associations for every flower, Mother Goose
But for the practical mind this plant's chief interest lies in the fact
that from its wild varieties the famous Lawton and Kittatinny
blackberries have been derived. The late Peter Henderson used to tell
how the former came to be introduced. A certain Mr. Secor found an
unusually fine blackberry growing wild in a hedge at New Rochelle, New
York, and removed it to his garden, where it increased apace. But not
even for a gift could he induce a neighbor to relieve him of the
superfluous bushes, so little esteemed were blackberries in his day.
However, a shrewd lawyer named Lawton at length took hold of it,
exhibited the fruit, advertised it cleverly, and succeeded in pocketing
a snug little fortune from the sale of the prolific plants. Another
variety of the common wild blackberry, which was discovered by a
clergyman at the edge of the woods on the Kittatinny Mountains in New
Jersey, has produced fruit under skilled cultivation that still remains
the best of its class. When clusters of blossoms and fruit in various
stages of green, red, and black hang on the same bush, few ornaments in
Nature's garden are more decorative.
Purple-flowering or Virginia Raspberry
Flowers--Royal purple or bluish pink, showy, fragrant, 1
broad, loosely clustered at top of stem. Calyx sticky-hairy, deeply
5-parted, with long, pointed tips; corolla of 5 rounded petals; stamens
and pistils very numerous. Stem: 3 to 5 ft. high, erect,
shrubby, bristly, not prickly. Leaves: Alternate, petioled, 3
lobed, middle lobe largest, and all pointed; saw-edged lower leaves
immense. Fruit: A depressed red berry, scarcely edible.
Preferred Habitat--Rocky woods, dells, shady roadsides.
Distribution--Northern Canada south to Georgia, westward
To be an unappreciated, unloved relative of the exquisite wild rose,
with which this flower is so often likened, must be a similar
misfortune to being the untalented son of a great man, or the unhappy
author of a successful first book never equalled in later attempts. But
where the bright blossoms of the Virginia raspberry burst forth above
the roadside tangle and shady woodland dells, even those who despise
magenta see beauty in them where abundant green tones all discordant
notes into harmony. Purple, as we of to-day understand the color, the
flower is not; but rather the purple of ancient Orientals. On cool,
cloudy days the petals are a deep rose that fades into bluish pink when
the sun is hot.
Just as many members of the lily tribe show a preference for the rule
three in the arrangements of their floral parts, so the wild roses
to the quinary method of some primitive ancestor, a favorite one also
with the buttercup and many of its kin, the geraniums, mallows, and
various others. Most of our fruit trees and bushes are near relatives
the rose. Five petals and five sepals, then, we always find on roses in
a state of nature; and although the progressive gardener of to-day has
nowhere shown his skill more than in the development of a multitude of
petals from stamens in the magnificent roses of fashionable society,
most highly cultivated darling of the greenhouses quickly reverts to
original wild type, setting his work of years at naught, if once it
regain its natural liberties through neglect.
To protect its foliage from being eaten by hungry cattle, the rose goes
armed into the battle of life with curved, sharp prickles, not true
thorns or modified branches, but merely surface appliances which peel
off with the bark. To destroy crawling pilferers of pollen, several
species coat their calices, at least, with fine hairs or sticky gum;
to insure wide distribution of offspring, the seeds are packed in the
attractive, bright red calyx tube or hip, a favorite food of many
which drop them miles away.
In literature, ancient and modern, sacred and profane, no flower
so conspicuously as the rose. To the Romans it was most significant
placed over the door of a public or private banquet hall. Each who
passed beneath it bound himself thereby not to disclose anything said
done within; hence the expression sub rosa, common to this day.
The Smoother, Early, or Meadow Rose (R. blanda), found blooming
June and July in moist, rocky places from Newfoundland to New Jersey
a thousand miles westward, has slightly fragrant flowers, at first
later pure white. Their styles are separate, not cohering in a column
nor projecting as in the climbing rose. This is a leafy, low bush
less than three feet high; it is either entirely unarmed, or else
provided with only a few weak prickles; the stipules are rather broad,
and the leaf is compounded of from five to seven oval, blunt, and pale
green leaflets, often hoary below.
In swamps and low, wet ground from Quebec to Florida and westward to
Mississippi, the Swamp Rose (R. carolina) blooms late in May and
midsummer. The bush may grow taller than a man, or perhaps only a foot
high. It is armed with stout, hooked, rather distant prickles, and few
or no bristles. The leaflets, from five to nine, but usually seven, to
leaf, are smooth, pale, or perhaps hairy beneath to protect the pores
from filling with moisture arising from the wet ground. Long, sharp
calyx lobes, which drop off before the cup swells in fruit into a
glandular, hairy red hip, are conspicuous among the clustered pink
flowers and buds.
How fragrant are the pages of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare with
Eglantine! This delicious plant, known here as Sweetbrier (R.
rubiginosa), emits its very aromatic odor from russet glands on the
under, downy side of the small leaflets, always a certain means of
identification. From eastern Canada to Virginia and Tennessee the plant
has happily escaped from man's gardens back to Nature's.
In spite of its American Indian name, the lovely white Cherokee Rose
(R. Sinica), that runs wild in the South, climbing, rambling,
rioting with a truly Oriental abandon and luxuriance, did indeed come
from China. Would that our northern thickets and roadsides might be
decked with its pure flowers and almost equally beautiful dark, glossy,
Wild or American Senna
Flowers--Yellow, about 3/4 in. broad, numerous, in short
clusters on the upper part of plant. Calyx of 5 oblong lobes; 5 petals,
3 forming an upper lip, 2 a lower one; 10 stamens of 3 different kinds;
1 pistil. Stem: 3 to 8 ft. high, little branched. Leaves:
Alternately pinnately compounded of 6 to 10 pairs of oblong leaflets.
Fruit: A narrow, flat curving pod, 3 to 4 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Alluvial or moist, rich soil, swamps,
Distribution--New England, westward to Nebraska, south to
Whoever has seen certain Long Island roadsides bordered with wild
senna, the brilliant flower clusters contrasted with the deep green of
the beautiful foliage, knows that no effect produced by art along the
drives of public park or private garden can match these country lanes
in simple charm.
While leaves of certain African and East Indian species of senna are
most valued for their medicinal properties, those of this plant are
largely collected in the Middle and Southern states as a substitute.
Caterpillars of several sulphur butterflies, which live exclusively on
cassia foliage, appear to feel no evil effects from overdoses.
Wild Indigo; Yellow or Indigo Broom; Horsefly Weed
Flowers--Bright yellow, papilionaceous, about 1/2 in.
pedicels, in numerous but few flowered terminal racemes. Calyx light
green, 4 or 5-toothed; corolla of 5 oblong petals, the standard erect,
the keel enclosing 10 incurved stamens and 1 pistil. Stem:
branched, 2 to 4 ft. high. Leaves: Compounded of 3 ovate
Fruit: A many-seeded round or egg-shaped pod tipped with
Preferred Habitat--Dry, sandy soil.
Distribution--Maine and Minnesota to the Gulf states.
Dark grayish green, clover-like leaves, and small, bright yellow
growing in loose clusters at the ends of the branches of a bushy little
plant, are so commonly met with they need little description. A
relative, the true indigo-bearer, a native of Asia, once commonly grown
in the Southern states when slavery made competition with Oriental
possible, has locally escaped and become naturalized. But the false
species, although, as Doctor Gray says, it yields "a poor sort of
indigo," yields a most valuable medicine employed by the homoeopathists
in malarial fevers. The plant turns black in drying. As in the case of
other papilionaceous blossoms, bees are the visitors best adapted to
fertilize the flowers. When we see the little, sleepy, dusky-winged
butterfly (Thanaos brizo) around the plant we may know she is
only to lay eggs, that the larvae and caterpillars may find their
favorite food at hand on waking into life.
Wild Lupine; Old Maid's Bonnets; Wild Pea; Sun Dial
Flowers--Vivid blue, very rarely pink or white,
corolla consisting of standard, wings, and keel; about 1/2 in. long,
borne in a long raceme at end of stem; calyx 2-lipped, deeply toothed.
Stem: Erect, branching, leafy, 1 to 2 ft. high. Leaves:
compounded of from 7 to 11 (usually 8) leaflets. Fruit: A
flat, very hairy pod, 1-1/2 in. long, and containing 4 or 5 seeds.
Preferred Habitat--Dry, sandy places, banks, and
Distribution--United States east of Mississippi, and
Farmers once thought that this plant preyed upon the fertility of their
soil, as we see in the derivation of its name, from lupus, a
whereas the lupine contents itself with sterile waste land no one
grudge it--steep, gravelly banks, railroad tracks, exposed sunny hills,
where even it must often burn out under fierce sunshine did not its
penetrate to surprising depths. It spreads far and wide in thrifty
colonies, reflecting the vivid color of June skies, until, as Thoreau
says, "the earth is blued with it."
The lupine is another of those interesting plants which go to sleep at
night. Some members of the genus erect one half of the leaf and droop
the other half until it becomes a vertical instead of the horizontal
star it is by day. Frequently the leaflets rotate as much as 90 degrees
on their own axes. Some lupines fold their leaflets, not at night only,
but during the day also there is more or less movement in the leaves.
Sun dial, a popular name for the wild lupine, has reference to this
peculiarity. The leaf of our species shuts downward around its stem
umbrella fashion, or the leaflets are erected to prevent the chilling
which comes to horizontal surfaces by radiation, some scientists think.
"That the sleep movements of leaves are in some manner of high
importance to the plants which exhibit them," says Darwin, "few will
dispute who have observed how complex they sometimes are."
Common Red, Purple, Meadow, or Honeysuckle Clover
Flowers--Magenta, pink, or rarely whitish, sweet-scented,
corollas set in dense round, oval, or egg-shaped heads about 1 in.
and seated in a sparingly hairy calyx. Stem: 6 in. to 2 ft.
branching, reclining, or erect, more or less hairy. Leaves: On
petioles, commonly compounded of 3, but sometimes of 4 to 11 oval or
oblong leaflets, marked with white crescent, often dark-spotted near
centre; stipules egg-shaped, sharply pointed, strongly veined, more
1/2 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Fields, meadows, roadsides.
Distribution--Common throughout Canada and United States.
Meadows bright with clover-heads among the grasses, daisies, and
buttercups in June resound with the murmur of unwearying industry and
rapturous enjoyment. Bumblebees by the tens of thousands buzzing above
acres of the farmer's clover blossoms should be happy in a knowledge of
their benefactions, which doubtless concern them not at all. They have
never heard the story of the Australians who imported quantities of
clover for fodder, and had glorious fields of it that season, but not a
seed to plant next year's crops, simply because the farmers had failed
to import the bumblebee. After her immigration the clovers multiplied
No; the bee's happiness rests on her knowledge that only the
butterflies' long tongues can honestly share with her the brimming
of nectar in each tiny floret. Children who have sucked them too
appreciate her rapture. If we examine a little flower under the
magnifying glass, we shall see why its structure places it in the pea
family. Bumblebees so depress the keel either when they sip, or feed on
pollen, that their heads and tongues get well dusted with the yellow
powder, which they transfer to the stigmas of other flowers; whereas
butterflies are of doubtful value, if not injurious, since their long,
slender tongues easily drain the nectar without depressing the keel.
Even if a few grains of pollen should cling to their tongues, it would
probably be wiped off as they withdrew them through the narrow slit,
where the petals nearly meet, at the mouth of the flower. Bombus
terrestris delights in nipping holes at the base of the tube, which
other pilferers also profit by. Our country is so much richer in
butterflies than Europe, it is scarcely surprising that Professor
Robertson found thirteen Lepidoptera out of twenty insect visitors to
this clover in Illinois, whereas Müller caught only eight
it out of a list of thirty-nine visitors in Germany. The fritillaries
and the sulphurs are always seen about the clover fields among many
others, and the "dusky wings" and the caterpillar of several species
feed almost exclusively on this plant.
"To live in clover," from the insect's point of view at least, may well
mean a life of luxury and affluence. Most peasants in Europe will tell
you that a dream about the flower foretells not only a happy marriage,
but long life and prosperity. For ages the clover has been counted a
mystic plant, and all sorts of good and bad luck were said to attend
the finding of variations of its leaves which had more than the common
number of leaflets. At evening these leaflets fold downward, the side
ones like two hands clasped in prayer, the end one bowed over them. In
this fashion the leaves of the white and other clovers also go to
sleep, to protect their sensitive surfaces from cold by radiation, it
White Sweet Clover; Bokhara or Tree Clover; White Melilot; Honey
Flowers--Small, white, fragrant, papilionaceous, the
trifle longer than the wings; borne in slender racemes. Stem: 3
ft. tall, branching. Leaves: Rather distant, petioled,
compounded of 3
oblong, saw-edged leaflets; fragrant, especially when dry.
Preferred Habitat--Waste lands, roadsides.
Distribution--United States, Europe, Asia.
Both the White and the Yellow Sweet Clover put their leaves to sleep at
night in a remarkable manner: the three leaflets of each leaf twist
through an angle of 90 degrees, until one edge of each vertical blade
is uppermost. The two side leaflets, Darwin found, always tend to face
the north with their upper surface, one facing north-northwest and the
other north-northeast, while the terminal leaflet escapes the chilling
of its sensitive upper surface through radiation by twisting to a
vertical also, but bending to either east or west, until it comes in
contact with the vertical upper surface of either of the side leaflets.
Thus the upper surface of the terminal and of at least one of the side
leaflets is sure to be well protected through the night; one is "left
out in the cold."
The dried branches of sweet clover will fill a room with delightful
fragrance; but they will not drive away flies, nor protect woollens
the ravages of moths, as old women once taught us to believe.
The ubiquitous White or Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens), whose
creeping branches send up solitary round heads of white or pinkish
flowers on erect, leafless stems, from May to December, in fields, open
waste land, and cultivated places throughout our area, Europe, and
devotes itself to wooing bees, since these are the only insects that
effect cross-fertilization regularly, other visitors aiding it only
occasionally. Its foliage is the favorite food of very many species of
caterpillars and of all grazing cattle the world around. This is still
another plant frequently miscalled shamrock. Good luck or bad attends
the finding of the leaves, when compounded of an even or an odd number
of leaflets more than the normal count, according to the saying of many
Blue, Tufted, or Cow Vetch or Tare; Cat Peas; Tinegrass
Flowers--Blue, later purple; 1/2 in. long, growing
spike, 15 to 40 flowered; calyx oblique, small, with unequal teeth;
corolla butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard, wings, and keel, all
oblong; the first clawed, the second oblique, and adhering to the
shorter keel; 10 stamens, 1 detached from other 9. Stem:
weak, climbing or trailing, downy, 2 to 4 ft. long. Leaves:
bearing, divided into 18 to 24 thin, narrow, oblong leaflets. Fruit:
smooth pod 1 in. long or less, 5 to 8 seeded.
Preferred Habitat--Dry soil, fields, waste land.
Distribution--United States from New Jersey, Kentucky, and
northward and northwestward. Europe and Asia.
Dry fields blued with the bright blossoms of the Tufted Vetch, and
roadsides and thickets where the angular vine sends forth vivid patches
of color, resound with the music of happy bees. Although the parts of
the flower fit closely together, they are elastic, and opening with the
energetic visitor's weight and movement give ready access to the
nectary. On his departure they resume their original position, to
protect both nectar and pollen from rain and pilferers whose bodies are
not perfectly adapted to further the flower's cross-fertilization. The
common bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) plays a mean trick, all too
frequently, when he bites a hole at the base of the blossom, not only
gaining easy access to the sweets for himself, but opening the way for
others less intelligent than he, but quite ready to profit by his
mischief, and so defeat nature's plan. Doctor Ogle observed that the
same bee always acts in the same manner, one sucking the nectar
legitimately, another always biting a hole to obtain it
the natural inference, of course, being that some bees, like small
are naturally depraved.
Apios tuberosa (A. Apios)
Flowers--Fragrant, chocolate brown and reddish purple,
1/2 in. long, clustered in racemes from the leaf axils. Calyx 2-lipped,
corolla papilionaceous, the broad standard petal turned backward, the
keel sickle-shaped; stamens within it 9 and 1. Stem: From
edible rootstock; climbing, slender, several feet long, the juice
Leaves: Compounded of 5 to 7 ovate leaflets. Fruit:
slightly curved pod, 2 to 4 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Twining about undergrowth and thickets
Distribution--New Brunswick to Ontario, south to the Gulf
No one knows better than the omnivorous "barefoot boy" that
"Where the ground-nut trails its vine"
there is hidden something really good to eat under the soft, moist soil
where legions of royal fern, usually standing guard above it, must be
crushed before he digs up the coveted tubers. He would be the last to
confuse it with the Wild Kidney Bean or Bean Vine (Phaseolus
polystachyus). The latter has loose racemes of smaller purple
and leaflets in threes; nevertheless it is often confounded with the
ground-nut vine by older naturalists whose knowledge was "learned of
Wild or Hog Peanut
Amphicarpa monoica (Falcata comosa)
Flowers--Numerous small, showy ones, borne in drooping
axils of upper leaves; lilac, pale purplish, or rarely white,
butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard petal partly enfolding wings
and keel. Calyx tubular, 4 or 5 toothed; 10 stamens (9 and 1); 1
(Also solitary fertile flowers, lacking petals, on thread-like,
branches from lower axils or underground.) Stem: Twining wiry
brownish-hairy, 1 to 8 ft. long. Leaves: Compounded of 3 thin
leaflets, egg-shaped at base, acutely pointed at tip. Fruit:
1 in. long. Also 1-seeded, pale, rounded, underground peanut.
Preferred Habitat--Moist thickets, shady roadsides.
Distribution--New Brunswick westward to Nebraska, south to
Amphicarpa ("seed at both ends"), the Greek name by which
graceful vine is sometimes known, emphasizes its most interesting
feature, that, nevertheless, seems to many a foolish duplication of
energy on Nature's part. Why should the same plant bear two kinds of
blossoms and seeds? Among the foliage of low shrubbery and plants in
shady lanes and woodside thickets, we see the delicate, drooping
clusters of lilac blossoms hanging where bees can readily discover them
and, in pilfering their sweets, transfer their pollen from flower to
flower. But in case of failure to intercross these blossoms that are
dependent upon insect help to set fertile seed, what then? Must the
plant run the risk of extinction? Self-fertilization may be an evil,
but failure to produce seed at all is surely the greatest one. To guard
against such a calamity, insignificant looking flowers that have no
petals to open for the enticing of insects, but which fertilize
themselves with their own pollen, produce abundant seed close to the
ground or under it. Then what need of the showy blossoms hanging in the
thicket above? Close inbreeding in the vegetable world, as in the
animal, ultimately produces degenerate offspring; and although the
lilac blossoms of the wild peanut yield comparatively few
cross-fertilized seeds, these are quite sufficient to enable the vine
maintain those desired features which are the inheritance from
that struggled in their day and generation after perfection. No plant
dares depend upon its cleistogamous or blind flowers alone for
offspring; and in the sixty or more genera containing these curious
growths, that usually look like buds arrested in development, every
plant that bears them bears also showy flowers dependent upon
cross-pollination by insect aid.
The boy who:
"Drives home the cows from the
Up through the long shady lane"
knows how reluctantly they leave the feast afforded by the wild peanut.
Hogs, rooting about in the moist soil where it grows, unearth the hairy
pods that should produce next year's vines; hence the poor excuse for
branding a charming plant with a repellent folk-name.
This plant should not be confused with pig-nut (carya porcina),
is a species of hickory.
White or True Wood-sorrel; Alleluia
Flowers--White or delicate pink, veined with deep pink,
long. Five sepals; 5 spreading petals rounded at tips; 10 stamens, 5
longer, 5 shorter, all anther-bearing; 1 pistil with 5 stigmatic
Scape: Slender, leafless, 1-flowered, 2 to 5 in. high. Leaf:
Clover-like, of 3 leaflets, on long petioles from scaly, creeping
Preferred Habitat--Cold, damp woods.
Distribution--Nova Scotia and Manitoba, southward to North
Also a native of Europe.
Clumps of these delicate little pinkish blossoms and abundant leaves,
cuddled close to the cold earth of northern forests, usually conceal
near the dry leaves or moss from which they spring blind flowers that
never open--cleistogamous the botanists call them--flowers that lack
petals, as if they were immature buds; that lack odor, nectar, and
entrance; yet they are perfectly mature, self-fertilized, and
fruitful. Fifty-five genera of plants contain one or more species on
which these peculiar products are found, the pea family having more
any other, although violets offer perhaps the most familiar instance to
most of us. Many of these species bury their offspring below ground;
the wood-sorrel bears its blind flowers nodding from the top of a
curved scape at the base of the plant, where we can readily find them.
By having no petals, and other features assumed by an ordinary flower
attract insects, and chiefly in saving pollen, they produce seed with
literally the closest economy. It is estimated that the average blind
flower of the wood-sorrel does its work with four hundred pollen
while the prodigal peony scatters with the help of wind and insect
visitors more than three and a half millions!
As self-fertilization is impossible, the showy blossoms of the
wood-sorrel are a necessity not a luxury; for the insects must not be
allowed to overlook them.
Every child knows how the wood-sorrel "goes to sleep" by drooping its
three leaflets until they touch back to back at evening, regaining the
horizontal at sunrise--a performance most scientists now agree protects
the peculiarly sensitive leaf from cold by radiation. During the day as
well, seedling, scape, and leaves go through some interesting
closely followed by Darwin in his "Power of Movement in Plants," which
should be read by all interested.
Oxalis, the Greek for sour, applies to all sorrels because
acid juice; but acetosella = vinegar salt, the specific name of
plant, indicates that from it druggists obtain salt of lemons. Twenty
pounds of leaves yield between two and three ounces of oxalic acid by
crystallization. Names locally given the plant in the Old World are
sour or sower, cuckoo's meat, sour trefoil, and shamrock--for this is
St. Patrick's own flower, the true shamrock of the ancient Irish, some
claim. Alleluia, another folk-name, refers to the joyousness of the
Easter season, when the plant comes into bloom in England.
Flowers--Pinkish purple, lavender, or pale magenta; less
long; borne on slender stems in umbels or forking clusters, each
containing from 3 to 12 flowers. Calyx of 5 obtuse sepals; 5 petals; 10
(5 longer, 5 shorter) stamens; 5 styles persistent above 5-celled
Stem: From brownish, scaly bulb 4 to 9 in. high. Leaves:
About 1 in.
wide, compounded of 3 rounded, clover-like leaflets with prominent
midrib borne at end of slender petioles, springing from root.
Preferred Habitat--Rocky and sandy woods.
Distribution--Northern United States to Rocky Mountains,
Florida and New Mexico; more abundant southward.
Beauty of leaf and blossom is not the only attraction possessed by this
charming little plant. As a family the wood-sorrels have great interest
for botanists since Darwin devoted such exhaustive study to their power
of movement, and many other scientists have described the several forms
assumed by perfect flowers of the same species to secure
cross-fertilization. Some members of the clan also bear blind flowers,
which have been described in the account of the white wood-sorrel. Even
the rudimentary leaves of the seedlings "go to sleep" at evening, and
during the day are in constant movement up and down. The stems, too,
restless; and as for the mature leaves, every child knows how they
their three leaflets back to back against the stem at evening,
elevating them to the perfect horizontal again by day. Extreme
sensitiveness to light has been thought to be the true explanation of
much activity, and yet this is not a satisfactory theory in many cases.
It is certain that drooping leaves suffer far less from frost than
whose upper surfaces are flatly exposed to the zenith. This view that
the sleep of leaves saves them from being chilled at night by radiation
is Darwin's own, supported by innumerable experiments; and probably it
would have been advanced by Linnaeus, too, since so many of his
observations in "Somnus Plantarum" verify the theory, had the principle
of radiation been discovered in his day.
Wild or Spotted Geranium or Crane's-Bill; Alum-root
Flowers--Pale magenta, purplish pink, or lavender,
regular, 1 to
in. broad, solitary or a pair, borne on elongated peduncles, generally
with pair of leaves at their base. Calyx of 5 lapping, pointed sepals;
petals, woolly at base; 10 stamens; 1 pistil with 5 styles. Fruit:
slender capsule pointed like a crane's bill. In maturity it ejects
elastically far from the parent plant. Stem: 1 to 2 ft. high,
slender, simple or branching above. Leaves: Older ones
spotted with white; basal ones 3 to 6 in. wide, 3 to 5 parted,
cleft and toothed; 2 stem leaves opposite.
Preferred Habitat--Open woods, thickets, and shady
Distribution--Newfoundland to Georgia, and westward a
Sprengel, who was the first to exalt flowers above the level of mere
botanical specimens, had his attention led to the intimate relationship
existing between plants and insects by studying out the meaning of the
hairy corolla of the common Wild Geranium of Germany (G. sylvaticum),
being convinced, as he wrote in 1787, that "the wise Author of Nature
has not made even a single hair without a definite design." A hundred
years before, Nehemias Grew had said that it was necessary for pollen
reach the stigma of a flower in order that it might set fertile seed;
and Linnaeus had to come to his aid with conclusive evidence to
a doubting world that this was true. Sprengel made the next step
forward, but his writings lay neglected over seventy years because he
advanced the then incredible and only partially true statement that a
flower is fertilized by insects which carry its pollen from its anthers
to its stigma. In spite of his discoveries that the hairs inside the
geranium's corolla protect its nectar from rain for the insect's
benefit, just as eyebrows keep perspiration from falling into the eye;
that most flowers which secrete nectar have what he termed "honey
guides"--spots of bright color, heavy veining, or some such pathfinder
on the petals--in spite of the most patient and scientific research
shed great light on natural selection a half-century before Darwin
advanced the theory, he left it for the author of "The Origin of
Species" to show that cross-fertilization--the transfer of pollen from
one blossom to another, not from anthers to stigma of the same
flower--is the great end to which so much marvellous mechanism is
chiefly adapted. Cross-fertilized blossoms defeat self-fertilized
flowers in the struggle for existence.
No wonder Sprengel's theory was disproved by his scornful
in the very case of his Wild Geranium, which sheds its pollen before it
has developed a stigma to receive any; therefore no insect that had not
brought pollen from an earlier bloom could possibly fertilize this
flower. How amazing that he did not see this! Our common wild
crane's-bill, which also has lost the power to fertilize itself, not
only ripens first the outer, then the inner, row of anthers, but
actually drops them off after their pollen has been removed, to
the barest chance of self-fertilization as the stigmas become
This is the geranium's and many other flowers' method to compel
cross-fertilization by insects. In cold, stormy, cloudy weather a
geranium blossom may remain in the male stage several days before
becoming female; while on a warm, sunny day, when plenty of insects are
flying, the change sometimes takes place in a few hours. Among others,
the common sulphur or puddle butterfly, that sits in swarms on muddy
roads and makes the clover fields gay with its bright little wings,
pilfers nectar from the geranium without bringing its long tongue in
contact with the pollen. Neither do the smaller bees and flies which
alight on the petals necessarily come in contact with the anthers and
stigmas. Doubtless the larger bees are the flowers' true benefactors.
The so-called geraniums in cultivation are pelargoniums, strictly
Herb Robert; Red Robin; Red Shanks; Dragon's Blood
Flowers--Purplish rose, about 1/2 in. across, borne
on slender peduncles. Five sepals and petals; stamens 10; pistil with 5
styles. Stem: Weak, slender, much branched, forked, and
slightly hairy, 6 to 18 in. high. Leaves: Strongly scented,
thin, of 3 divisions, much subdivided and cleft. Fruit:
elastic, the beak 1 in. long, awn-pointed.
Preferred Habitat--Rocky, moist woods and shady roadsides.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Pennsylvania, and westward to
Who was the Robert for whom this his "holy herb" was named? Many
that he was St. Robert, a Benedictine monk, to whom the twenty-ninth of
April--the day the plant comes into flower in Europe--is dedicated.
Others assert that Robert Duke of Normandy, for whom the "Ortus
Sanitatis," a standard medical guide for some hundred of years, was
written, is the man honored; and since there is now no way of deciding
the mooted question, we may take our choice.
Only when the stems are young are they green; later the plant well
the name of Red Shanks, and when its leaves show crimson stains, of
At any time the herb gives forth a disagreeable odor, but especially
when its leaves and stem have been crushed until they emit a resinous
secretion once an alleged cure for the plague.
Fringed Milkwort or Polygala; Flowering Wintergreen; Gay Wings
Flowers--Purplish rose, rarely white, showy, over 1/2 in.
to 4 on short, slender peduncles from among upper leaves. Calyx of 5
unequal sepals, of which 2 are wing-like and highly colored like
Corolla irregular, its crest finely fringed; 6 stamens; 1 pistil. Also
pale, pouch-like, cleistogamous flowers underground. Stem:
6 to 15 in. long, slender, from creeping rootstock, sending up
shoots 4 to 7 in. high. Leaves: Clustered at summit, oblong, or
pointed egg-shaped, 1-1/2 in. long or less; those on lower part of
Preferred Habitat--Moist, rich woods, pine lands, light
Distribution--Northern Canada, southward and westward to
Gay companies of these charming, bright little blossoms hidden away in
the woods suggest a swarm of tiny mauve butterflies that have settled
among the wintergreen leaves. Unlike the common milkwort and many of
kin that grow in clover-like heads, each one of the gay wings has
beauty enough to stand alone. Its oddity of structure, its lovely color
and enticing fringe, lead one to suspect it of extraordinary desire to
woo some insect that will carry its pollen from blossom to blossom and
so enable the plant to produce cross-fertilized seed to counteract the
evil tendencies resulting from the more prolific self-fertilized
cleistogamous flowers buried in the ground below.
Common, Field, or Purple Milkwort; Purple Polygala
Polygala sanguinea (P. viridescens)
Flowers--Numerous, very small, variable; bright magenta
almost red, or pale to whiteness, or greenish, clustered in a globular
clover-like head, gradually lengthening to a cylindric spike. Stem:
to 15 in. high, smooth, branched above, leafy. Leaves:
narrowly oblong, entire.
Preferred Habitat--Fields and meadows, moist or sandy.
Distribution--Southern Canada to North Carolina, westward
When these bright clover-like heads and the inconspicuous greenish ones
grow together, the difference between them is so striking it is no
wonder Linnaeus thought they were borne by two distinct species,
Sanguinea and viridescens, whereas they are now
two forms of the same flower. At first glance one might mistake the
irregular little blossom for a member of the pea family; two of the
very unequal sepals--not petals--are colored wings. These bright-hued
calyx-parts overlap around the flower-head like tiles on a roof. Within
each pair of wings are three petals united into a tube, split on the
back, to expose the vital organs to contact with the bee, the
Plants of this genus were named polygala, the Greek for much milk, not
because they have milky juice--for it is bitter and clear--but because
feeding on them is supposed to increase the flow of cattle's milk.
Jewel-weed; Spotted Touch-me-not; Silver Cap; Wild Balsam;
Eardrops; Snap Weed; Wild Lady's Slipper
Impatiens biflora (I. fulva)
Flowers--Orange yellow, spotted with reddish brown,
long or less, horizontal, 2 to 4 pendent by slender footstalks on a
peduncle from leaf axils. Sepals, 3, colored; 1 large, sac-shaped,
contracted into a slender incurved spur and 2-toothed at apex; 2 other
sepals small. Petals, 3; 2 of them 2-cleft into dissimilar lobes; 5
short stamens, 1 pistil. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. high, smooth,
colored, succulent. Leaves: Alternate, thin, pale beneath,
coarsely toothed, petioled. Fruit: An oblong capsule, its 5
opening elastically to expel the seeds.
Preferred Habitat--Beside streams, ponds, ditches; moist
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Oregon, south to Missouri and
These exquisite, bright flowers, hanging at a horizontal, like jewels
from a lady's ear, may be responsible for the plant's folk-name; but
whoever is abroad early on a dewy morning, or after a shower, and finds
notched edges of the drooping leaves hung with scintillating gems,
dancing, sparkling in the sunshine, sees still another reason for
this the Jewel-weed. In a brook, pond, spring, or wayside trough, which
can never be far from its haunts, dip a spray of the plant to transform
the leaves into glistening silver. They shed water much as the
When the tiny ruby-throated humming bird flashes northward out of the
tropics to spend the summer, where can he hope to find nectar so deeply
secreted that not even the long-tongued bumblebee may rob him of it
Beyond the bird's bill his tongue can be run out and around curves no
other creature can reach. Now the early-blooming columbine, its slender
cornucopias brimming with sweets, welcomes the messenger whose
needle-like bill will carry pollen from flower to flower; presently the
coral honeysuckle and the scarlet painted-cup attract him by wearing
favorite color; next the jewel-weed hangs horns of plenty to lure his
eye; and the trumpet vine and cardinal flower continue to feed him
successively in Nature's garden; albeit cannas, nasturtiums, salvia,
gladioli, and such deep, irregular showy flowers in men's flower beds
sometimes lure him away.
Familiar as we may be with the nervous little seed-pods of the
touch-me-not, which children ever love to pop and see the seeds fly, as
they do from balsam pods in grandmother's garden, they still startle
with the suddenness of their volley. Touch the delicate hair-trigger at
the end of a capsule, and the lightning response of the flying seeds
makes one jump. They sometimes land four feet away. At this rate of
progress a year, and with the other odds against which all plants have
to contend, how many generations must it take to fringe even one mill
pond with jewel-weed; yet this is rapid transit indeed compared with
many of Nature's processes. The plant is a conspicuous sufferer from
The Pale Touch-me-not (I. aurea)--I. pallida of
northward, a larger, stouter species found in similar situations, but
with paler yellow flowers only sparingly dotted if at all, has its
broader sac-shaped sepal abruptly contracted into a short, notched, but
not incurved spur. It shares its sister's popular names.
New Jersey Tea; Wild Snowball; Red-root
Flowers--Small, white, on white pedicels, crowded in
terminal clusters. Calyx white, hemispheric, 5-lobed; 5 petals, hooded
and long-clawed; 5 stamens with long filaments; style short, 3-cleft.
Stems: Shrubby, 1 to 3 ft. high, usually several, from a
root. Leaves: Alternate, ovate-oblong, acute at tip, finely
3-nerved, on short petioles.
Preferred Habitat--Dry, open woods and thickets.
Distribution--Ontario south and west to the Gulf of
Light, feathery clusters of white little flowers crowded on the twigs
of this low shrub interested thrifty colonial housewives of
Revolutionary days not at all; the tender, young, rusty, downy leaves
were what they sought to dry as a substitute for imported tea.
the thought that they were thereby evading George the Third's tax and
brewing patriotism in every kettleful added a sweetness to the
beverage that sugar itself could not impart. The American troops were
glad enough to use New Jersey Tea throughout the war. A nankeen or
cinnamon-colored dye is made from the reddish root.
Swamp Rose-mallow; Mallow Rose
Flowers--Very large, clear rose pink, sometimes white,
crimson centre, 4 to 7 in. across, solitary, or clustered on peduncles
at summit of stems. Calyx 5-cleft, subtended by numerous narrow
bractlets; 5 large, veined petals; stamens united into a valvular
bearing anthers on the outside for much of its length; 1 pistil partly
enclosed in the column, and with 5 button-tipped stigmatic branches
above. Stem: 4 to 7 ft. tall, stout, from perennial root. Leaves:
to 7 in. long, tapering, pointed, egg-shaped, densely white, downy
beneath; lower leaves, or sometimes all, lobed at middle.
Preferred Habitat--Brackish marshes, riversides, lake
Distribution--Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico,
Louisiana; found locally in the interior, but chiefly along
Stately ranks of these magnificent flowers, growing among the tall
sedges and "cat-tails" of the marshes, make the most insensate
exclaim at their amazing loveliness. To reach them one must don rubber
boots and risk sudden seats in the slippery ooze; nevertheless, with
spade in hand to give one support, it is well worth while to seek them
out and dig up some roots to transplant to the garden. Here, strange to
say, without salt soil or more water than the average garden receives
from showers and hose, this handsomest of our wild flowers soon makes
itself delightfully at home under cultivation. Such good, deep earth,
well enriched and moistened, as the hollyhock thrives in, suits it
perfectly. Now we have a better opportunity to note how the bees suck
the five nectaries at the base of the petals, and collect the abundant
pollen of the newly-opened flowers, which they perforce transfer to the
five button-shaped stigmas intentionally impeding the entrance to older
blossoms. Only its cousin the hollyhock, a native of China, can vie
the rose-mallow's decorative splendor among the shrubbery; and the Rose
of China (Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis), cultivated in greenhouses
eclipse it in the beauty of the individual blossom. This latter flower,
whose superb scarlet corolla stains black, is employed by the Chinese
married women, it is said, to discolor their teeth; but in the West
Indies it sinks to even greater ignominy as a dauber for blacking
Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis), a name frequently misapplied
the Swamp Rose-mallow, is properly given to a much smaller pink flower,
measuring only an inch and a half across at the most, and a far rarer
one, being a naturalized immigrant from Europe found only in the salt
marshes from the Massachusetts coast to New York. It is also known as
Wymote. This is a bushy, leafy plant, two to four feet high, and
with velvety down as a protection against the clogging of its pores by
the moisture arising from its wet retreats. Plants that live in swamps
must "perspire" freely and keep their pores open. From the Marsh
Mallow's thick roots the mucilage used in confectionery is obtained, a
soothing demulcent long esteemed in medicine.
JOHN'S-WORT FAMILY (Hypericaceae)
Common St. John's-wort
Flowers--Bright yellow, 1 in. across or less, several or
terminal clusters. Calyx of 5 lance-shaped sepals; 5 petals dotted with
black; numerous stamens in 3 sets; 3 styles. Stem: 1 to 2 ft.
erect, much branched. Leaves: Small, opposite, oblong, more or
Preferred Habitat--Fields, waste lands, roadsides.
Distribution--Throughout our area, except the extreme
Europe and Asia.
"Gathered upon a Friday, in the hour of Jupiter when he comes to his
operation, so gathered, or borne, or hung upon the neck, it mightily
helps to drive away all phantastical spirits." These are the blossoms
which have been hung in the windows of European peasants for ages on
John's eve, to avert the evil eye and the spells of the spirits of
darkness. "Devil chaser" its Italian name signifies. To cure demoniacs,
to ward off destruction by lightning, to reveal the presence of
and to expose their nefarious practices, are some of the virtues
ascribed to this plant, which superstitious farmers have spared from
scythe and encouraged to grow near their houses until it has become,
even in this land of liberty, a troublesome weed at times. "The flower
gets its name," says F. Schuyler Mathews, "from the superstition that
St. John's day, the 24th of June, the dew which fell on the plant the
evening before was efficacious in preserving the eyes from disease. So
the plant was collected, dipped in oil, and thus transformed into a
for every wound." Here it is a naturalized immigrant, not a native. A
blooming plant, usually with many sterile shoots about its base, has an
unkempt, untidy look; the seed capsules and the brown petals of
flowers remaining among the bright yellow buds through a long season.
The Shrubby St. John's-wort (H. prolificum) bears yellow
about half an inch across, which are provided with stamens so numerous,
the many flowered terminal clusters have a soft, feathery effect. In
axils of the oblong, opposite leaves are tufts of smaller ones, the
stout stems being often concealed under a wealth of foliage. Sandy or
rocky places from New Jersey southward best suit this low, dense,
diffusely branched shrub which blooms prolifically from July to
Farther north, and westward to Iowa, the Great or Giant St. John's-wort
(H. Ascyron) brightens the banks of streams at midsummer with
blossoms, each on a long footstalk in a few-flowered cluster.
Long-branched Frost-weed; Frost-flower; Frost-wort; Canadian
Flowers--Solitary, or rarely 2; about 1 in. across,
showy yellow petals; the 5 unequal sepals hairy. Also abundant small
flowers lacking petals, produced from the axils later. Stem:
in. to 2 ft. high; at first simple, later with elongated branches.
Leaves: Alternate, oblong, almost seated on stem.
Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, sandy or rocky soil.
Flowering Season--Petal-bearing flowers, May-July.
Distribution--New England to the Carolinas, westward to
When the stubble in the dry fields is white some cold November morning,
comparatively few notice the ice crystals, like specks of glistening
quartz, at the base of the stems of this plant. The similar Hoary
Frost-weed (H. majus), whose showy flowers appear in clusters at
hoary stem's summit in June and July, also bears them. Often this ice
formation assumes exquisite feathery, whimsical forms, bursting the
bark asunder where an astonishing quantity of sap gushes forth and
freezes. Indeed, so much sap sometimes goes to the making of this
crystal flower, that it would seem as if an extra reservoir in the soil
must pump some up to supply it with its large fantastic corolla.
Blue and Purple Violets
Lacking perfume only to be a perfectly satisfying flower, the Common
Purple, Meadow, or Hooded Blue Violet (V. cucullata) has
established itself in the hearts of the people from the Arctic to the
Gulf as no sweet-scented, showy, hothouse exotic has ever done. Royal
color as in lavish profusion, it blossoms everywhere--in woods,
waysides, meadows, and marshes, but always in finer form in cool, shady
dells; with longer flowering scapes in meadow bogs; and with longer
leaves than wide in swampy woodlands. The heart-shaped, saw-edged
leaves, folded toward the centre when newly put forth, and the
five-petalled, bluish-purple, golden-hearted blossom are too familiar
for more detailed description. From the three-cornered stars of the
elastic capsules, the seeds are scattered abroad.
In shale and sandy soil, even in the gravel of hillsides, one finds the
narrowly divided, finely cut leaves and the bicolored beardless blossom
of the Bird's-foot Violet (V. pedata), pale bluish purple on the
petals, dark purple on one or two upper ones, and with a heart of gold.
The large, velvety, pansy-like blossom and the unusual foliage which
rises in rather dense tufts are sufficient to distinguish the plant
its numerous kin. This species produces no cleistogamous or blind
flowers. Frequently the Bird's-foot Violet blooms a second time, in
autumn, a delightful eccentricity of this family. The spur of its lower
petal is long and very slender, and, as might be expected, the
longest-tongued bees and butterflies are its most frequent visitors.
These receive the pollen on the base of the proboscis.
In course of time the lovely English, March, or Sweet Violet (V.
odorata), which has escaped from gardens, and which is now rapidly
increasing with the help of seed and runners on the Atlantic and the
Pacific coasts, may be established among our wild flowers. No blossom
figures so prominently in European literature. In France, it has even
entered the political field since Napoleon's day. Yale University has
adopted the violet for its own especial flower, although it is the
corn-flower, or bachelor's button (Centaurea cyanus) that is
Yale blue. Sprengel, who made a most elaborate study of the violet,
condensed the result of his research into the following questions and
answers, which are given here because much that he says applies to our
own native species, which have been too little studied in the modern
"1. Why is the flower situated on a long stalk which is upright, but
curved downward at the free end? In order that it may hang down; which,
firstly, prevents rain from obtaining access to the nectar; and,
secondly, places the stamens in such a position that the pollen falls
into the open space between the pistil and the free ends of the
If the flower were upright, the pollen would fall into the space
between the base of the stamen and the base of the pistil, and would
come in contact with the bee.
"2. Why does the pollen differ from that of most other
flowers? In most of such flowers the insects themselves remove the
pollen from the anthers, and it is therefore important that the pollen
should not easily be detached and carried away by the wind. In the
present case, on the contrary, it is desirable that it should be looser
and drier, so that it may easily fall into the space between the
and the pistil. If it remained attached to the anther, it would not be
touched by the bee, and the flower would remain unfertilized.
"3. Why is the base of the style so thin? In order that the bee may be
more easily able to bend the style.
"4. Why is the base of the style bent? For the same reason. The result
of the curvature is that the pistil is much more easily bent than would
be the case if the style were straight.
"5. Finally, why does the membranous termination of the upper filament
overlap the corresponding portions of the two middle stamens? Because
this enables the bee to move the pistil and thereby to set free the
pollen more easily than would be the case under the reverse
Fine hairs on the erect, leafy, usually single stem of the Downy Yellow
Violet (V. pubescens), whose dark veined, bright yellow petals
in dry woods in April and May, easily distinguish it from the Smooth
Yellow Violet (V. scabriuscula), formerly considered a mere
spite of its being an earlier bloomer, a lover of moisture, and well
equipped with basal leaves at flowering time, which the downy species
not. Moreover, it bears a paler blossom, more coarsely dentate leaves,
often decidedly taper-pointed, and usually several stems together.
Bryant, whose botanical lore did not always keep step with his Muse,
wrote of the Yellow Violet as the first spring flower, because he
found it "by the snowbank's edges cold," one April day, when the
hepaticas about his home at Roslyn, Long Island, had doubtless been in
bloom a month.
"Of all her train the hands of Spring
First plant thee in the watery mould,"
he wrote, regardless of the fact that the round-leaved violet's
preferences are for dry, wooded, or rocky hillsides. Müller
that all violets were originally yellow, not white, after they
from the green stage.
Three small-flowered, white, purple-veined, and almost beardless
which prefer to dwell in moist meadows, damp, mossy places, and along
the borders of streams, are the Lance-leaved Violet (V. lanceolata),
the Primrose-leaved Violet (V. primulifolia), and the Sweet
Violet (V. blanda), whose leaves show successive gradations
narrow, tapering, smooth, long-petioled blades of the first to the oval
form of the second and the almost circular, cordate leaf of the
delicately fragrant, little white blanda, the dearest violet of
Inasmuch as these are short-spurred species, requiring no effort for
bees to drain their nectaries, no footholds in the form of beards on
the side petals are provided for them. The purple veinings show the
stupidest visitor the path to the sweets.
PRIMROSE FAMILY (Onagraceae)
Great or Spiked Willow-herb; Fire-weed
Epilobium angustifolium (Chamaenerion angustifolium)
Flowers--Magenta or pink, sometimes pale, or rarely white,
less than 1 in. across, in an elongated, terminal, spike-like raceme.
Calyx tubular, narrow, in 4 segments; 4 rounded, spreading petals; 8
stamens; 1 pistil, hairy at base; the stigma 4-lobed. Stem: 2
to 8 ft.
high, simple, smooth, leafy. Leaves: Narrow, tapering,
to 6 in. long. Fruit: A slender, curved, violet-tinted capsule,
to 3 in. long, containing numerous seeds attached to tufts of fluffy,
white, silky threads.
Preferred Habitat--Dry soil, fields, roadsides, especially
Distribution--From Atlantic to Pacific, with few
British Possessions and United States southward to the Carolinas and
Arizona. Also Europe and Asia.
Spikes of these beautiful brilliant flowers towering upward above dry
soil, particularly where the woodsman's axe and forest fires have
devastated the landscape, illustrate Nature's abhorrence of ugliness.
Other kindly plants have earned the name of fireweed, but none so
quickly beautifies the blackened clearings of the pioneer, nor blossoms
over the charred trail in the wake of the locomotive. Whole
mountainsides in Alaska are dyed crimson with it. Beginning at the
bottom of the long spike, the flowers open in slow succession upward
throughout the summer, leaving behind the attractive seed-vessels,
which, splitting lengthwise in September, send adrift white silky tufts
attached to seeds that will one day cover far distant wastes with
beauty. Almost perfect rosettes, made by the young plants, are met with
on one's winter walks.
Evening Primrose; Night Willow-herb
Flowers--Yellow, fragrant, opening at evening, 1 to 2 in.
borne in terminal leafy-bracted spikes. Calyx tube slender, elongated,
gradually enlarged at throat, the 4-pointed lobes bent backward;
of 4 spreading petals; 8 stamens; 1 pistil; the stigma 4-cleft. Stem:
Erect, wand-like, or branched, 1 to 5 ft. tall, rarely higher, leafy.
Leaves: Alternate, lance-shaped, mostly seated on stem,
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides, dry fields, thickets,
Distribution--Labrador to the Gulf of Mexico, west to the
Like a ball-room beauty, the Evening Primrose has a jaded, bedraggled
appearance by day when we meet it by the dusty roadside, its erect
fading flowers from last night's revelry, wilted ones of previous
dissipations, and hairy oblong capsules, all crowded together among the
willow-like leaves at the top of the rank-growing plant. But at sunset
bud begins to expand its delicate petals slowly, timidly--not suddenly
and with a pop, as the evening primrose of the garden does.
Now, its fragrance, that has been only faintly perceptible during the
day, becomes increasingly powerful. Why these blandishments at such an
hour? Because at dusk, when sphinx moths, large and small, begin to
the primrose's special benefactors are abroad. All these moths, whose
length of tongue has kept pace with the development of the tubes of
certain white and yellow flowers dependent on their ministrations, find
such glowing like miniature moons for their special benefit, when
blossoms of other hues have melted into the deepening darkness. If such
have fragrance, they prepare to shed it now. Nectar is secreted in
so deep and slender that none but the moths' long tongues can drain the
last drop. An exquisite, little, rose-pink twilight flyer, his wings
bordered with yellow, flutters in ecstasy above the Evening Primrose's
freshly opened flowers, transferring in his rapid flight some of their
abundant, sticky pollen that hangs like a necklace from the
filaments. By day one may occasionally find a little fellow asleep in a
wilted blossom, which serves him as a tent, under whose flaps the
brightest bird eye rarely detects a dinner. After a single night's
dissipation the corolla wilts, hangs a while, then drops from the
maturing capsule as if severed with a sharp knife. Few flowers,
sometimes only one opens on a spike on a given evening--a plan to
increase the chances of cross-fertilization between distinct plants;
there is a very long succession of bloom. If a flower has not been
pollenized during the night it remains open a while in the morning.
Bumblebees now hurry in, and an occasional humming bird takes a sip of
nectar. Toward the end of summer, when so much seed has been set that
the flower can afford to be generous, it distinctly changes its habit
and keeps open house all day.
Spikenard; Indian Root; Spignet
Flowers--Greenish white, small, 5-parted, mostly
imperfect, in a
drooping compound raceme of rounded clusters. Stem: 3 to 6 ft.
branches spreading. Roots: Large, thick, fragrant. Leaves:
Compounded of heart-shaped, sharply tapering, saw-edged leaflets from 2
to 5 in. long, often downy underneath. Lower leaves often enormous.
Fruit: Dark reddish-brown berries.
Preferred Habitat--Rich open woods, wayside thickets,
Distribution--New Brunswick to Georgia, west to the
A striking, decorative plant, once much sought after for its medicinal
virtues--still another herb with which old women delight to dose their
victims for any malady from a cold to a carbuncle. Quite a different
plant, but a relative, is the one with hairy spike-like shoots from its
fragrant roots, from which the "very precious" ointment poured by Mary
upon the Saviour's head was made. The nard, an Indian product from that
plant, which is still found growing on the distant Himalayas, could
be imported into Palestine only by the rich.
How certain of the winter birds gormandize on the resinous, spicy
berries! A flock of juncos will strip the fruit from every spikenard in
the neighborhood the first day it arrives from the North.
It should be understood that the Wild Spikenard, or False Solomon's
Seal, has not the remotest connection with this tribe of plants.
The Wild or False Sarsaparilla (A. nudicaulis), so common in
hillsides, and thickets, shelters its three spreading umbels of
greenish-white flowers in May and June beneath a canopy formed by a
large, solitary, compound leaf. The aromatic roots, which run
horizontally sometimes three feet or more through the soil, send up a
very short, smooth proper stem which lifts a tall leafstalk and a
shorter, naked flower-stalk. The single large leaf, of exquisite bronzy
tints when young, is compounded of from three to five oval, toothed
leaflets on each of its three divisions.
While the true sarsaparilla of medicine should come from a quite
different herb that flourishes in Mexico and South America, this one
furnishes a commercial substitute enormously used as a blood purifier
and cooling summer drink. Burrowing rabbits delight to nibble the long,
slender, fragrant roots.
Wild or Field Parsnip; Madnep; Tank
Flowers--Dull or greenish yellow, small, without involucre
involucels; borne in 7 to 15 rayed umbels, 2 to 6 in. across. Stem:
to 5 ft. tall, stout, smooth, branching, grooved, from a long, conic,
fleshy, strong-scented root. Leaves: Compounded (pinnately), of
several pairs of oval, lobed, or cut sharply toothed leaflets; the
petioled lower leaves often 1-1/2 ft. long.
Preferred Habitat--Waste places, roadsides, fields.
Distribution--Common throughout nearly all parts of the
and Canada. Europe.
Men are not the only creatures who feed upon such of the umbel-bearing
plants as are innocent--parsnips, celery, parsley, carrots, caraway,
fennel, among others; and even those which contain properties that are
poisonous to highly organized men and beasts, afford harmless food for
insects. Pliny says that parsnips, which were cultivated beyond the
Rhine in the days of Tiberius, were brought to Rome annually to please
the emperor's exacting palate, yet this same plant, which has overrun
two continents, in its wild state (when its leaves are a paler
green than under cultivation) often proves poisonous. A strongly acrid
juice in the very tough stem causes intelligent cattle to let it
alone--precisely the object desired.
Wild Carrot; Queen Anne's Lace; Bird's-nest
Flowers--Small, of unequal sizes (polygamous), white,
gray, 5-parted, in a compound, flat, circular, umbel, the central
often dark crimson; the umbels very concave in fruit. An involucre of
narrow, pinnately cut bracts. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, with stiff
from a deep, fleshy, conic root. Leaves: Cut into fine, fringy
divisions; upper ones smaller and less dissected.
Preferred Habitat--Waste lands, fields, roadsides.
Distribution--Eastern half of United States and Canada.
A pest to farmers, a joy to the flower-lover, and a welcome signal for
refreshment to hosts of flies, beetles, bees, and wasps, especially to
the paper-nest builders, the sprangly wild carrot lifts its fringy
foliage and exquisite lacy blossoms above the dry soil of three
continents. From Europe it has come to spread its delicate wheels over
our summer landscape, until whole fields are whitened by them east of
the Mississippi. Having proved fittest in the struggle for survival in
the fiercer competition of plants in the over-cultivated Old World, it
takes its course of empire westward year by year, finding most
conditions for colonizing in our vast, uncultivated area; and the less
aggressive, native occupants of our soil are only too readily crowded
out. Would that the advocates of unrestricted immigration of foreign
peasants studied the parallel examples among floral invaders!
Still another fiction is that the cultivated carrot, introduced to
England by the Dutch in Queen Elizabeth's reign, was derived from
this wild species. Miller, the celebrated English botanist and
gardener, among many others, has disproved this statement by utterly
failing again and again to produce an edible vegetable from this wild
root. When cultivation of the garden carrot lapses for a few
generations, it reverts to the ancestral type--a species quite
distinct from Daucus Carota.
Flowers--(Apparently) large, white or pinkish, the four
parts simulating petals, notched at the top, being really bracts of an
involucre below the true flowers, clustered in the centre, which are
very small, greenish yellow, 4-parted, perfect. Stem: A large
small tree, wood hard, bark rough. Leaves: Opposite oval,
entire-edged, petioled, paler underneath. Fruit: Clusters of
egg-shaped scarlet berries, tipped with the persistent calyx.
Preferred Habitat--Woodlands, rocky thickets, wooded
Distribution--Maine to Florida, west to Ontario and Texas.
Has Nature's garden a more decorative ornament than the Flowering
Dogwood, whose spreading flattened branches whiten the woodland borders
in May as if an untimely snowstorm had come down upon them, and in
autumn paint the landscape with glorious crimson, scarlet, and gold,
dulled by comparison only with the clusters of vivid red berries among
the foliage? Little wonder that nurserymen sell enormous numbers of
these small trees to be planted on lawns. The horrors of pompous
monuments, urns, busts, shafts, angels, lambs, and long-drawn-out
eulogies in stone in many a cemetery are mercifully concealed in part
these boughs, laden with blossoms of heavenly purity.
"Let dead names be eternized in dead stone,
But living names by living shafts be known.
Plant thou a tree whose leaves shall sing
Thy deeds and thee each fresh, recurrent spring."
When the Massachusetts farmers think they hear the first brown thrasher
in April advising them to plant their Indian corn, reassuringly
"Drop it, drop it--cover it up, cover it up--pull it up, pull it up,
pull it up" (Thoreau), they look to the dogwood flowers to confirm the
thrasher's advice before taking it.
The Low or Dwarf Cornel, or Bunchberry (C. canadensis), whose
stem does its best to attain a height of nine inches, bears a whorl of
from four to six oval, pointed, smooth leaves at the summit. From the
midst of this whorl comes a cluster of minute greenish florets,
encircled by four to six large, showy, white petal-like bracts, quite
like a small edition of the Flowering Dogwood blossom. Tight clusters
of round berries, that are lifted upward on a gradually lengthened
peduncle after the flowers fade (May-July), brighten with vivid touches
of scarlet, shadowy, mossy places in cool, rich woods, where the dwarf
cornels, with the partridge vine, twin flower, gold thread, and fern,
form the most charming of carpets.
Even more abundant is the Silky Cornel, Kinnikinnick, or Swamp Dogwood
(C. Amomum) found in low, wet ground, and beside streams, from
Nebraska to the Atlantic Ocean, south to Florida and north to New
Brunswick. Its dull, reddish twigs, oval or oblong leaves, rounded at
the base, but tapering to a point at the apex, and usually silky-downy
with fine, brownish hairs underneath (to prevent the pores from
with vapors arising from its damp habitat); its rather compact, flat
clusters of white flowers from May to July, and its bluish berries are
its distinguishing features. The Indians loved to smoke its bark for
alleged tonic effect.
Pipsissewa; Prince's Pine
Flowers--Flesh-colored, or pinkish, fragrant, waxy,
pink ring around centre, and the anthers colored; about 1/2 in. across;
several flowers in loose, terminal cluster. Calyx 5-cleft; corolla of 5
concave, rounded, spreading petals; 10 stamens, the filaments hairy;
style short, conical, with a round stigma. Stem: Trailing far
ground, creeping, or partly subterranean, sending up sterile and
flowering branches 3 to 10 in. high. Leaves: Opposite or in
evergreen, bright, shining, spatulate to lance-shaped, sharply
Preferred Habitat--Dry woods, sandy leaf mould.
Distribution--British Possessions and the United States
Georgia from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Also Mexico, Europe, and
A lover of winter indeed (cheima = winter and phileo =
love) is the
Prince's Pine, whose beautiful dark leaves keep their color and gloss
spite of snow and intense cold. A few yards of the trailing stem,
ripped from the light soil of its woodland home, make a charming indoor
decoration, especially when the little brown seed-cases remain. Few
flowers are more suggestive of the woods than these shy, dainty,
deliciously fragrant little blossoms.
The Spotted Wintergreen, or Pipsissewa (C. maculata), closely
resembles the Prince's Pine, except that its slightly larger white or
pinkish flowers lack the deep pink ring; and the lance-shaped leaves,
with rather distant saw-teeth, are beautifully mottled with white along
the veins. When we see short-lipped bees and flies about these flowers,
we may be sure their pollen-covered mouths come in contact with the
moist stigma on the summit of the little top-shaped style, and so
Indian Pipe; Ice-plant; Ghost-flower; Corpse-plant
Flowers--Solitary, smooth, waxy, white (rarely pink),
bell-shaped, nodding from the tip of a fleshy, white, scaly scape 4 to
10 in. tall. Calyx of 2 to 4 early-falling white sepals; 4 or 5 oblong,
scale-like petals; 8 or 10 tawny, hairy stamens; a 5-celled, egg-shaped
ovary, narrowed into the short, thick style. Leaves: None. Roots:
mass of brittle fibres, from which usually a cluster of several white
scapes arises. Fruit: A 5-valved, many-seeded, erect capsule.
Preferred Habitat--Heavily shaded, moist, rich woods,
oak and pine trees.
Distribution--Almost throughout temperate North America.
Colorless in every part, waxy, cold, and clammy, Indian pipes rise like
a company of wraiths in the dim forest that suits them well. Ghoulish
parasites, uncanny saprophytes, for their matted roots prey either on
the juices of living plants or on the decaying matter of dead ones, how
weirdly beautiful and decorative they are! The strange plant grows also
in Japan, and one can readily imagine how fascinated the native artists
must be by its chaste charms.
Yet to one who can read the faces of flowers, as it were, it stands a
branded sinner. Doubtless its ancestors were industrious, honest
creatures, seeking their food in the soil, and digesting it with the
help of leaves filled with good green matter (chlorophyll) on which
virtuous vegetable life depends; but some ancestral knave elected to
live by piracy, to drain the already digested food of its neighbors; so
the Indian Pipe gradually lost the use of parts for which it has need
longer, until we find it to-day without color and its leaves
into mere scaly bracts. Nature had manifold ways of illustrating the
parable of the ten pieces of money. Spiritual law is natural law: "From
him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away." Among plants
as among souls, there are all degrees of backsliders. The foxglove,
which is guilty of only sly, petty larceny, wears not the equivalent of
the striped suit and the shaved head; nor does the mistletoe, which
steals crude food from the tree, but still digests it itself, and is
therefore only a dingy yellowish green. Such plants, however, as the
broom-rape, Pine Sap, beech-drops, the Indian Pipe, and the
dodder--which marks the lowest stage of degradation of them all--appear
among their race branded with the mark of crime as surely as was Cain.
No wonder this degenerate hangs its head; no wonder it grows black with
shame on being picked, as if its wickedness were only just then
discovered! To think that a plant related on one side to many of the
loveliest flowers in Nature's garden--the azaleas, laurels,
rhododendrons, and the bonny heather--and on the other side to the
modest but no less charming wintergreen tribe, should have fallen from
grace to such a depth! Its scientific name, meaning a flower once
turned, describes it during only a part of its career. When the minute,
innumerable seeds begin to form, it proudly raises its head erect, as
conscious that it had performed the one righteous act of its life.
Pine Sap; False Beech-drops; Yellow Bird's-nest
Flowers--Tawny, yellow, ecru, brownish pink, reddish, or
crimson, fragrant, about 1/2 in. long; oblong bell-shaped; borne in a
one-sided, terminal, slightly drooping raceme, becoming erect after
maturity. Scapes: Clustered from a dense mass of fleshy,
roots; 4 to 12 in. tall, scaly bracted, the bractlets resembling the
sepals. Leaves: None.
Preferred Habitat--Dry woods, especially under fir, beech,
Distribution--Florida and Arizona, far northward into
Possessions. Europe and Asia.
Branded a sinner, through its loss of leaves and honest green coloring
matter (chlorophyll), the Pine Sap stands among the disreputable gang
thieves that includes its next of kin the Indian Pipe, the broom-rape,
dodder, coral-root, and beech-drops. Degenerates like these, although
members of highly respectable, industrious, virtuous families, would
appear to be as low in the vegetable kingdom as any fungus, were it not
for the flowers they still bear. Petty larceny, no greater than the
foxglove's at first, then greater and greater thefts, finally lead to
ruin, until the pine-sap parasite either sucks its food from the roots
of the trees under which it takes up its abode, or absorbs, like a
ghoulish saprophyte, the products of vegetable decay. A plant that does
not manufacture its own dinner has no need of chlorophyll and leaves,
for assimilation of crude food can take place only in those cells which
contain the vital green. This substance, universally found in plants
that grub in the soil and literally sweat for their daily bread, acts
also as a moderator of respiration by its absorptive influence on
and hence allows the elimination of carbon dioxide to go on in the
which contain it. Fungi and these degenerates which lack chlorophyll
usually grow in dark, shady woods.
Wild Honeysuckle; Pink, Purple, or Wild Azalea; Pinxter-flower
Flowers--Crimson pink, purplish or rose pink, to nearly
to 2 in. across, faintly fragrant, clustered, opening before or with
leaves, and developed from cone-like, scaly brown buds. Calyx minute,
5-parted; corolla funnel-shaped, the tube narrow, hairy, with 5
spreading lobes; 5 long red stamens; 1 pistil, declined, protruding.
Stem: Shrubby, usually simple below, but branching above,
2 to 6
high. Leaves: Usually clustered, deciduous, oblong, acute at
ends, hairy on midrib.
Preferred Habitat--Moist, rocky woods, or dry woods and
Distribution--Maine to Illinois, and southward to the
Woods and hillsides are glowing with fragrant, rosy masses of this
lovely azalea, the Pinxter-bloem or Whitsunday flower of the Dutch
colonists, long before the seventh Sunday after Easter. Among our
earliest exports, this hardy shrub, the Swamp Azalea, and the superb
flame-colored species of the Alleghanies, were sent early in the
eighteenth century to the old country, and there crossed with A.
Pontica of southern Europe by the Belgian horticulturists, to whom
owe the Ghent azaleas, the final triumphs of the hybridizer, that
glorify the shrubberies on our own lawns to-day. The azalea became the
national flower of Flanders. These hardy species lose their leaves in
winter, whereas the hothouse varieties of A. Indica, a native
and Japan, have thickish leaves, almost if not quite evergreen. A few
the latter stand our northern winters, especially the pure white
now quite commonly planted in cemetery lots. In that delightfully
enthusiastic little book, "The Garden's Story," Mr. Ellwanger says of
the Ghent Azalea: "In it I find a charm presented by no other flower.
Its soft tints of buff, sulphur, and primrose; its dazzling shades of
apricot, salmon, orange, and vermilion are always a fresh revelation of
color. They have no parallel among flowers, and exist only in opals,
sunset skies, and the flush of autumn woods." Certainly American
horticulturists were not clever in allowing the industry of raising
these plants from our native stock to thrive on foreign soil.
From Maine to Florida and westward to Texas, chiefly near the coast,
in low, wet places only need we look for the Swamp Pink or
Honeysuckle, White or Clammy Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), a
hairy species than the Pinxter-flower, with a very sticky, glandular
corolla tube, and deliciously fragrant blossoms, by no means
invariably white. John Burroughs is not the only one who has passed
"several patches of swamp honeysuckles, red with blossoms"
("Wake-Robin"). But as this species does not bloom until June and
July, when the sun quickly bleaches the delicate flowers, it is true
we most frequently find them white, merely tinged with pink. The
leaves are well developed before the blossoms appear.
American or Great Rhododendron; Great Laurel; Rose Tree, or Bay
Flowers--Rose pink, varying to white, greenish in the
with yellow or orange, in broad clusters set like a bouquet among
leaves, and developed from scaly, cone-like buds; pedicels
Calyx 5-parted minute; corolla 5-lobed, broadly bell-shaped, 2 in.
or less; usually 10 stamens, equally spreading; 1 pistil. Stem:
Sometimes a tree attaining a height of 40 ft., usually 6 to 20 ft.,
shrubby, woody. Leaves: Evergreen, drooping in winter,
green on both sides, lance-oblong, 4 to 10 in. long, entire edged,
narrowing into stout petioles.
Preferred Habitat--Mountainous woodland, hillsides near
Distribution--Uncommon from Ohio and New England to Nova
abundant through the Alleghanies to Georgia.
When this most magnificent of our native shrubs covers whole
mountainsides throughout the Alleghany region with bloom, one stands
awed in the presence of such overwhelming beauty. Nowhere else does
the rhododendron attain such size or luxuriance. There it produces a
tall trunk, and towers among the trees; it spreads its branches far
and wide until they interlock and form almost impenetrable thickets
locally called "hells" where pioneer explorers wandered, lost
themselves and perished; it glorifies the loneliest mountain road with
superb bouquets of its delicate flowers set among dark, glossy foliage
scarcely less attractive. The mountain in bloom is worth travelling a
thousand miles to see.
Rhododendrons, azaleas, and laurels fall under a common ban pronounced
by bee-keepers. The bees which transfer pollen from blossom to blossom
while gathering nectar, manufacture honey said to be poisonous. Cattle
know enough to let all this foliage alone. Apparently the ants fear no
more evil results from the nectar than the bees themselves; and were it
not for the sticky parts nearest the flowers, on which they crawl to
meet their death, the blossom's true benefactors would find little
Mountain or American Laurel; Calico Bush; Spoonwood; Calmoun;
Flowers--Buds and new flowers bright rose pink, afterward
white, and only lined with pink, 1 in. across or less, numerous, in
terminal clusters. Calyx small, 5-parted, sticky; corolla like a
5-pointed saucer, with 10 projections on outside; 10 arching stamens,
anther lodged in each projection; 1 pistil. Stem: Shrubby,
stiffly branched, 2 to 20 ft. high. Leaves: Evergreen, entire,
elliptic, pointed at both ends, tapering into petioles. Fruit:
round, brown capsule, with the style long remaining on it.
Preferred Habitat--Sandy or rocky woods, especially in
Distribution--New Brunswick and Ontario, southward to the
Mexico, and westward to Ohio.
It would be well if Americans, imitating the Japanese in making
pilgrimages to scenes of supreme natural beauty, visited the mountains,
rocky, woody hillsides, ravines, and tree-girt uplands when the laurel
is in its glory; when masses of its pink and white blossoms, set among
the dark evergreen leaves, flush the landscape like Aurora, and are
reflected from the pools of streams and the serene depths of mountain
lakes. Peter Kalm, a Swedish pupil of Linnaeus, who travelled here
in the eighteenth century, was more impressed by its beauty than that
any other flower. He introduced the plant to Europe, where it is known
as kalmia, and extensively cultivated on fine estates that are thrown
open to the public during the flowering season. Even a flower is not
without honor, save in its own country. We have only to prepare a
of leaf mould, take up the young plant without injuring the roots or
allowing them to dry, hurry them into the ground, and prune back the
bush a little, to establish it in our gardens, where it will bloom
freely after the second year. Lime in the soil and manure are fatal to
it as well as to rhododendrons and azaleas. All they require is a mulch
of leaves kept on winter and summer that their fine fibrous roots may
never dry out.
All the kalmias resort to a most ingenious device for compelling insect
visitors to carry their pollen from blossom to blossom. A newly-opened
flower has its stigma erected where the incoming bee must leave on its
sticky surface the four minute orange-like grains carried from the
anther of another flower on the hairy underside of her body. Now, each
anther is tucked away in one of the ten little pockets of the
saucer-shaped blossom, and the elastic filaments are strained upward
like a bow. After hovering above the nectary, the bee has only to
descend toward it, when her leg, touching against one of the
hair-triggers of the spring trap, pop! goes the little anther-gun,
discharging pollen from its bores as it flies upward. So delicately is
the mechanism adjusted, the slightest jar or rough handling releases
anthers; but, on the other hand, should insects be excluded by a net
stretched over the plant, the flowers will fall off and wither without
firing off their pollen-charged guns. At least, this is true in the
great majority of tests. As in the case of hothouse flowers, no fertile
seed is set when nets keep away the laurel's benefactors. One has only
to touch the hair-trigger with the end of a pin to see how exquisitely
delicate is this provision for cross-fertilization.
However much we may be cautioned by the apiculturists against honey
from laurel nectar, the bees themselves ignore all warnings and
apparently without evil results--happily for the flowers dependent upon
them and their kin. Mr. Frank R. Cheshire, in "Bees and Bee-keeping,"
the standard English work on the subject, writes: "During the
Retreat of the Ten Thousand, as recorded by Xenophon in his 'Anabasis,'
the soldiers regaled themselves upon some honey found near Trebizonde,
where were many bee-hives. Intoxication with vomiting was the result.
Some were so overcome", he states, "as to be incapable of standing. Not
soldier died, but very many were greatly weakened for several days."
Tournefort endeavored to ascertain whether this account was
by anything ascertainable in the locality, and had good reason to be
satisfied respecting it. He concluded that the honey had been gathered
from a shrub growing in the neighborhood of Trebizonde, which is well
known there as producing the before-mentioned effects. It is now agreed
that the plants were species of rhododendron and azaleas. Lamberti
confirms Xenophon's account by stating that similar effects are
by honey of Colchis, where the same shrubs are common. In 1790, even,
fatal cases occurred in America in consequence of eating wild honey,
which was traced to Kalmia latifolia by an inquiry instituted
direction of the American government.
Sheep-laurel, Lamb-kill, Wicky, Calf-kill, Sheep-poison, Narrow-leaved
Laurel (K. angustifolia), and so on through a list of folk-names
testifying chiefly to the plant's wickedness in the pasture, may be
especially deadly food for cattle, but it certainly is a feast to the
eyes. However much we may admire the small, deep crimson-pink flowers
that we find in June and July in moist fields or swampy ground or on
hillsides, few of us will agree with Thoreau, who claimed that it is
"handsomer than the Mountain Laurel." The low shrub may be only six
inches high, or it may attain three feet. The narrow evergreen leaves,
pale on the underside, have a tendency to form groups of threes,
standing upright when newly put forth, but bent downward with the
weight of age. A peculiarity of the plant is that clusters of leaves
usually terminate the woody stem, for the flowers grow in whorls or in
clusters at the side of it below.
Trailing Arbutus; Mayflower; Ground Laurel
Flowers--Pink, fading to nearly white, very fragrant,
across when expanded, few or many in clusters at ends of branches.
of 5 dry overlapping sepals; corolla salver-shaped, the slender, hairy
tube spreading into 5 equal lobes; 10 stamens; 1 pistil with a
column-like style and a 5-lobed stigma. Stem: Spreading over
ground (Epigaea = on the earth); woody, the leafy twigs covered
rusty hairs. Leaves: Alternate, oval, rounded at the base,
above, more or less hairy below, evergreen, weather-worn, on short,
rusty, hairy petioles.
Preferred Habitat--Light sandy loam in woods, especially
evergreen trees, or in mossy, rocky places.
Distribution--Newfoundland to Florida, west to Kentucky
Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring--that
delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of pines, and
the snow-soaked soil just warming into life? Those who know the flower
only as it is sold in the city streets, tied with wet, dirty string
into tight bunches, withered and forlorn, can have little idea of the
joy of finding the pink, pearly blossoms freshly opened among the
withered leaves of oak and chestnut, moss and pine needles in which
nestle close to the cold earth in the leafless, windy northern forest.
Even in Florida, where broad patches carpet the woods in February, one
misses something of the arbutus's accustomed charm simply because there
are no slushy remnants of snowdrifts, no reminders of winter hardships
in the vicinity. There can be no glad surprise at finding dainty spring
flowers in a land of perpetual summer. Little wonder that the Pilgrim
Fathers, after the first awful winter on the "stern New England coast,"
loved this early messenger of hope and gladness above the frozen ground
at Plymouth. In an introductory note to his poem "The Mayflowers,"
Whittier states that the name was familiar in England, as the
application of it to the historic vessel shows; but it was applied by
the English, and still is, to the hawthorn. Its use in New England in
connection with the Trailing Arbutus dates from a very early day, some
claiming that the first Pilgrims so used it in affectionate memory of
the vessel and its English flower association.
"Sad Mayflower! watched by winter stars,
And nursed by winter gales,
With petals of the sleeted spars,
And leaves of frozen sails!
"But warmer suns ere long shall bring
To life the frozen sod,
And through dead leaves of hope shall spring
Afresh the flowers of God!"
There is little use trying to coax this shyest of sylvan flowers into
our gardens where other members of its family, rhododendrons, laurels,
and azaleas make themselves delightfully at home. It is wild as a hawk,
an untamable creature that slowly pines to death when brought into
contact with civilization. Greedy street venders, who ruthlessly tear
the plant by the yard, and others without even the excuse of eking out
paltry income by its sale, have already exterminated it within a wide
radius of our Eastern cities. How curious that the majority of people
show their appreciation of a flower's beauty only by selfishly,
ignorantly picking every specimen they can find!
Creeping Wintergreen; Checker-berry; Partridge-berry; Mountain Tea;
Ground Tea, Deer, Box, or Spice Berry
Flowers--White, small, usually solitary, nodding from a
Corolla rounded bell-shape, 5-toothed; calyx 5-parted, persistent; 10
included stamens, their anther-sacs opening by a pore at the top.
Stem: Creeping above or below ground, its branches 2 to 6
Leaves: Mostly clustered at top of branches; alternate,
leathery, evergreen, much darker above than underneath, oval to oblong,
very finely saw-edged; the entire plant aromatic. Fruit: Bright
mealy, spicy, berry-like; ripe in October.
Preferred Habitat--Cool woods, especially under
Distribution--Newfoundland to Georgia, westward to
"Where cornels arch their cool, dark boughs o'er beds of wintergreen,"
wrote Bryant; yet it is safe to say that nine colonies out of ten of
this hardy little plant are under evergreens, not dogwood trees. Poets
make us feel the spirit of Nature in a wonderful way, but--look
for their facts!
Omnivorous children who are addicted to birch-chewing prefer these
tender yellow-green leaves tinged with red, when newly put forth in
June--"Youngsters" rural New Englanders call them then. In some
a kind of tea is steeped from the leaves, which also furnish the
old-fashioned embrocation, wintergreen oil. Late in the year the glossy
bronze carpet of old leaves dotted over with vivid red "berries"
much trampling by hungry birds and beasts, especially deer and bears,
not to mention well-fed humans. Coveys of Bob Whites and packs of
will plunge beneath the snow for fare so delicious as this spicy, mealy
fruit that hangs on the plant till spring, of course for the benefit of
just such colonizing agents as they. Quite a different species,
belonging to another family, bears the true partridge-berry, albeit the
wintergreen shares with it a number of popular names. In a strict sense
neither of these plants produces a berry; for the fruit of the true
Partridge Vine (Mitchella repens) is a double drupe, or stone
each half containing four hard, seed-like nutlets; while the
wintergreen's so-called berry is merely the calyx grown thick, fleshy,
and gayly colored--only a coating for the five-celled ovary that
contains the minute seeds. Little baskets of wintergreen berries bring
none too high prices in the fancy fruit and grocery shops when we
calculate how many charming plants such unnatural use of them
Four-leaved or Whorled Loosestrife; Crosswort
Flowers--Yellow, streaked with, dark red, 1/2 in. across
on a thread-like, spreading footstem from a leaf axil. Calyx, 5 to 7
parted; corolla of 5 to 7 spreading lobes, and as many stamens inserted
on the throat; 1 pistil. Stem: Slender, erect, 1 to 3 ft. tall,
Leaves: In whorls of 4 (rarely in 3's to 7's),
entire, black dotted.
Preferred Habitat--Open woodland, thickets, roadsides;
Distribution--Georgia and lllinois, north to New
Medieval herbalists usually recorded anything that "Plinie saieth" with
profoundest respect; not always so, quaint old Parkinson. Speaking of
the common (vulgaris) Wild Loosestrife of Europe, a rather
downy species with terminal clusters of good-sized, yellow flowers,
was once cultivated in our Eastern states, and has sparingly escaped
from gardens, he thus refers to the reputation given it by the Roman
naturalist: "It is believed to take away strife, or debate between ye
beasts, not onely those that are yoked together, but even those that
wild also, by making them tame and quiet ... if it be either put about
their yokes or their necks," significantly adding, "which how true, I
leave to them shall try and find it soe." Our slender, symmetrical,
common loosestrife, with its whorls of leaves and little star-shaped
blossoms on thread-like pedicels at regular intervals up the stem, is
not even distantly related to the wonderful Purple Loosestrife.
Another common, lower-growing species, the Bulb-bearing Loosestrife (L.
terrestris), blooms from July to September and shows a decided
preference for swamps and ditches throughout a range which extends from
Manitoba and Arkansas to the Atlantic Ocean.
Star-flower; Chickweed Wintergreen; Star Anemone
Flowers--White, solitary, or a few rising on slender, wiry
above a whorl of leaves. Calyx of 5 to 9 (usually 7) narrow sepals.
Corolla wheel-shaped, 1/2 in. across or less, deeply cut into (usually)
7 tapering, spreading, petal-like segments. Stem: A long
rootstock, sending up smooth stem-like branches 3 to 9 in. high,
with a scale or two below. (Trientalis = one third of a foot,
usual height of a plant.) Leaves: 5 to 10, in a whorl at
tapering at both ends, of unequal size, 1-1/2 to 4 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Moist shade of woods and thickets.
Distribution--From Virginia and Illinois far north.
Is any other blossom poised quite so airily above its whorl of leaves
the delicate, frosty-white little star-flower? It is none of the
kin, of course, in spite of one of its misleading folk-names; but only
the wind-flower has a similar lightness and grace.
Scarlet Pimpernel; Poor Man's or Shepherd's Weatherglass; Red
Chickweed; Burnet Rose; Shepherd's Clock
Flower--Variable, scarlet, deep salmon, copper red, flesh
rarely white; usually darker in the centre; about 1/4 in. across;
wheel-shaped; 5-parted; solitary, on thread-like peduncles from the
leaf axils. Stem: Delicate; 4-sided, 4 to 12 in. long, much
the sprays weak and long. Leaves: Oval, opposite, sessile,
Preferred Habitat--Waste places, dry fields and roadsides,
Distribution--Newfoundland to Florida, westward to
Tiny pimpernel flowers of a reddish copper or terra cotta color have
only to be seen to be named, for no other blossoms on our continent are
of the same peculiar shade.
Before a storm, when the sun goes under a cloud, or on a dull day, each
little weather prophet closes. A score of pretty folk-names given it in
every land it adopts testifies to its sensitiveness as a barometer.
Under bright skies the flower may be said to open out flat at about
in the morning and to begin to close at three in the afternoon.
Shooting Star; American Cowslip; Pride of Ohio
Flowers--Purplish pink or yellowish white, the cone tipped
yellow; few or numerous, hanging on slender, recurved pedicels
umbel at top of a simple scape 6 in. to 2 ft. high. Calyx deeply
5-parted; corolla of 5 narrow lobes bent backward and upward; the tube
very short, thickened at throat, and marked with dark reddish purple
dots; 5 stamens united into a protruding cone; 1 pistil, protruding
beyond them. Leaves: Oblong or spatulate, 3 to 12 in. long,
into petioles, all from fibrous roots. Fruit: A 5-valved
Preferred Habitat--Prairies, open woods, moist cliffs.
Distribution--Pennsylvania southward and westward, and
Ages ago Theophrastus called an entirely different plant by this same
scientific name, derived from dodeka = twelve, and theos
= gods; and
although our plant is native of a land unknown to the ancients, the
fanciful Linnaeus imagined he saw in the flowers of its umbel a little
congress of their divinities seated around a miniature Olympus! Who has
said science kills imagination? These handsome, interesting flowers, so
familiar in the Middle West and Southwest, especially, somewhat
the cyclamen in oddity of form. Indeed, these prairie wild flowers are
not unknown in florists' shops in Eastern cities.
Few bee workers are abroad at the shooting star's season. The female
bumblebees, which, by striking the protruding stigma before they jar
out any pollen, cross-fertilize it, are the flower's chief
benefactors, but one often sees the little yellow puddle butterfly
about it. Very different from the bright yellow cowslip of Europe is
our odd, misnamed blossom.
Bitter-bloom; Rose Pink; Square-stemmed Sabbatia; Rosy Centaury
Flowers--Clear rose pink, with greenish star in centre,
fragrant, 1-1/2 in. broad or less, usually solitary on long peduncles
ends of branches. Calyx lobes very narrow; corolla of 5 rounded
segments; stamens 5; style 2-cleft. Stem: Sharply 4-angled, 2
to 3 ft.
high, with opposite branches, leafy. Leaves: Opposite,
tapering at tip, and clasping stem by broad base.
Preferred Habitat--Rich soil, meadows, thickets.
Distribution--New York to Florida, westward to Ontario,
During the drought of midsummer the lovely Rose Pink blooms inland with
cheerful readiness to adapt itself to harder conditions than most of
moisture-loving kin will tolerate; but it may be noticed that although
we may often-times find it growing in dry soil, it never spreads in
such luxuriant clusters as when the roots are struck beside meadow
runnels and ditches. Probably the plant would be commoner than it is
about populous Eastern districts were it not so much sought by
herb-gatherers for use as a tonic medicine.
It was the Centaurea, represented here by the blue Ragged Sailor of
gardens, and not our Centaury, a distinctly American group of plants,
which, Ovid tells us, cured a wound in the foot of the Centaur Chiron,
made by an arrow hurled by Hercules.
Three exquisite members of the Sabbatia tribe keep close to the
Coast in salt meadows and marshes, along the borders of brackish
and very rarely in the sand at the edges of fresh-water ponds a little
way inland. From Maine to Florida they range, and less frequently are
met along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico so far as Louisiana. How
bright and dainty they are! Whole meadows are radiant with their
blushing loveliness. Probably if they consented to live far away from
the sea, they would lose some of the deep, clear pink from out their
lovely petals, since all flowers show a tendency to brighten their
colors as they approach the coast. In England some of the same wild
flowers we have here are far deeper-hued, owing, no doubt, to the fact
that they live on a sea-girt, moisture-laden island, and also that the
sun never scorches and blanches at the far north as it does in the
The Sea or Marsh Pink or Rose of Plymouth (S. stellaris), whose
graceful alternate branching stem attains a height of two feet only
under most favorable conditions, from July to September opens a
succession of pink flowers that often fade to white. The yellow eye is
bordered with carmine. They measure about one inch across, and are
usually solitary at the ends of branches, or else sway on slender
peduncles from the axils. The upper leaves are narrow and bract-like;
those lower down gradually widen as they approach the root.
Flowers--Deep, bright blue, rarely white, several or many,
in. high, stiffly erect, and solitary at ends of very long footstalk.
Calyx of 4 unequal, acutely pointed lobes. Corolla funnel form, its
four lobes spreading, rounded, fringed around ends, but scarcely on
sides. Four stamens inserted on corolla tube; 1 pistil with 2 stigmas.
Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, usually branched, leafy. Leaves:
upper ones acute at tip, broadening to heart-shaped base, seated on
stem. Fruit: A spindle-shaped, 2-valved capsule, containing
scaly, hairy seeds.
Preferred Habitat--Low, moist meadows and woods.
Distribution--Quebec, southward to Georgia, and westward
"Thou waitest late, and com'st alone
When woods are bare and birds have flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.
"Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue--blue--as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall."
When we come upon a bed of gentians on some sparkling October day, we
can but repeat Bryant's thoughts and express them prosaically who
attempt description. In dark weather this sunshine lover remains shut,
to protect its nectar and pollen from possible showers. An elusive
is this gentian, which by no means always reappears in the same places
year after year, for it is an annual whose seeds alone perpetuate it.
Seating themselves on the winds when autumn gales shake them from out
the home wall, these little hairy scales ride afar, and those that are
so fortunate as to strike into soft, moist soil at the end of the
journey, germinate. Because this flower is so rarely beautiful that few
can resist the temptation of picking it, it is becoming sadly rare near
Fifteen species of gentian have been gathered during a half-hour walk
Switzerland, where the pastures are spread with sheets of blue. Indeed,
one can little realize the beauty of these heavenly flowers who has not
seen them among the Alps.
A deep, intense blue is the Closed, Blind, or Bottle Gentian (G.
Andrewsii), more truly the color of the "male bluebird's back," to
which Thoreau likened the paler Fringed Gentian. Rarely some degenerate
plant bears white flowers. As it is a perennial, we are likely to find
it in its old haunts year after year; nevertheless its winged seeds
far abroad to seek pastures new. This gentian also shows a preference
for moist soil. Gray thought that it expanded slightly, and for a short
time only in sunshine, but added that, although it is proterandrous,
i.e., it matures and sheds its pollen before its stigma is
to any, he believed it finally fertilized itself by the lobes of the
stigma curling backward until they touched the anthers. But Gray was
doubtless mistaken. Several authorities have recently proved that the
flower is adapted to bumblebees. It offers them the last feast of the
season, for although it comes into bloom in August southward, farther
northward--and it extends from Quebec to the Northwest Territory--it
lasts through October.
Spreading Dogbane; Fly-trap Dogbane; Honey-bloom; Bitter-root
Flowers--Delicate pink, veined with a deeper shade,
bell-shaped, about 1/3 in. across, borne in loose terminal cymes. Calyx
5-parted; corolla of 5 spreading, recurved lobes united into a tube;
within the tube 5 tiny, triangular appendages alternate with stamens;
the arrow-shaped anthers united around the stigma and slightly adhering
to it. Stem: 1 to 4 ft. high, with forking, spreading, leafy
Leaves: Opposite, entire-edged, broadly oval, narrow at
and more or less hairy below. Fruit: Two pods about 4 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Fields, thickets, beside roads, lanes,
Distribution--Northern part of British Possessions south
westward to Nebraska.
Everywhere at the North we come across this interesting, rather shrubby
plant, with its pretty but inconspicuous little rose-veined bells
suggesting pink lilies-of-the-valley. Now that we have learned to read
the faces of flowers, as it were, we instantly suspect by the color,
fragrance, pathfinders, and structure that these are artful wilers,
intent on gaining ends of their own through their insect admirers. What
are they up to?
Let us watch. Bees, flies, moths, and butterflies, especially the
latter, hover near. Alighting, the butterfly visitor unrolls his long
tongue and inserts it where the five pink veins tell him to, for five
nectar-bearing glands stand in a ring around the base of the pistil.
Now, as he withdraws his slender tongue through one of the V-shaped
cavities that make a circle of traps, he may count himself lucky to
escape with no heavier toll imposed than pollen cemented to it. This
granular dust he is required to rub off against the stigma of the next
flower entered. Some bees, too, have been taken with the dogbane's
pollen cemented to their tongues. But suppose a fly call upon this
innocent-looking blossom? His short tongue, as well as the butterfly's,
is guided into one of the V-shaped cavities after he has sipped; but,
getting wedged between the trap's horny teeth, the poor little victim
held a prisoner there until he slowly dies of starvation in sight of
plenty. This is the penalty he must pay for trespassing on the
butterfly's preserves! The dogbane, which is perfectly adapted to the
butterfly, and dependent upon it for help in producing fertile seed,
ruthlessly destroys all poachers that are not big or strong enough to
jerk away from its vise-like grasp. One often sees small flies and even
moths dead and dangling by the tongue from the wicked little charmers.
If the flower assimilated their dead bodies as the pitcher plant, for
example, does those of its victims, the fly's fate would seem less
cruel. To be killed by slow torture and dangled like a scarecrow simply
for pilfering a drop of nectar is surely an execution of justice
medieval in its severity.
Common Milkweed or Silkweed
Asclepias syriaca (A. cornuti)
Flowers--Dull, pale greenish purple pink, or brownish
pedicels, in many flowered, broad umbels. Calyx inferior, 5-parted;
corolla deeply 5-cleft, the segments turned backward. Above them an
erect, 5-parted crown, each part called a hood, containing a nectary,
and with a tooth on either side, and an incurved horn projecting from
within. Behind the crown the short, stout stamens, united by their
filaments in a tube, are inserted on the corolla. Broad anthers united
around a thick column of pistils terminating hi a large, sticky,
5-angled disk. The anther sacs tipped with a winged membrane; a waxy,
pear-shaped pollen-mass in each sac connected with the stigma in pairs
or fours by a dark gland, and suspended by a stalk like a pair of
saddle-bags. Stem: Stout, leafy, usually unbranched, 3 to 5 ft.
juice milky. Leaves: Opposite, oblong, entire-edged smooth
hairy below, 4 to 9 in. long. Fruit: 2 thick, warty pods,
one filled with compressed seeds attached to tufts of silky, white,
Preferred Habitat--Fields and waste places, roadsides.
Distribution--New Brunswick, far westward and southward to
Carolina and Kansas.
After the orchids, no flowers show greater executive ability, none have
adopted more ingenious methods of compelling insects to work for them
than the milkweeds. Wonderfully have they perfected their mechanism in
every part until no member of the family even attempts to fertilize
itself; hence their triumphal, vigorous march around the earth, the
tribe numbering more than nineteen hundred species located chiefly in
those tropical and warm temperate regions that teem with the insects
whose cooperation they seek.
Commonest of all with us is this rank weed, which possesses the dignity
of a rubber plant. Much more attractive to human eyes, at least, than
the dull, pale, brownish-pink umbels of flowers are its exquisite silky
seed-tufts. But not so with insects. Knowing that the slightly fragrant
blossoms are rich in nectar, bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and
butterflies come to feast. Now, the visitor finding his alighting place
slippery, his feet claw about in all directions to secure a hold, just
as it was planned they should; for in his struggles some of his feet
must get caught in the fine little clefts at the base of the flower.
efforts to extricate his foot only draw it into a slot at the end of
which lies a little dark-brown body. In a newly-opened flower five of
these little bodies may be seen between the horns of the crown, at
distances around it. This tiny brown excrescence is hard and horny,
a notch in its face. It is continuous with and forms the end of the
in which the visitor's foot is caught. Into this he must draw his foot
or claw, and finding it rather tightly held, must give a vigorous jerk
to get it free. Attached to either side of the little horny piece is a
flattened yellow pollen-mass, and so away he flies with a pair of these
pollinia, that look like tiny saddle-bags, dangling from his feet. One
might think that such rough handling as many insects must submit to
flowers would discourage them from making any more visits; but the
desire for food is a mighty passion. While the insect is flying off to
another blossom, the stalk to which the saddle-bags are attached twists
until it brings them together, that, when his feet get caught in other
slots, they may be in the position to get broken off in his struggles
for freedom precisely where they will fertilize the stigmatic chambers.
Now the visitor flies away with the stalks alone sticking to his claws.
Bumblebees and hive-bees have been caught with a dozen pollen-masses
dangling from a single foot. Outrageous imposition!
Better than any written description of the milkweed blossom's mechanism
is a simple experiment. If you have neither time nor patience to sit in
the hot sun, magnifying-glass in hand, and watch for an unwary insect
get caught, take an ordinary house-fly, and hold it by the wings so
it may claw at one of the newly-opened flowers from which no pollinia
have been removed. It tries frantically to hold on, and with a little
direction it may be led to catch its claws in the slots of the flower.
Now pull it gently away, and you will find a pair of saddle-bags slung
over his foot by a slender curved stalk. If you are rarely skilful, you
may induce your fly to withdraw the pollinia from all five slots on as
many of his feet. And they are not to be thrown or scraped off, let the
fly try as hard as he pleases. You may now invite the fly to take a
walk on another flower in which he will probably leave one or more
pollinia in its stigmatic cavities.
Doctor Kerner thought the milky juice in milkweed plants, especially
abundant in the uppermost leaves and stems, serves to protect the
flowers from useless crawling pilferers. He once started a number of
ants to climb up a milky stalk. When they neared the summit, he noticed
that at each movement the terminal hooks of their feet cut through the
tender epiderm, and from the little clefts the milky juice began to
flow, bedraggling their feet and the hind part of then-bodies. "The
were much impeded in their movements," he writes, "and in order to rid
themselves of the annoyance, drew their feet through their mouths....
Their movements, however, which accompanied these efforts, simply
resulted in making fresh fissures and fresh discharges of milky juice,
so that the position of the ants became each moment worse and worse.
Many escaped by getting to the edge of a leaf and dropping to the
ground. Others tried this method of escape too late, for the air soon
hardened the milky juice into a tough brown substance, and after this,
all the strugglings of the ants to free themselves from the viscid
matter were in vain." Nature's methods of preserving a flower's nectar
for the insects that are especially adapted to fertilize it, and of
punishing all useless intruders, often shock us; yet justice is ever
stern, ever kind in the largest sense.
If the asclepias really do kill some insects with their juice, others
doubtless owe their lives to it. Among the "protected" insects are the
milkweed butterflies and their caterpillars, which are provided with
secretions that are distasteful to birds and predaceous insects. "These
acrid secretions are probably due to the character of the plants upon
which the caterpillars feed," says Doctor Holland, in his beautiful and
invaluable "Butterfly Book." "Enjoying on this account immunity from
attack, they have all, in the process of time, been mimicked by species
in other genera which have not the same immunity." "One cannot stay
around a patch of milkweeds without seeing the monarch butterfly
(Anosia plexippus), that splendid, bright, reddish-brown winged
fellow, the borders and veins broadly black, with two rows of white
spots on the outer borders and two rows of pale spots across the tip of
the fore wings. There is a black scent-pouch on the hind wings. The
caterpillar, which is bright yellow or greenish yellow, banded with
shining black, is furnished with black fleshy 'horns' fore and aft."
Like the dandelion, thistle, and other triumphant strugglers for
survival, the milkweed sends its offspring adrift on the winds to found
fresh colonies afar. Children delight in making pompons for their hats
by removing the silky seed-tufts from pods before they burst, and
winding them, one by one, on slender stems with fine thread. Hung in
sunshine, how charmingly fluffy and soft they dry!
Among the comparatively few butterfly flowers--although, of course,
other insects not adapted to them are visitors--is the Purple Milkweed
(A. purpurasceus), whose deep magenta umbels are so conspicuous
through the summer months. Humming birds occasionally seek it, too.
eastern Massachusetts to Virginia, and westward to the Mississippi, or
beyond, it is to be found in dry fields, woods, and thickets.
Butterfly-weed; Pleurisy-root; Orange-root; Orange Milkweed
Flowers--Bright reddish orange, in many-flowered, terminal
each flower similar in structure to the common milkweed (see above).
Stem: Erect, 1 to 2 ft. tall, hairy, leafy, milky juice
Leaves: Usually all alternate, lance-shaped, seated on
A pair of erect, hoary pods, 2 to 5 in. long, 1 at least containing
silky plumed seeds.
Preferred Habitat--Dry or sandy fields, hills, roadsides.
Distribution--Maine and Ontario to Arizona, south to the
Intensely brilliant clusters of this the most ornamental of all native
milkweeds set dry fields ablaze with color. Above them butterflies
hover, float, alight, sip, and sail away--the great dark, velvety,
pipe-vine swallow-tail (Papilio philenor), its green-shaded
marked with little white half moons; the yellow and brown, common,
Eastern swallow-tail (P. asterias), that we saw about the wild
and other members of the carrot family; the exquisite, large,
swallow-tail, whose bugaboo caterpillar startled us when we unrolled a
leaf of its favorite food supply; the small, common, white cabbage
butterfly (Pieris protodice); the even more common little
butterflies, inseparable from clover fields and mud puddles; the
painted lady that follows thistles around the globe; the regal
fritillary (Argynnis idalia), its black and fulvous wings
silver crescents, a gorgeous creature developed from the black and
orange caterpillar that prowls at night among violet plants; the great
spangled fritillary of similar habit; the bright fulvous and black
crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos), its small wings usually
hovering about the asters; the little grayish-brown, coral hairstreak
(Thecla titus), and the bronze copper (Chrysophanus
caterpillar feeds on sorrel (Rumex); the delicate, tailed blue
butterfly (Lycena comyntas,) with a wing expansion of only an
from tip to tip; all these visitors duplicated again and again--these
and several others that either escaped the net before they were named,
or could not be run down, were seen one bright midsummer day along a
Long Island roadside bordered with butterfly weed. Most abundant of all
was still another species, the splendid monarch (Anosia plexippus),
the most familiar representative of the tribe of milkweed butterflies.
It is said the Indians used the tuberous root of this plant for various
maladies, although they could scarcely have known that because of the
alleged healing properties of the genus Linnaeus dedicated it to
Aesculapius, of whose name Asklepios is the Greek form.
Hedge or Great Bindweed; Wild Morning-glory; Rutland Beauty; Bell-bind;
Flowers--Light pink, with white stripes or all white,
about 2 in. long, twisted in the bud, solitary, on long peduncles from
leaf axils. Calyx of 5 sepals, concealed by 2 large bracts at base.
Corolla 5-lobed, the 5 included stamens inserted on its tube; style
2 oblong stigmas. Stem: Smooth or hairy, 3 to 10 ft. long,
trailing over ground. Leaves: Triangular or arrow-shaped, 2 to
long, on slender petioles.
Preferred Habitat--Wayside hedges, thickets, fields,
Distribution--Nova Scotia to North Carolina, westward to
Europe and Asia.
No one need be told that the pretty, bell-shaped pink and white flower
on the vigorous vine clambering over stone walls and winding about the
shrubbery of wayside thickets in a suffocating embrace is akin to the
morning-glory of the garden trellis (C. Major). An exceedingly
climber, the twining stem often describes a complete circle in two
hours, turning against the sun, or just contrary to the hands of a
watch. Late in the season, when an abundance of seed has been set, the
flower can well afford to keep open longer hours, also in rainy
but early in the summer, at least, it must attend to business only
the sun shines and its benefactors are flying. Usually it closes at
sundown. On moonlight nights, however, the hospitable blossom keeps
for the benefit of certain moths.
From July until hard frost look for that exquisite little beetle,
Cassida aurichalcea, like a drop of molten gold, clinging
bindweed's leaves. The small perforations reveal his hiding places.
you must be quick if you would capture him," says William Hamilton
Gibson, "for he is off in a spangling streak of glitter. Nor is this
golden sheen all the resource of the little insect; for in the space of
a few seconds, as you hold him in your hand, he has become a milky,
iridescent opal, and now mother-of-pearl, and finally crawls before you
in a coat of dull orange." A dead beetle loses all this wonderful
lustre. Even on the morning-glory in our gardens we may sometimes find
these jewelled mites, or their fork-tailed, black larvae, or the tiny
chrysalids suspended by their tails, although it is the wild bindweed
that is ever their favorite abiding place.
Gronovius' or Common Dodder; Strangle-weed; Love Vine; Angel's Hair
Flowers---Dull, white minute, numerous, in dense clusters.
inferior, greenish white, 5-parted; corolla bell-shaped, the 5 lobes
spreading, 5 fringed scales within; 5 stamens, each inserted on corolla
throat above a scale; 2 slender styles. Stem: Bright orange
thread-like, twining high, leafless.
Preferred Habitat--Moist soil, meadows, ditches, beside
Distribution--Nova Scotia and Manitoba, south to the Gulf
Like tangled yellow yarn wound spirally about the herbage and shrubbery
in moist thickets, the dodder grows, its beautiful bright threads
plentifully studded with small flowers tightly bunched. Try to loosen
its hold on the support it is climbing up, and the secret of its guilt
is out at once; for no honest vine is this, but a parasite, a
degenerate of the lowest type, with numerous sharp suckers (haustoria)
penetrating the bark of its victim, and spreading in the softer tissues
beneath to steal all their nourishment. So firmly are these suckers
attached, that the golden thread-like stem will break before they can
torn from their hold.
Not a leaf now remains on the vine to tell of virtue in its remote
ancestors; the absence of green matter (chlorophyll) testifies to
dishonest methods of gaining a living (see Indian Pipe), not even a
is left after the seedling is old enough to twine about its
hard-working, respectable neighbors. Starting out in life with
apparently the best intentions, suddenly the tender young twiner
develops an appetite for strong drink and murder combined, such as
terrify any budding criminal in Five Points or Seven Dials! No sooner
has it laid hold of its victim and tapped it, than the now useless root
and lower portion wither away leaving the dodder in mid-air, without
connection with the soil below, but abundantly nourished with juices
already stored up, and even assimilated, at its host's expense. By
rapidly lengthening the cells on the outer side of its stem more than
the inner side, the former becomes convex, the latter concave; that is
to say, a section of spiral is formed by the new shoot, which, twining
upward, devitalizes its benefactor as it goes. Abundant, globular
seed-vessels, which develop rapidly while the blossoming continues
unabated, soon sink into the soft soil to begin their piratical careers
close beside the criminals which bore them; or better still, from their
point of view, float downstream to found new colonies afar. When the
beautiful jewel-weed--a conspicuous sufferer--is hung about with
dodder, one must be grateful for at least such symphony of yellows.
Ground or Moss Pink
Flowers--Very numerous, small, deep purplish pink,
varying to white, with a darker eye, growing in simple cymes, or
solitary in a Western variety. Calyx with 5 slender teeth; corolla
salver-form with 5 spreading lobes; 5 stamens inserted on corolla tube;
style 3-lobed. Stems: Rarely exceeding 6 in. in height, tufted
mats, much branched, plentifully set with awl-shaped, evergreen leaves
barely 1/2 in. long, growing in tufts at joints of stem.
Preferred Habitat--Rocky ground, hillsides.
Distribution--Southern New York to Florida, westward to
A charming little plant, growing in dense evergreen mats with which
Nature carpets dry, sandy, and rocky hillsides, is often completely
hidden beneath its wealth of flowers. Far beyond its natural range, as
well as within it, the Moss Pink glows in gardens, cemeteries, and
parks, wherever there are rocks to conceal or sterile wastes to
beautify. Very slight encouragement induces it to run wild. There are
great rocks in Central Park, New York, worth travelling miles to see
in early May, when their stern faces are flushed and smiling with
Forget-me-not; Mouse-ear; Scorpion Grass; Snake Grass; Love Me
Myosotis scorpioides (M. palustris)
Flowers--Pure blue, pinkish, or white, with yellow eye;
borne in many-flowered, long, often 1-sided racemes. Calyx 5-cleft; the
lobes narrow, spreading, erect, and open in fruit; 5 stamens inserted
corolla tube; style thread-like; ovary 4-celled. Stem: Low,
leafy, slender, hairy, partially reclining. Leaves: (Myosotis
mouse-ear) oblong, alternate, seated on stem; hairy. Fruit:
angled and keeled on inner side.
Preferred Habitat--Escaped from gardens to brooksides,
Distribution--Native of Europe and Asia, now rapidly
Nova Scotia southward to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and beyond.
How rare a color blue must have been originally among our flora is
evident from the majority of blue and purple flowers that, although now
abundant here and so perfectly at home, are really quite recent
immigrants from Europe and Asia. But our dryer, hotter climate never
brings to the perfection attained in England
"The sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers."
Tennyson thus ignores the melancholy association of the flower in the
popular legend which tells how a lover, when trying to gather some of
these blossoms for his sweetheart, fell into a deep pool, and threw a
bunch on the bank, calling out, as he sank forever from her sight,
"Forget me not." Another dismal myth sends its hero forth seeking
treasure caves in a mountain, under the guidance of a fairy. He fills
his pockets with gold, but not heeding the fairy's warning to "forget
not the best"--i.e., the myosotis--he is crushed by the closing
together of the mountain. Happiest of all is the folk-tale of the
Persians, as told by their poet Shiraz: "It was in the golden morning
the early world, when an angel sat weeping outside the closed gates of
Paradise. He had fallen from his high estate through loving a daughter
of earth, nor was he permitted to enter again until she whom he loved
had planted the flowers of the forget-me-not in every corner of the
world. He returned to earth and assisted her, and together they went
hand in hand. When their task was ended, they entered Paradise
for the fair woman, without tasting the bitterness of death, became
immortal like the angel whose love her beauty had won when she sat by
the river twining forget-me-nots in her hair."
It was the golden ring around the forget-me-not's centre that first led
Sprengel to believe the conspicuous markings at the entrance of many
flowers served as pathfinders to insects. This golden circle also
shelters the nectar from rain, and indicates to the fly or bee just
where it must probe between stigma and anthers to touch them with
opposite sides of its tongue. Since it may probe from any point of the
circle, it is quite likely that the side of the tongue that touched a
pollen-laden anther in one flower will touch the stigma in the next
one visited, and so cross-fertilize it. But forget-me-nots are not
wholly dependent on insects. When these fail, a fully mature flower is
still able to set fertile seed by shedding its own pollen directly on
Viper's Bugloss; Blue-weed; Viper's Herb or Grass; Snake-flower; Blue
Thistle; Blue Devil
Flowers--Bright blue, afterward reddish purple, pink in
numerous, clustered on short, 1-sided curved spikes rolled up at first,
and straightening out as flowers expand. Calyx deeply 5-cleft; corolla
in. long or less, funnel form, the 5 lobes unequal, acute; 5 stamens
inserted on corolla tube, the filaments spreading below, and united
above into slender appendage, the anthers forming a cone; 1 pistil with
2 stigmas. Stem: 1 to 2 1/2 ft. high; bristly-hairy, erect,
Leaves: Hairy, rough, oblong to lance-shaped, alternate,
stem, except at base of plant.
Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, waste places, roadsides
Distribution--New Brunswick to Virginia, westward to
Europe and Asia.
Years ago, when simple folk believed God had marked plants with some
sign to indicate the special use for which each was intended, they
regarded the spotted stem of the bugloss, and its seeds shaped like a
serpent's head, as certain indications that the herb would cure snake
bites. Indeed, the genus takes its name from Echis, the Greek
Blue Vervain; Wild Hyssop; Simpler's Joy
Flowers--Very small, purplish blue, in numerous slender,
compact spikes. Calyx 5-toothed; corolla tubular, unequally 5-lobed; 2
pairs of stamens; 1 pistil. Stem: 3 to 7 ft. high, rough,
above, leafy, 4-sided. Leaves: Opposite, stemmed, lance-shaped,
saw-edged rough, lower ones lobed at base.
Preferred Habitat--Moist meadows, roadsides, waste places.
Distribution--United States and Canada in almost every
Seeds below, a circle of insignificant purple-blue flowers in the
centre, and buds at the top of the vervain's slender spires do not
produce a striking effect, yet this common plant certainly does not
beauty. John Burroughs, ever ready to say a kindly, appreciative word
for any weed, speaks of its drooping, knotted threads, that "make a
pretty etching upon the winter snow." Bees, the vervain's benefactors,
are usually seen clinging to the blooming spikes, and apparently asleep
on them. Borrowing the name of Simpler's Joy from its European sister,
the flower has also appropriated much of the tradition and folk-lore
centred about that plant which herb-gatherers, or simplers, truly
delighted to see, since none was once more salable.
Ages before Christians ascribed healing virtues to the vervain--found
growing on Mount Calvary, and therefore possessing every sort of
miraculous power, according to the logic of simple peasant folk--the
Druids had counted it among their sacred plants. "When the dog-star
arose from unsunned spots" the priests gathered it. Did not
Shakespeare's witches learn some of their uncanny rites from these
reverend men of old? One is impressed with the striking similarity of
many customs recorded of both. Two of the most frequently used
ingredients in witches cauldrons were the vervain and the rue. "The
former probably derived its notoriety from the fact of its being sacred
to Thor, an honor which marked it out, like other lightning plants, as
peculiarly adapted for occult uses," says Mr. Thiselton Dyer in his
"Folk-lore of Plants." "Although vervain, therefore, as the enchanter's
plant, was gathered by witches to do mischief in their incantations,
yet, as Aubrey says, it 'hinders witches from their will,' a
circumstance to which Drayton further refers when he speaks of the
vervain as ''gainst witchcraft much avayling.'" Now we understand why
the children of Shakespeare's time hung vervain and dill with a
horseshoe over the door.
In his eighth Eclogue, Virgil refers to vervain as a charm to recover
lost love. Doubtless this was the verbena, the herba sacra
ancient Roman sacrifices, according to Pliny. In his day the bridal
wreath was of verbena, gathered by the bride herself.
Mad-dog Skullcap or Helmet-flower; Mad weed; Hoodwort
Flowers--Blue, varying to whitish; several or many, 1/4 in.
growing in axils of upper leaves or in 1-sided spike-like racemes.
2-lipped, the upper lip with a helmet-like protuberance; corolla
2-lipped; the lower, 3-lobed lip spreading; the middle lobe larger than
the side ones. Stamens, 4, in pairs, under the upper lip; upper pair
shorter; 1 pistil, the style unequally cleft in two. Stem:
smooth, leafy, branched, 8 in. to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Opposite,
to lance-shaped, thin, toothed, on slender pedicles, 1 to 3 in. long,
growing gradually smaller toward top of stem. Fruit: 4 nutlets.
Preferred Habitat--Wet, shady ground.
Distribution--Uneven throughout United States and the
By the helmet-like appendage on the upper lip of the calyx, which to
imaginative mind of Linnaeus suggested Scutellum (a little
which children delight to spring open for a view of the four tiny seeds
attached at the base when in fruit, one knows this to be a member of
skullcap tribe, a widely scattered genus of blue and violet two-lipped
flowers, some small to the point of insignificance, like the present
species, others showy enough for the garden, but all rich in nectar,
and eagerly sought by their good friends, the bees.
The Larger or Hyssop Skullcap (S. integrifolia) rarely has a
its rounded oblong leaves, which, like the stem, are covered with fine
down. Its lovely, bright blue flowers, an inch long, the lips of about
equal length, are grouped opposite each other at the top of a stem that
never lifts them higher than two feet; and so their beauty is often
concealed in the tall grass of roadsides and meadows and the
of woods and thickets, where they bloom from May to August, from
southern New England to the Gulf of Mexico, westward to Texas.
Self-heal; Heal-all; Blue Curls; Heart-of-the-Earth; Brunella;
Flowers--Purple and violet, in dense spikes, somewhat
clover head; from 1/2 to 1 in. long in flower, becoming 4 times the
length in fruit. Corolla tubular, irregularly 2-lipped, the upper lip
darker and hood-like; the lower one 3-lobed, spreading, the middle and
largest lobe fringed; 4 twin-like stamens ascending under upper lip;
filaments of the lower and longer pair 2-toothed at summit, one of the
teeth bearing an anther, the other tooth sterile; style thread-like,
shorter than stamens, and terminating in a 2-cleft stigma. Calyx
2-parted, half the length of corolla, its teeth often hairy on edges.
Stem: 2 in. to 2 ft. high, erect or reclining, simple or
Leaves: Opposite, oblong. Fruit: 4 nutlets, round
Preferred Habitat--Fields, roadsides, waste places.
Distribution--North America, Europe, Asia.
This humble, rusty green plant, weakly lopping over the surrounding
grass, so that often only its insignificant purple, clover-like
flower-heads are visible, is another of those immigrants from the old
countries which, having proved fittest in the fiercer struggle for
existence there, has soon after its introduction here exceeded most of
our more favored native flowers in numbers. Everywhere we find the
heal-all, sometimes dusty and stunted by the roadside, sometimes truly
beautiful in its fresh purple, violet, and white when perfectly
developed under happy conditions. In England, where most flowers are
deeper hued than with us, the heal-all is rich purple. What is the
secret of this flower's successful march across three continents? As
usual, the chief reason is to be found in the facility it offers
to secure food; and the quantity of fertile seed it is therefore able
ripen as the result of their visits is its reward. Also, its flowering
season is unusually long, and it is a tireless bloomer. It is finical
no respect; its sprawling stems root easily at the joints, and it is
Flowers--Dull purple pink, pale purple, or white, small,
axils of upper leaves. Calyx tubular, bell-shaped, with 5 rigid
teeth; corolla 2-lipped, upper lip arched, woolly without; lower lip
3-lobed, spreading, mottled; the tube with oblique ring of hairs
Four twin-like stamens, anterior pair longer, reaching under upper lip;
style 2-cleft at summit. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. tall, straight,
leafy, purplish. Leaves: Opposite, on slender petioles; lower
rounded, 2 to 4 in. broad, palmately cut into 2 to 5 lobes; upper
narrower, 3-cleft or 3-toothed.
Preferred Habitat--Waste places near dwellings.
Distribution--Nova Scotia southward to North Carolina,
Minnesota and Nebraska. Naturalized from Europe and Asia.
How the bees love this generous, old-fashioned entertainer! One nearly
always sees them clinging to the close whorls of flowers that are
along the stem, and of course transferring pollen, in recompense, as
they journey on. A more credulous generation imported the plant for its
alleged healing virtues. What is the significance of its Greek name,
meaning a lion's tail? Let no one suggest, by a far-stretched metaphor,
that our grandmothers, in Revolutionary days, enjoyed pulling it to
their animosity against the British.
Oswego Tea; Bee Balm; Indian's Plume; Fragrant Balm; Mountain Mint
Flowers--Scarlet, clustered in a solitary, terminal,
dark-red calices, with leafy bracts below it. Calyx narrow, tubular,
sharply 5-toothed; corolla tubular, widest at the mouth, 2-lipped, 1 1/2
to 2 inches long; 2 long, anther-bearing stamens ascending, protruding;
1 pistil; the style 2-cleft. Stem: 2 to 3 ft. tall. Leaves:
Aromatic, opposite, dark green, oval to oblong lance-shaped, sharply
saw-edged, of ten hairy beneath, petioled; upper leaves and bracts
Preferred Habitat--Moist soil, especially near streams, in
Distribution--Canada to Georgia, west to Michigan.
Gorgeous, glowing scarlet heads of Bee Balm arrest the dullest eye,
bracts and upper leaves often taking on blood-red color, too, as if it
had dripped from the lacerated flowers. Where their vivid doubles are
reflected in a shadowy mountain stream, not even the Cardinal Flower is
more strikingly beautiful. Thrifty clumps transplanted from Nature's
garden will spread about ours and add a splendor like the flowers of
salvia, next of kin, if only the roots get a frequent soaking.
With even longer flower tubes than the Wild Bergamot's the Bee Balm
belies its name, for, however frequently bees may come about for nectar
when it rises high, only long-tongued bumblebees could get enough to
compensate for their trouble. Butterflies, which suck with their wings
in motion, plumb the depths. The ruby-throated humming bird--to which
the Brazilian salvia of our gardens has adapted itself--flashes about
these whorls of Indian plumes just as frequently--of course
pollen on his needle-like bill as he darts from flower to flower. Even
the protruding stamens and pistil take on the prevailing hue. Most of
the small, blue, or purple flowered members of the mint family cater to
bees by wearing their favorite color; the bergamot charms butterflies
with magenta, and tubes so deep the short-tongued mob cannot pilfer
their sweets; and from the frequency of the humming bird's visits, from
the greater depth of the Bee Balm's tubes and their brilliant, flaring
red--an irresistibly attractive color to the ruby-throat--it would
appear that this is a bird flower. Certainly its adaptation is quite as
perfect as the salvia's. Mischievous bees and wasps steal nectar they
cannot reach legitimately through bungholes of their own making in the
bottom of the slender casks.
Flowers--Extremely variable, purplish lavender, magenta,
yellowish pink, or whitish, dotted; clustered in a solitary, nearly
terminal head. Calyx tubular, narrow, 5-toothed, very hairy within.
Corolla 1 to 1-1/2 in. long, tubular, 2-lipped, upper lip erect,
toothed; lower lip spreading, 3-lobed, middle lobe longest; 2
anther-bearing stamens protruding; 1 pistil; the style 2-lobed. Stem:
2 to 3 ft. high, rough, branched. Leaves: Opposite,
saw-edged, on slender petioles; aromatic; bracts and upper leaves
whitish or the color of flower.
Preferred Habitat--Open woods, thickets, dry rocky hills.
Distribution--Eastern Canada and Maine, westward to
to Gulf of Mexico.
Only a few bergamot flowers open at a time; the rest of the slightly
rounded head, thickly set with hairy calices, looks as if it might be
placed in a glass cup and make an excellent penwiper. If the cultivated
human eye (and stomach) revolt at magenta, it is ever a favorite shade
with butterflies. They flutter in ecstasy over the gay flowers; indeed,
they are the principal visitors and benefactors, for the erect
exposed organs, and level-topped heads are well adapted to their
Nightshade; Blue Bindweed; Felonwort; Bittersweet; Scarlet or Snake
Berry; Poison-flower; Woody Nightshade
Flowers--Blue, purple, or, rarely, white with greenish
lobe; about 1/2 in. broad, clustered in slender, drooping cymes. Calyx
5-lobed, oblong, persistent on the berry; corolla deeply, sharply
5-cleft, wheel-shaped, or points curved backward; 5 stamens inserted on
throat, yellow, protruding, the anthers united to form a cone; stigma
small. Stem: Climbing or straggling, woody below, branched, 2
to 8 ft.
long. Leaves: Alternate, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 2 1/2 in. wide,
at the apex, usually heart-shaped at base; some with 2 distinct
below on the petiole, others have leaflets united with leaf like lower
lobes or wings. Fruit: A bright red, oval berry.
Preferred Habitat--Moist thickets, fence rows.
Distribution--United States east of Kansas, north of New
Canada, Europe, and Asia.
More beautiful than the graceful flowers are the drooping cymes of
bright berries, turning from green to yellow, then to orange and
scarlet, in the tangled thicket by the shady roadside in autumn, when
the unpretending, shrubby vine, that has crowded its way through the
rank midsummer vegetation, becomes a joy to the eye. Another
bittersweet, so-called, festoons the hedgerows with yellow berries
which, bursting, show their scarlet-coated seeds. Rose hips and
mountain-ash berries, among many other conspicuous bits of color,
attention, but not for us were they designed. Now the birds are
migrating, and, hungry with then-long flight, they gladly stop to feed
upon fare so attractive. Hard, indigestible seeds traverse the
alimentary canal without alteration and are deposited many miles from
the parent that bore them. Nature's methods for widely distributing
plants cannot but stir the dullest imagination.
Jamestown Weed; Thorn Apple; Stramonium; Jimson Weed; Devil's
Flowers--Showy, large, about 4 in. high, solitary, erect,
the forks of branches. Calyx tubular, nearly half as long as the
corolla, 5-toothed, prismatic; corolla funnel-form, deep-throated, the
spreading limb 2 in. across or less, plaited, 5-pointed; stamens 5; 1
pistil. Stem: Stout, branching, smooth, 1 to 5 ft. high. Leaves:
Alternate, large, rather thin, petioled, egg-shaped in outline, the
edges irregularly wavy-toothed or angled; rank-scented. Fruit:
densely prickly, egg-shaped capsule, the lower prickles smallest. The
seeds and stems contain a powerful narcotic poison.
Preferred Habitat--Light soil, fields, waste land near
Distribution--Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico, westward
When we consider that there are more than five million Gypsies
about the globe, and that the narcotic seeds of the Thorn Apple, which
apparently heal, as well as poison, have been a favorite medicine of
theirs for ages, we can understand at least one means of the weed
reaching these shores from tropical Asia. (Hindoo, dhatura.)
Indians, who call it "white man's plant," associate it with the
Jamestown settlement--a plausible connection, for Raleigh's colonists
would have been likely to carry with them to the New World the seeds of
an herb yielding an alkaloid more esteemed in the England of their day
than the alkaloid of opium known as morphine. Daturina, the narcotic,
and another product, known in medicine as stramonium, smoked by
asthmatics, are by no means despised by up-to-date practitioners. Were
it not for the rank odor of its leaves, the vigorous weed, coarse as it
is, would be welcome in men's gardens. Indeed, many of its similar
relatives adorn them. The fragrant petunia and tobacco plants of the
flower beds, the potato, tomato, and egg-plant in the kitchen garden,
call it cousin.
Great Mullein; Velvet or Flannel Plant; Mullein Dock; Aaron's Rod
Flowers--Yellow, 1 in. across or less, seated around a
elongated spike. Calyx 5-parted; corolla of 5 rounded lobes; 5
anther-bearing stamens, the 3 upper ones short, woolly; 1 pistil.
Stem: Stout, 2 to 7 ft. tall, densely woolly, with
Leaves: Thick, pale green, velvety-hairy, oblong, in a
ground; others alternate, strongly clasping the stem.
Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, banks, stony waste land.
Distribution--Minnesota and Kansas, eastward to Nova
Leaving the fluffy thistle-down he has been kindly scattering to the
four winds, the goldfinch spreads his wings for a brief, undulating
flight, singing in waves also as he goes to where tall, thick-set
mullein stalks stand like sentinels above the stony pasture. Here
companies of the exquisite little black and yellow minstrels delight to
congregate with their sombre families and feast on the seeds that
rapidly follow the erratic flowers up the gradually lengthening spikes.
"I have come three thousand miles to see the mullein cultivated in a
garden, and christened the velvet plant," says John Burroughs in "An
October Abroad." But even in England it grows wild, and much more
abundantly in southern Europe, while its specific name is said to have
been given it because it was so common in the neighborhood of Thapsus;
but whether the place of that name in Africa, or the Sicilian town
mentioned by Ovid and Virgil, is not certain. Strange that Europeans
should labor under the erroneous impression that this mullein is native
to America, whereas here it is only an immigrant from their own land.
Rapidly taking its course of empire westward from our seaports into
which the seeds smuggled their passage among the ballast, it is now
common in the Eastern states, perhaps, than any native. Forty or more
folk-names have been applied to it, mostly in allusion to its alleged
curative powers, its use for candle-wick and funeral torches in the
Middle Ages. The generic title, first used by Pliny, is thought to be a
corruption of Barbascum (= with beards) in allusion to the
filaments or, as some think, to the leaves.
Of what use is this felt-like covering to the plant? The importance of
protecting the delicate, sensitive, active cells from intense light,
draught, or cold, have led various plants to various practices; none
more common, however, than to develop hairs on the epidermis of their
leaves, sometimes only enough to give it a downy appearance, sometimes
to coat it with felt, as in this case, where the hairs branch and
interlace. Fierce sunlight in the exposed dry situations where the
mullein grows; prolonged drought, which often occurs at flowering
season, when the perpetuation of the species is at stake; and the
intense cold which the exquisite rosettes formed by year-old plants
endure through a winter before they can send up a flower-stalk the
second spring--these trials the well-screened, juicy, warm plant has
successfully surmounted through its coat of felt. Humming birds have
been detected gathering the hairs to line their tiny nests. The light,
strong stalk makes almost as good a cane as bamboo, especially when the
root end, in running under a stone, forms a crooked handle. Pale
beauties rub their cheeks with the velvety leaves to make them rosy.
Flowers--Yellow, or frequently white, 5-parted, about 1
marked with brown; borne on spreading pedicles in a long, loose raceme;
all the filaments with violet hairs; 1 protruding pistil. Stem:
slender, simple, about 2 ft. high, sometimes less, or much taller.
Leaves: Seldom present at flowering time; oblong to ovate,
mostly sessile, smooth.
Preferred Habitat--Dry, open waste land; roadsides,
Distribution--Naturalized from Europe and Asia, more or
throughout the United States and Canada.
"Of beautiful weeds quite a long list might be made without including
any of the so-called wild flowers," says John Burroughs. "A favorite of
mine is the little Moth Mullein that blooms along the highway, and
about the fields, and maybe upon the edge of the lawn." Even in winter,
when the slender stem, set with round brown seed-vessels, rises above
the snow, the plant is pleasing to the human eye, as it is to that of
Butter-and-eggs; Yellow Toadflax; Eggs-and-bacon; Flaxweed;
Flowers--Light canary yellow and orange, 1 in. long or
irregular, borne in terminal, leafy-bracted spikes. Corolla spurred at
the base, 2-lipped, the upper lip erect, 2-lobed; the lower lip
spreading, 3-lobed, its base an orange-colored palate closing the
throat; 4 stamens in pairs within; 1 pistil. Stem: 1 to 3 ft.
slender, leafy. Leaves: Pale, grass-like.
Preferred Habitat--Waste land, roadsides, banks, fields.
Distribution--Nebraska and Manitoba, eastward to Virginia
Scotia. Europe and Asia.
An immigrant from Europe, this plebeian perennial, meekly content with
waste places, is rapidly inheriting the earth. Its beautiful spikes of
butter-colored cornucopias, apparently holding the yolk of a diminutive
egg, emit a cheesy odor, suggesting a close dairy. Perhaps half the
charm of the plant--and its charms increase greatly when it is grown in
a garden--consists in the pale bluish-green grass-like leaves with a
bloom on the surface, which are put forth so abundantly from the
Blue or Wild Toadflax; Blue Linaria
Flowers--Pale blue to purple, small, irregular, in slender
Calyx 5 pointed;-corolla 2-lipped, with curved spur longer than its
tube, which is nearly closed by a white, 2-ridged projection or palate;
the upper lip erect, 2-lobed; lower lip 3-lobed, spreading. Stamens 4,
in pairs, in throat; 1 pistil. Stem: Slender, weak, of sterile
prostrate; flowering stem, ascending or erect, 4 in. to 2 ft. high.
Leaves: Small, linear, alternately scattered along stem,
pairs or threes on leafy sterile shoots.
Preferred Habitat--Dry soil, gravel or sand.
Distribution--North, Central, and South Americas.
Wolf, rat, mouse, sow, cow, cat, snake, dragon, dog, toad, are among
many animal prefixes to the names of flowers that the English country
people have given for various and often most interesting reasons. Just
as dog, used as a prefix, expresses an idea of worthlessness to them,
toad suggests a spurious plant; the toadflax being made to bear what is
meant to be an odious name because before flowering it resembles the
true flax, linum, from which the generic title is derived.
Pentstemon hirsutus (P. pubescens)
Flowers--Dull violet or lilac and white, about 1 in. long,
loose spike. Calyx 5-parted, the sharply pointed sepals overlapping;
corolla, a gradually inflated tube widening where the mouth divides
into a 2-lobed upper lip and a 3-lobed lower lip; the throat nearly
closed by hairy palate at base of lower lip; sterile fifth stamen
densely bearded for half its length; 4 anther-bearing stamens, the
anthers divergent. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, erect, downy above.
Leaves: Oblong to lance-shaped, upper ones seated on stem;
narrowed into petioles.
Preferred Habitat--Dry or rocky fields, thickets, and open
Distribution--Ontario to Florida, Manitoba to Texas.
It is the densely bearded, yellow, fifth stamen (pente = five,
stemon = a stamen) which gives this flower its scientific
chief interest to the structural botanist. From the fact that a blossom
has a lip in the centre of the lower half of its corolla, that an
must use as its landing place, comes the necessity for the pistil to
occupy a central position. Naturally, a fifth stamen would be only in
its way, an encumbrance to be banished in time. In the figwort, for
example, we have seen the fifth stamen reduced, from long sterility, to
a mere scale on the roof of the corolla tube; in other lipped flowers,
the useless organ has disappeared; but in the beard-tongue, it goes
through a series of curious curves from the upper to the under side of
the flower to get out of the way of the pistil. Yet it serves an
admirable purpose in helping close the mouth of the flower, which the
hairy lip alone could not adequately guard against pilferers. A
long-tongued bee, thrusting in his head up to his eyes only, receives
the pollen in his face. The blossom is male (staminate) in its first
stage and female (pistillate) in its second. A western species of the
beard-tongue has been selected by gardeners for hybridizing into showy
but often less charming flowers.
Snake-head; Turtle-head; Balmony; Shellflower; Cod-head
Flowers--White tinged with pink, or all white, about 1 in.
growing in a dense, terminal cluster. Calyx 5-parted, bracted at base;
corolla irregular broadly tubular, 2-lipped; upper lip arched, swollen,
slightly notched;, lower lip 3-lobed, spreading, woolly within; 5
stamens, 1 sterile, 4 in pairs, anther-bearing, woolly; 1 pistil.
Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, erect, smooth, simple, leafy. Leaves:
Opposite, lance-shaped, saw-edged.
Preferred Habitat--Ditches, beside streams, swamps.
Distribution--Newfoundland to Florida, and half way across
It requires something of a struggle for even so strong and vigorous an
insect as the bumblebee to gain admission to this inhospitable-looking
flower before maturity; and even he abandons the attempt over and over
again in its earliest stage before the little heart-shaped anthers are
prepared to dust him over. As they mature, it opens slightly, but his
weight alone is insufficient to bend down the stiff, yet elastic,
lower lip. Energetic prying admits first his head, then he squeezes
his body through, brushing past the stamens as he finally disappears
inside. At the moment when he is forcing his way in, causing the lower
lip to spring up and down, the eyeless turtle seems to chew and chew
until the most sedate beholder must smile at the paradoxical show. Of
course it is the bee that is feeding, though the flower would seem to
be masticating the bee with the keenest relish! The counterfeit
tortoise soon disgorges its lively mouthful, however, and away flies
the bee, carrying pollen on his velvety back to rub on the stigma of
an older flower.
Flowers--Purple, violet, or lilac, rarely whitish; about 1
solitary, borne on slender footstems from axils of upper leaves. Calyx
prismatic, 5-angled, 5-toothed; corolla irregular, tubular, narrow in
throat, 2-lipped; upper lip 2-lobed, erect; under lip 3-lobed,
spreading; 4 stamens, a long and a short pair, inserted on corolla
1 pistil with 2-lobed, plate-like stigma. Stem: Square, erect,
branched, 1 to 3 ft. high. Leaves: Opposite, oblong to
saw-edged, mostly seated on stem.
Preferred Habitat--Swamps, beside streams and ponds.
Distribution--Manitoba, Nebraska, and Texas, eastward to
Imaginative eyes see what appears to them the gaping (ringens)
a little ape or buffoon (mimulus) in this common flower whose
drolleries, such as they are, call forth the only applause desired--the
buzz of insects that become pollen-laden during the entertainment.
Common Speedwell; Fluellin; Paul's Betony; Groundhele
Flowers--Pale blue, very small, crowded on spike-like
axils of leaves, often from alternate axils. Calyx 4-parted; corolla of
4 lobes, lower lobe commonly narrowest; 2 divergent stamens inserted at
base and on either side of upper corolla lobe; a knob-like stigma on
solitary pistil. Stem: From 3 to 10 in. long, hairy, often
and rooting at joints. Leaves: Opposite, oblong, obtuse,
narrowed at base. Fruit: Compressed heart-shaped capsule,
numerous flat seeds.
Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, uplands, open woods.
Distribution--From Michigan and Tennessee eastward, also
to Nova Scotia. Probably an immigrant from Europe and Asia.
An ancient tradition of the Roman Church relates that when Jesus was on
His way to Calvary, He passed the home of a certain Jewish maiden, who,
when she saw drops of agony on His brow, ran after Him along the road
wipe His face with her kerchief. This linen, the monks declared, ever
after bore the impress of the sacred features--vera iconica, the
likeness. When the Church wished to canonize the pitying maiden, an
abbreviated form of the Latin words was given her, St. Veronica, and
kerchief became one of the most precious relics at St. Peter's, where
is said to be still preserved. Medieval flower lovers, whose piety
seems to have been eclipsed only by their imaginations, named this
little flower from a fancied resemblance to the relic. Of course,
special healing virtue was attributed to the square of pictured linen,
and since all could not go to Rome to be cured by it, naturally the
step was to employ the common, wayside plant that bore the saint's
Mental healers will not be surprised to learn that because of the
popular belief in its efficacy to cure all fleshly ills, it actually
seemed to possess miraculous powers. For scrofula it was said to be the
infallible remedy, and presently we find Linnaeus grouping this flower,
and all its relatives, under the family name of Scrofulariaceae.
Flowers--Light blue to white, usually striped with deep
purple; structure of flower similar to that of V. officinalis,
borne in long, loose racemes branching outward on stems that spring
axils of most of the leaves. Stem: Without hairs, usually
in. to 3 ft. long, lying partly on ground and rooting from lower
Leaves: Oblong, lance-shaped, saw-edged, opposite,
lacking hairs; 1 to 3 in. long, 1/4 to 1 in. wide. Fruit: A
round, compressed, but not flat, capsule with flat seeds in 2 cells.
Preferred Habitat--In brooks, ponds, ditches, swamps.
Distribution--From Atlantic to Pacific, Alaska to
Mexico, Quebec to Pennsylvania.
This, the perhaps most beautiful native speedwell, whose sheets of blue
along the brookside are so frequently mistaken for masses of
forget-me-nots by the hasty observer, of course shows marked
on closer investigation; its tiny blue flowers are marked with purple
pathfinders, and the plant is not hairy, to mention only two. But the
poets of England are responsible for most of whatever confusion still
lurks in the popular mind concerning these two flowers. Speedwell, a
common medieval benediction from a friend, equivalent to our farewell
adieu, and forget-me-not of similar intent, have been used
interchangeably by some writers in connection with parting gifts of
small blue flowers. It was the germander speedwell that in literature
and botanies alike was most commonly known as the forget-me-not for
than two hundred years, or until only fifty years ago. When the
Mayflower and her sister ships were launched, "Speedwell"
considered a happier name for a vessel than it proved to be.
Culver's-root; Culver's Physic
Veronica virginica (Leplandra virginica)
Flowers--Small, white or rarely bluish, crowded in dense
racemes 3 to 9 in. long, usually several spikes at top of stem or from
upper axils. Calyx 4-parted, very small; corolla tubular, 4-lobed; 2
stamens protruding; 1 pistil. Stem: Straight, erect, usually
unbranched, 2 to 7 ft. tall. Leaves: Whorled, from 3 to 9 in a
cluster, lance-shaped or oblong, and long-tapering, sharply saw-edged.
Preferred Habitat--Rich, moist woods, thickets, meadows.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Alabama, west to Nebraska.
"The leaves of the herbage at our feet," says Ruskin, "take all kinds
of strange shapes, as if to invite us to examine them. Star-shaped,
heart-shaped, spear-shaped, arrow-shaped, fretted, fringed, cleft,
furrowed, serrated, in whorls, in tufts, in wreaths, in spires,
endlessly expressive, deceptive, fantastic, never the same from
footstalks to blossom, they seem perpetually to tempt our watchfulness,
and take delight in outstripping our wonder." Doubtless light is the
factor with the greatest effect in determining the position of the
leaves on the stem, if not their shape. After plenty of light has been
secured, any aid they may render the flowers in increasing their
attractiveness is gladly rendered. Who shall deny that the brilliant
foliage of the sumacs, the dogwood, and the pokeweed in autumn does not
greatly help them in attracting the attention of migrating birds to
their fruit, whose seeds they wish distributed? Or that the clustered
leaves of the Dwarf Cornel and Culver's-root, among others, do not set
off to great advantage their white flowers which, when seen by an
flying overhead, are made doubly conspicuous by the leafy background
formed by the whorl?
Downy False Foxglove
Gerardia flava (Dasystoma flava)
Flowers--Pale yellow, 1-1/2 to 2 in. long; in showy,
bracted racemes. Calyx bell-shaped, 5-toothed; corolla funnel form, the
5 lobes spreading, smooth outside, woolly within; 4 stamens in pairs,
woolly; 1 pistil. Stem: Grayish, downy, erect, usually simple,
2 to 4
ft. tall. Leaves: Opposite, lower ones oblong in outline, more
less irregularly lobed and toothed; upper ones small, entire.
Preferred Habitat--Gravelly or sandy soil, dry thickets,
Distribution--"Eastern Massachusetts to Ontario and
to southern New York, Georgia, and Mississippi" (Britton and Brown).
In the vegetable kingdom, as in the spiritual, all degree of
sinners may be found, each branded with a mark of infamy according to
its deserts. We see how the dodder vine lost both leaf and roots after
it consented to live wholly by theft of its hard-working host's juices
through suckers that penetrate to the vitals; how the Indian Pipe's
blanched face tells the story of guilt perpetrated under cover of
darkness in the soil below; how the broom-rape and beech-drops lost
their honest green color; and, finally, the foxgloves show us plants
with their faces so newly turned toward the path of perdition, their
larceny so petty, that only the expert in criminal botany cases
them. Like its cousins the gerardias, the Downy False Foxglove is only
partial parasite, attaching its roots by disks or suckers to the roots
of white oak or witch hazel; not only that, but, quite as frequently,
groping blindly in the dark, it fastens suckers on its own roots,
actually thieving from itself! It is this piratical tendency which
transplanting of foxgloves into our gardens so very difficult, even
lifted with plenty of their beloved vegetable mould. The term false
foxglove, it should be explained, is by no means one of reproach for
dishonesty; it was applied simply to distinguish this group of plants
from the true foxgloves cultivated, not wild, here, which yield
digitalis to the doctors.
Large Purple Gerardia
Flowers--Bright purplish pink, deep magenta, or pale to
1 in. long and broad, growing along the rigid, spreading branches.
5-toothed; corolla funnel form, the tube much inflated above and
spreading into 5 unequal, rounded lobes, spotted within, or sometimes
downy; 4 stamens in pairs, the filaments hairy; 1 pistil. Stem:
2-1/2 ft. high, slender, branches erect or spreading. Leaves:
Opposite, very narrow, 1 to 1-1/2 in. long.
Preferred Habitat--Low fields and meadows; moist, sandy
Distribution--Northern United States to Florida, chiefly
It is a special pity to gather the gerardias, which, as they grow, seem
to enjoy life to the full, and when picked, to be so miserable they
black as they dry. Like their relatives the foxgloves, they are
difficult to transplant except with a large ball of soil, because it is
said they are more or less parasitic, fastening their roots on those of
other plants. When robbery becomes flagrant, Nature brands sinners in
the vegetable kingdom by taking away their color, and perhaps their
leaves, as in the case of the broom-rape and Indian Pipe; but the fair
faces of the gerardias and foxgloves give no hint of the petty thefts
committed under cover of darkness in the soil below.
Scarlet Painted Cup; Indian Paint-brush
Flowers--Greenish yellow, enclosed by broad, vermilion,
bracts; borne in a terminal spike. Calyx flattened, tubular, cleft
and below into 2 lobes; usually green, sometimes scarlet; corolla very
irregular, the upper lip long and arched, the short lower lip 3-lobed;
unequal stamens; 1 pistil. Stem: 1 to 2 ft. high, usually
hairy. Leaves: Lower ones tufted, oblong, mostly uncut; stem
deeply cleft into 3 to 5 segments, sessile.
Preferred Habitat--Meadows, prairies, mountains, moist,
Distribution--Maine to Manitoba, south to Virginia,
Here and there the meadows show a touch of as vivid a red as that in
which Vibert delighted to dip his brush.
Are glowing in the green like flakes of fire;
The wanderers of the prairie know them well,
And call that brilliant flower the 'painted cup.'"
Thoreau, who objected to this name, thought flame flower a better one,
the name the Indians gave to Oswego Tea; but here the floral bracts,
the flowers themselves, are on fire. Whole mountainsides in the
Canadian Rockies are ablaze with the Indian Paint-brushes that range in
color there from ivory white and pale salmon through every shade of red
to deep maroon--a gorgeous conflagration of color. Lacking good,
deep green, one suspects from the yellowish tone of calices, stem, and
leaves that this plant is something of a thief. That it still possesses
foliage, proves only petty larceny against it, similar to the
foxglove's. The roots of our painted cup occasionally break in and
from the roots of its neighbors such juices as the plant must work over
into vegetable tissue. Therefore it still needs leaves, indispensable
parts of a digestive apparatus. Were it wholly given up to piracy, like
the dodder, or as parasitic as the Indian Pipe, even the green and the
leaf that it hath would be taken away.
Wood Betony; Lousewort; Beefsteak Plant; High Heal-all
Flowers--Greenish yellow and purplish red, in a short,
Calyx oblique, tubular, cleft on lower side, and with 2 or 3 scallops
upper; corolla about 3/4 in. long, 2-lipped, the upper lip arched,
concave, the lower 3-lobed; 4 stamens in pairs; 1 pistil. Stems:
Clustered, simple, hairy, 6 to 18 in. high. Leaves: Mostly
oblong lance-shaped in outline, and pinnately lobed.
Preferred Habitat--Dry, open woods and thickets.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Florida, westward to
When the Italians wish to extol some one they say, "He has more virtues
than betony," alluding, of course, to the European species, Betonica
officinalis, a plant that was worn about the neck and cultivated in
cemeteries during the Middle Ages as a charm against evil spirits; and
prepared into plasters, ointments, syrups, and oils, was supposed to
cure every ill that flesh is heir to. Our commonest American species
fulfils its mission in beautifying roadside banks, and dry open woods
and copses with thick, short spikes of bright flowers, that rise above
large rosettes of coarse, hairy, fern-like foliage. At first, these
flowers, beloved of bumblebees, are all greenish yellow; but as the
spike lengthens with increased bloom, the arched, upper lip of the
blossom becomes dark purplish red, the lower one remains pale yellow,
and the throat turns reddish, while some of the beefsteak color often
creeps into stems and leaves as well.
Farmers once believed that after their sheep fed on the foliage of
this group of plants a skin disease, produced by a certain tiny louse
(pediculus), would attack them--hence our innocent betony's
Flowers--Small, dull purple and white, tawny, or brownish
scattered along loose, tiny bracted, ascending branches. Stem:
Brownish or reddish tinged, slender, tough, branching above, 6 in. to 2
ft. tall, from brittle, fibrous roots.
Preferred Habitat--Under beech, oak, and chestnut trees.
Distribution--New Brunswick, westward to Ontario and
to the Gulf states.
Nearly related to the broom-rape is this less attractive pirate, a
taller, brownish-purple plant, with a disagreeable odor, whose erect,
branching stem without leaves is still furnished with brownish scales,
the remains of what were once green leaves in virtuous ancestors, no
doubt. But perhaps even these relics of honesty may one day disappear.
Nature brands every sinner somehow; and the loss of green from a
leaves may be taken as a certain indication that theft of another's
stamps it with this outward and visible sign of guilt. The grains of
green to which foliage owes its color are among the most essential of
products to honest vegetables that have to grub in the soil for a
living, since it is only in such cells as contain it that assimilation
of food can take place. As chlorophyll, or leaf-green, acts only under
the influence of light and air, most plants expose all the leaf surface
possible; but a parasite, which absorbs from others juices already
assimilated, certainly has no use for chlorophyll, nor for leaves
either; and in the broom-rape, beech-drops, and Indian Pipe, among
thieves, we see leaves degenerated into bracts more or less without
color, according to the extent of their crime. Now they cannot
manufacture carbo-hydrates, even if they would, any more than fungi
The beech-drop bears cleistogamous or blind flowers in addition to the
few showy ones needed to attract insects.
Partridge Vine, Twin-berry; Mitchella Vine; Squaw-berry
Flowers--Waxy, white (pink in bud), fragrant, growing in
of the branches. Calyx usually 4-lobed; corolla funnel form, about 1/2
in. long, the 4 spreading lobes bearded within; 4 stamens inserted on
corolla throat; 1 style with 4 stigmas; the ovaries of the twin flowers
united (The style is long when the stamens are short, or vice versa.)
Stem: Slender, trailing, rooting at joints, 6 to 12 in.
numerous erect branches. Leaves: Opposite, entire, short
oval or rounded, evergreen, dark, sometimes white veined. Fruit:
small, red, edible, double berry-like drupe.
Preferred Habitat--Woods; usually, but not always, dry
Flowering Season--April-June. Sometimes again in autumn.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to the Gulf states, westward to
A carpet of these dark, shining, little evergreen leaves, spread at the
foot of forest trees, whether sprinkled over in June with pairs of
cream-white, pink-tipped, velvety, lilac-scented flowers that suggest
attenuated arbutus blossoms, or with coral-red "berries" in autumn and
winter, is surely one of the loveliest sights in the woods.
to the home garden in closely packed, generous clumps, with plenty of
leaf mould, or, better still, chopped sphagnum, about them, they soon
spread into thick mats in the rockery, the hardy fernery, or about the
roots of rhododendrons and the taller shrubs that permit some sunlight
to reach them. No woodland creeper rewards our care with greater
luxuriance of growth. Growing near our homes, the Partridge Vine offers
an excellent opportunity for study.
What endless confusion arises through giving the same popular
to different species! The Bob White, which is called quail in New
England or wherever the ruffed grouse is known as partridge, is called
partridge in the Middle and Southern states, where the ruffed grouse is
known as pheasant. But as both these distributing agents, like most
winter rovers, whether bird or beast, are inordinately fond of this
tasteless partridge berry, as well as of the spicy fruit of quite
another species, the aromatic wintergreen, which shares with it a
of common names, every one may associate whatever bird and berry best
suit him. The delicious little twin-flower beloved of Linnaeus also
comes in for a share of lost identity through confusion with the
Button-bush; Honey-balls; Globe-flower; Button-ball Shrub;
Flowers--Fragrant, white, small, tubular, hairy within,
long, yellow-tipped style far protruding; the florets clustered on a
fleshy receptacle, in round heads (about 1 in. across), elevated on
peduncles from leaf axils or ends of branches. Stem: A shrub 3
ft. high. Leaves: Opposite or in small whorls, petioled, oval,
tapering at the tip, entire.
Preferred Habitat--Beside streams and ponds; swamps, low
Distribution--New Brunswick to Florida and Cuba, westward
Delicious fragrance, faintly suggesting jessamine, leads one over
marshy ground to where the button-bush displays dense, creamy-white
globes of bloom, heads that Miss Lounsberry aptly likens to "little
cushions full of pins." Not far away the sweet breath of the
white-spiked Clethra comes at the same season, and one cannot but
wonder why these two bushes, which are so beautiful when most garden
shrubbery is out of flower, should be left to waste their sweetness, if
not on desert air exactly, on air that blows far from the homes of men.
Partially shaded and sheltered positions near a house, if possible,
suit these water-lovers admirably. Cultivation only increases their
charms. We have not so many fragrant wild flowers that any can be
neglected. John Burroughs, who included the blossoms of several trees
in his list of fragrant ones, found only thirty-odd species in New
England and New York.
Bluets; Innocence; Houstonia; Quaker Ladies; Quaker Bonnets;
Flowers--Very small, light to purplish blue or white, with
centre, and borne at end of each erect slender stem that rises from 3
to 7 in. high. Corolla funnel-shaped, with 4 oval, pointed, spreading
lobes that equal the slender tube in length; rarely the corolla has
divisions; 4 stamens inserted on tube of corolla; 2 stigmas; calyx
4-lobed. Leaves: Opposite, seated on stem, oblong, tiny; the
ones spatulate. Fruit: A 2-lobed pod, broader than long, its
half free from calyx; seeds deeply concave. Root-stalk:
spreading, forming dense tufts.
Preferred Habitat--Moist meadows, wet rocks and banks.
Flowering Season--April-July, or sparsely through summer.
Distribution--Eastern Canada and United States west to
to Georgia and Alabama.
Millions of these dainty wee flowers, scattered through the grass of
moist meadows and by the wayside, reflect the blue and the serenity of
heaven in their pure, upturned faces. Where the white variety grows,
might think a light snowfall had powdered the grass, or a milky way of
tiny floral stars had streaked a terrestrial path. Linnaeus named the
flower for Doctor Houston, a young English physician, botanist, and
collector, who died in South America in 1733, after an exhausting tramp
about the Gulf of Mexico. Flies, beetles, and the common little meadow
fritillary butterfly visit these flowers. But small bees are best
adapted to it.
John Burroughs found a single bluet in blossom one January, near
Washington, when the clump of earth on which it grew was frozen solid.
pot of roots gathered in autumn and placed in a sunny window has sent
a little colony of star-like flowers throughout a winter.
Harebell or Hairbell; Blue Bells of Scotland; Lady's Thimble
Flowers--Bright blue or violet-blue, bell-shaped, 1/2 in.
over, drooping from hair-like stalks. Calyx of 5-pointed, narrow,
spreading lobes; 5 slender stamens alternate with lobes of corolla, and
borne on summit of calyx tube, which is adherent to ovary; 1 pistil
with 3 stigmas in maturity only. Stem: Very slender, 6 in. to 3
high, often several from same root; simple or branching. Leaves:
Lower ones nearly round, usually withered and gone by flowering season;
stem leaves narrow, pointed, seated on stem. Fruit: An
pendent, 3-celled capsule with short openings near base; seeds very
Preferred Habitat--Moist rocks, uplands.
Distribution--Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and America;
on this continent, through Canada to New Jersey and Pennsylvania;
westward to Nebraska, to Arizona in the Rockies, and to California in
the Sierra Nevadas.
The inaccessible crevice of a precipice, moist rocks sprayed with the
dashing waters of a lake or some tumbling mountain stream, wind-swept
upland meadows, and shady places by the roadside may hold bright
of these hardy bells, swaying with exquisite grace on tremulous,
hair-like stems that are fitted to withstand the fiercest mountain
blasts, however frail they appear. How dainty, slender, tempting these
little flowers are! One gladly risks a watery grave or broken bones to
bring down a bunch from its aërial cranny.
Venus' Looking-glass; Clasping Bellflower
Specularia perfoliata (Legouzia perfoliata)
Flowers--Violet blue, from 1/2 to 3/4 in. across; solitary
together, seated, in axils of upper leaves. Calyx lobes varying from 3
to 5 in earlier and later flowers, acute, rigid; corolla a 5-spoked
wheel; 5 stamens; 1 pistil with 3 stigmas. Stem: 6 in. to 2 ft.
hairy, densely leafy, slender, weak. Leaves: Round, clasped
by heart-shaped base.
Preferred Habitat--Sterile waste places, dry woods.
Distribution--From British Columbia, Oregon, and Mexico,
At the top of a gradually lengthened and apparently overburdened leafy
stalk, weakly leaning upon surrounding vegetation, a few perfect
blossoms spread their violet wheels, while below them are insignificant
earlier flowers, which, although they have never opened, nor reared
their heads above the hollows of the little shell-like leaves where
lie secluded, have, nevertheless, been producing seed without imported
pollen while their showy sisters slept. But the later blooms, by
attracting insects, set cross-fertilized seed to counteract any evil
tendencies that might weaken the species if it depended upon
self-fertilization only. When the European Venus' Looking-glass used to
be cultivated in gardens here, our grandmothers tell us it was
altogether too prolific, crowding out of existence its less fruitful,
but more lovely, neighbors.
Cardinal Flower; Red Lobelia
Flowers--Rich vermilion, very rarely rose or white, 1 to
long, numerous, growing in terminal, erect, green-bracted, more or less
1-sided racemes. Calyx 5-cleft; corolla tubular, split down one side,
2-lipped; the lower lip with 3 spreading lobes, the upper lip 2-lobed,
erect; 5 stamens united into a tube around the style; 2 anthers with
hairy tufts. Stem: 2 to 4-1/2 ft. high, rarely branched. Leaves:
Oblong to lance-shaped, slightly toothed, mostly sessile.
Preferred Habitat--Wet or low ground, beside streams,
Distribution--New Brunswick to the Gulf states, westward
Northwest Territory and Kansas.
The easy cultivation from seed of this peerless wild flower--and it is
offered in many trade catalogues--might save it to those regions in
Nature's wide garden that now know it no more. The ranks of floral
missionaries need recruits.
Curious that the great Blue Lobelia should be the cardinal flower's
sister! Why this difference of color? Sir John Lubbock proved by
tireless experiment that the bees' favorite color is blue, and the
shorter-tubed Blue Lobelia elected to woo them as her benefactors.
Whoever has made a study of the ruby-throated humming bird's habits
have noticed how red flowers entice him--columbines, painted cups,
honeysuckle, Oswego Tea, trumpet flower, and cardinal in Nature's
garden; cannas, salvia, gladioli, pelargoniums, fuchsias, phloxes,
verbenas, and nasturtiums among others in ours.
Great Lobelia; Blue Cardinal Flower
Flowers--Bright blue, touched with white, fading to pale
in. long, borne on tall, erect, leafy spike. Calyx 5-parted, the lobes
sharply cut, hairy. Corolla tubular, open to base on one side,
irregularly 5-lobed, the petals pronounced at maturity only. Stamens 5,
united by their hairy anthers into a tube around the style; larger
anthers smooth. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, stout, simple, leafy,
hairy. Leaves: Alternate, oblong, tapering, pointed,
toothed 2 to 6 in. long, 1/2 to 2 in. wide.
Preferred Habitat--Moist or wet soil; beside streams.
Distribution--Ontario and northern United States west to
to Kansas and Georgia.
To the evolutionist, ever on the lookout for connecting links, the
lobelias form an interesting group, because their corolla, slit down
upper side and somewhat flattened, shows the beginning of the tendency
toward the strap or ray flowers that are nearly confined to the
composites of much later development, of course, than tubular single
blossoms. Next to massing their flowers in showy heads, as the
composites do, the lobelias have the almost equally advantageous plan
crowding theirs along a stem so as to make a conspicuous advertisement
to attract the passing bee and to offer him the special inducement of
numerous feeding places close together.
The handsome Great Lobelia, constantly and invidiously compared with
gorgeous sister the cardinal flower, suffers unfairly. When asked what
his favorite color was, Eugene Field replied: "Why, I like any color at
all so long as it's red!" Most men, at least, agree with him, and
certainly humming birds do; our scarcity of red flowers being due, we
must believe, to the scarcity of humming birds, which chiefly fertilize
them. But how bees love the blue blossoms!
Linnaeus named this group of plants for Matthias de l'Obel, a Flemish
botanist, or herbalist more likely, who became physician to James I
Iron-weed; Flat Top
Flower-head--Composite of tubular florets only, intense
thistle-like heads, borne on short, branched peduncles and forming
broad, flat clusters; bracts of involucre, brownish purple, tipped with
awl-shaped bristles. Stem: 3 to 9 ft. high, rough or hairy,
Leaves: Alternate, narrowly oblong or lanceolate,
in. long, rough.
Preferred Habitat--Moist soil, meadows, fields.
Distribution--Massachusetts to Georgia, and westward to
Emerson says a weed is a plant whose virtues we have not yet
but surely it is no small virtue in the iron-weed to brighten the
roadsides and low meadows throughout the summer with bright clusters of
bloom. When it is on the wane, the asters, for which it is sometimes
mistaken, begin to appear, but an instant's comparison shows the
difference between the two flowers. After noting the yellow disk in the
centre of an aster, it is not likely the iron-weed's thistle-like head
of ray florets only will ever again be confused with it. Another
rank-growing neighbor with which it has been comfounded by the novice
the Joe-Pye Weed, a far paler, old-rose colored flower, as one who does
not meet them both afield may see on comparing the colored plates in
Joe-Pye Weed; Trumpet Weed; Purple Thoroughwort; Gravel or Kidney-root;
Tall or Purple Boneset
Flower-heads--Pale or dull magenta or lavender pink,
fragrant, of tubular florets only, very numerous, in large, terminal,
loose, compound clusters, generally elongated. Several series of pink
overlapping bracts form the oblong involucre from which the tubular
floret and its protruding fringe of style-branches arise. Stem:
10 ft. high, green or purplish, leafy, usually branching toward top.
Leaves: In whorls of 3 to 6 (usually 4), oval to
saw-edged, petioled, thin, rough.
Preferred Habitat--Moist soil, meadows, woods, low ground.
Distribution--New Brunswick to the Gulf of Mexico,
Manitoba and Texas.
Towering above the surrounding vegetation of low-lying meadows, this
vigorous composite spreads clusters of soft, fringy bloom that, however
deep or pale of tint, are ever conspicuous advertisements, even when
golden-rods, sunflowers, and asters enter into close competition for
insect trade. Slight fragrance, which to the delicate perception of
butterflies is doubtless heavy enough, the florets' color and slender
tubular form indicate an adaptation to them, and they are by far the
most abundant visitors, which is not to say that long-tongued bees and
flies never reach the nectar and transfer pollen, for they do. But an
excellent place for the butterfly collector to carry his net is to a
patch of Joe-Pye Weed in September. As the spreading style-branches
fringe each tiny floret are furnished with hairs for three quarters of
their length, the pollen caught in them comes in contact with the
alighting visitor. Later, the lower portion of the style-branches, that
is covered with stigmatic papillae along the edge, emerges from the
to receive pollen carried from younger flowers when the visitor sips
reward. If the hairs still contain pollen when the stigmatic part of
style is exposed, insects self-fertilize the flower; and if in stormy
weather no insects are flying, the flower is nevertheless able to
fertilize itself, because the hairy fringe must often come in contact
with the stigmas of neighboring florets. It is only when we study
flowers with reference to their motives and methods that we understand
why one is abundant and another rare. Composites long ago utilized many
principles of success in life that the triumphant Anglo-Saxon carries
into larger affairs to-day.
Joe-Pye, an Indian medicine-man of New England, earned fame and
fortune by curing typhus fever and other horrors with decoctions made
from this plant.
Boneset; Common Thorough wort; Agueweed; Indian Sage
Flower-heads--Composite, the numerous, small, dull, white
tubular florets only, crowded in a scaly involucre and borne in
spreading, flat-topped terminal cymes. Stem: Stout, tall,
above, hairy, leafy. Leaves: Opposite, often united at their
clasping, lance-shaped, saw-edged, wrinkled.
Preferred Habitat--Wet ground, low meadows, roadsides.
Distribution--From the Gulf states north to Nebraska,
Frequently, in just such situations as its sister the Joe-Pye Weed
selects, and with similar intent, the boneset spreads its soft,
leaden-white bloom; but it will be noticed that the butterflies, which
love color, especially deep pinks and magenta, let this plant alone,
whereas beetles, that do not find the butterfly's favorite, fragrant
Joe-Pye Weed at all to their liking, prefer these dull, odorous
Many flies, wasps, and bees also, get generous entertainment in these
tiny florets, where they feast with the minimum loss of time, each head
in a cluster containing, as it does, from ten to sixteen restaurants.
ant crawling up the stem is usually discouraged by its hairs long
reaching the sweets. Sometimes the stem appears to run through the
centre of one large leaf that is kinky in the middle and taper-pointed
at both ends, rather than between a pair of leaves.
An old-fashioned illness known as break-bone fever--doubtless
to-day by the grippe--once had its terrors for a patient increased a
hundredfold by the certainty he felt of taking nauseous doses of
tea, administered by zealous old women outside the "regular practice."
Children who had to have their noses held before they would--or,
could--swallow the decoction, cheerfully munched boneset taffy instead.
When these flowers transform whole acres into "fields of the
cloth-of-gold," the slender wands swaying by every roadside, and
Purple Asters add the final touch of imperial splendor to the autumn
landscape, already glorious with gold and crimson, is any parterre of
Nature's garden the world around more gorgeous than that portion of it
we are pleased to call ours? Within its limits eighty-five species of
golden-rod flourish, while a few have strayed into Mexico and South
America, and only two or three belong to Europe, where many of ours
are tenderly cultivated in gardens, as they would be here, had not
Nature been so lavish. To name all these species, or the asters, the
sparrows, and the warblers at sight is a feat probably no one living
can perform; nevertheless, certain of the commoner golden-rods have
well-defined peculiarities that a little field practice soon fixes in
the novice's mind.
Along shady roadsides, and in moist woods and thickets, from August to
October, the Blue-stemmed, Wreath, or Woodland Golden-rod (S. caesia)
sways an unbranched stem with a bluish bloom on it. It is studded with
pale golden clusters of tiny florets in the axils of lance-shaped,
feather-veined leaves for nearly its entire length. Range from Maine,
Ontario, and Minnesota to the Gulf states. None is prettier, more
dainty, than this common species.
In rich woodlands and thicket borders we find the Zig-zag or
Broad-leaved Golden-rod (S. latifolia)--its prolonged, angled
that grows as if waveringly uncertain of the proper direction to take,
strung with small clusters of yellow florets, somewhat after the manner
of the preceding species. But its saw-edged leaves are ovate, sharply
tapering to a point, and narrowed at the base into petioles. It blooms
from July to September. Range from New Brunswick to Georgia, and
westward beyond the Mississippi.
During the same blooming period, and through a similar range, our only
albino, with an Irish-bull name, the White Golden-rod, or more properly
Silver-rod (S. bicolor), cannot be mistaken. Its cream-white
also grow in little clusters from the upper axils of a usually simple
and hairy gray stem six inches to four feet high. Most of the heads are
crowded in a narrow, terminal pyramidal cluster. This plant approaches
more nearly the idea of a rod than its relatives. The leaves, which are
broadly oblong toward the base of the stem, and narrowed into long
margined petioles, are frequently quite hairy, for the silver-rod
to live in dry soil and its juices must be protected from heat and too
When crushed in the hand, the dotted, bright green,
entire leaves of the Sweet Golden-rod or Blue Mountain Tea (S. odora)
cannot be mistaken, for they give forth a pleasant anise scent. The
slender, simple smooth stem is crowned with a graceful panicle, whose
branches have the florets seated all on one side. Dry soil. New England
to the Gulf states. July to September.
The Wrinkle-leaved, or Tall, Hairy Golden-rod or Bitterweed (S.
rugosa), a perversely variable species, its hairy stem perhaps only
foot high, or, maybe, more than seven feet, its rough leaves broadly
oval to lance-shaped, sharply saw-edged, few if any furnished with
footstems, lifts a large, compound, and gracefully curved panicle,
florets are seated on one side of its spreading branches. Sometimes the
stem branches at the summit. One usually finds it blooming in dry soil
from July to November throughout a range extending from Newfoundland
Ontario to the Gulf states.
The unusually beautiful, spreading, recurved, branching panicle of
borne by the early, Plume, or Sharp-toothed Golden-rod or Yellow-top
(S. juncea), so often dried for winter decoration, may wave four
high but, usually not more than two, at the summit of a smooth, rigid
stem. Toward the top, narrow, elliptical, uncut leaves are seated on
stalk; below, much larger leaves, their sharp teeth slanting forward,
taper into a broad petiole, whose edges may be cut like fringe. In dry,
rocky soil this is, perhaps, the first and last golden-rod to bloom,
having been found as early as June, and sometimes lasting into
Range from North Carolina and Missouri very far north.
Perhaps the commonest of all the lovely clan east of the Mississippi,
throughout a range extending from Arizona and Florida northward to
British Columbia and New Brunswick, is the Canada Golden-rod or
Yellow-weed (S. canadensis). Surely every one must be familiar
the large, spreading, dense-flowered panicle, with recurved sprays,
crowns a rough, hairy stem sometimes eight feet tall, or again only two
feet. Its lance-shaped, acutely pointed, triple-nerved leaves are
and the lower ones saw-edged. From August to November one cannot fail
find it blooming in dry soil.
Most brilliantly colored of its tribe is the low-growing Gray or Field
Golden-rod or Dyer's Weed (S. nemoralis). The rich, deep yellow
little spreading recurved, and usually one-sided panicles is admirably
set off by the ashy gray, or often cottony, stem, and the hoary,
grayish-green leaves in the open, sterile places where they arise from
July to November. Quebec and the Northwest Territory to the Gulf
"Along the roadside, like the flowers of gold
That tawny Incas for their gardens wrought,
Heavy with sunshine droops the golden-rod."
Bewildered by the multitude of species, and wondering at the enormous
number of representatives of many of them, we cannot but inquire into
the cause of such triumphal conquest of a continent by a single genus.
Much is explained simply in the statement that golden-rods belong to
vast order of Compositae, flowers in reality made up sometimes
hundreds of minute florets united into a far-advanced socialistic
community having for its motto, "In union there is strength." In the
first place, such an association of florets makes a far more
advertisement than a single flower, one that can be seen by insects at
great distance; for most of the composite plants live in large
each plant, as well as each floret, helping the others in attracting
their benefactors' attention. The facility with which insects are
enabled to collect both pollen and nectar makes the golden-rods
exceedingly popular restaurants. Finally, the visits of insects are
likely to prove effectual, because any one that alights must touch
several or many florets, and cross-pollinate them simply by crawling
over a head. The disk florets mostly contain both stamens and pistil,
while the ray florets in one series are all male. Immense numbers of
wasps, hornets, bees, flies, beetles, and "bugs" feast without effort
here: indeed, the budding entomologist might form a large collection of
Hymenoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera, and Hemiptera
visitors to a single field of golden-rod alone. Usually to be
among the throng are the velvety black Lytta or Cantharis,
impostor wasp-beetle, the black and yellow wavy-banded, red-legged
locust-tree borer, and the painted Clytus, banded with yellow
sable, squeaking contentedly as he gnaws the florets that feed him.
Where the slender, brown, plume-tipped wands etch their charming
outline above the snow-covered fields, how the sparrows, finches,
buntings, and juncos love to congregate, of course helping to scatter
the seeds to the wind while satisfying their hunger on the swaying,
down-curved stalks. Now that the leaves are gone, some of the
stems are seen to bulge as if a tiny ball were concealed under the
In spring a little winged tenant, a fly, will emerge from the gall that
has been his cradle all winter.
Blue and Purple Asters or Starworts
Evolution teaches us that thistles, daisies, sunflowers, asters, and
the triumphant horde of composites were once very different flowers
what we see to-day. Through ages of natural selection of the fittest
among their ancestral types, having finally arrived at the most
successful adaptation of their various parts to their surroundings in
the whole floral kingdom, they are now overrunning the earth. Doubtless
the aster's remote ancestors were simple green leaves around the vital
organs, and depended upon the wind, as the grasses do--a most
extravagant method--to transfer their pollen. Then some rudimentary
flower changed its outer row of stamens into petals, which gradually
took on color to attract insects and insure a more economical method of
transfer. Gardeners to-day take advantage of a blossom's natural
tendency to change stamens into petals when they wish to produce double
flowers. As flowers and insects developed side by side, and there came
to be a better and better understanding between them of each other's
requirements, mutual adaptation followed. The flower that offered the
best advertisement, as the composites do, by its showy rays; that
secreted nectar in tubular flowers where no useless insect could pilfer
it; that fastened its stamens to the inside wall of the tube where they
must dust with pollen the underside of every insect, unwittingly
cross-fertilizing the blossom as he crawled over it; that massed a
number of these tubular florets together where insects might readily
discover them and feast with the least possible loss of time--this
flower became the winner in life's race. Small wonder that our June
fields are white with daisies and the autumn landscape is glorified
golden-rod and asters!
Since North America boasts the greater part of the two hundred and
asters named by scientists, and as variations in many of our common
species frequently occur, the tyro need expect no easy task in
identifying every one he meets afield. However, the following are
possible acquaintances to every one:
In dry, shady places the Large, or Broad-leaved Aster (A.
macrophyllus), so called from its three or four conspicuous,
heart-shaped leaves on long petioles, in a clump next the ground, may
more easily identified by these than by the pale lavender or violet
flower-heads of about sixteen rays each which crown its reddish angular
stem in August and September. The disk turns reddish brown.
Much more branched and bushy is the Common Blue, Branching, Wood, or
Heart-leaved Aster (A. cordifolius), whose generous masses of
pale lavender flower-heads look like a mist hanging from one to five
feet above the earth in and about the woods and shady roadsides from
September even to December in favored places.
By no means tardy, the Late Purple Aster, so-called, or Purple Daisy
(A. patens), begins to display its purplish-blue, daisy-like
flower-heads early in August, and farther north may be found in dry,
exposed places only until October. Rarely the solitary flowers, that
are an inch across or more, are a deep, rich violet. The twenty to
thirty rays which surround the disk, curling inward to dry, expose the
vase-shaped, green, shingled cups that terminate each little branch.
The thick, somewhat rigid, oblong leaves, tapering at the tip, broaden
at the base to clasp the rough, slender stalk. Range similar to the
Certainly from Massachusetts, northern New York, and Minnesota
to the Gulf of Mexico one may expect to find the New England Aster or
Starwort (A. novae-angliae), one of the most striking and widely
distributed of the tribe, in spite of its local name. It is not unknown
in Canada. The branching clusters of violet or magenta-purple
flower-heads, from one to two inches across--composites containing as
many as forty to fifty purple ray florets around a multitude of perfect
five-lobed, tubular, yellow disk florets in a sticky cup--shine out
royal splendor above the swamps, moist fields, and roadsides from
to October. The stout, bristle-hairy stem bears a quantity of alternate
lance-shaped leaves lobed at the base where they clasp it.
In even wetter ground we find the Red-stalked, Purple-stemmed, or Early
Purple Aster, Cocash, Swanweed, or Meadow Scabish (A. puniceus)
blooming as early as July or as late as November. Its stout, rigid
stem, bristling with rigid hairs, may reach a height of eight feet to
display the branching clusters of pale violet or lavender flowers. The
long, blade-like leaves, usually very rough above and hairy along the
midrib beneath, are seated on the stem.
The lovely Smooth or Blue Aster (A. laevis), whose sky-blue or
flower-heads, about one inch broad, are common through September and
October in dry soil and open woods, has strongly clasping, oblong,
tapering leaves, rough margined, but rarely with a saw-tooth, toward
top of the stem, while those low down on it gradually narrow into
In dry, sandy soil, mostly near the coast, from Massachusetts to
Delaware, grows one of the loveliest of all this beautiful clan, the
Low, Showy, or Seaside Purple Aster (A. spectabilis). The stiff,
usually unbranched stem does its best in attaining a height of two
Above, the leaves are blade-like or narrowly oblong, seated on the
whereas the tapering, oval basal leaves are furnished with long
footstems, as is customary with most asters. The handsome, bright,
violet-purple flower-heads, measuring about an inch and a half across,
have from fifteen to thirty rays, or only about half as many as the
familiar New England aster. Season: August to November.
White Asters or Starworts
In dry, open woodlands, thickets, and roadsides, from August to
we find the dainty White Wood Aster (A. divaricatus)--A.
of Gray--its brittle zig-zag stem two feet high or less, branching at
the top, and repeatedly forked where loose clusters of flower-heads
spread in a broad, rather flat corymb. Only a few white rays--usually
from six to nine--surround the yellow disk, whose florets soon turn
brown. Range from Canada southward to Tennessee.
The bushy little White Heath Aster (A. ericoides) every one must
possibly, as Michaelmas Daisy, Farewell Summer, White Rosemary, or
Frost-weed; for none is commoner in dry soil, throughout the eastern
United States at least. Its smooth, much-branched stem rarely reaches
three feet in height, usually it is not more than a foot tall, and its
very numerous flower-heads, white or pink tinged, barely half an inch
across, appear in such profusion from September even to December as to
transform it into a feathery mass of bloom.
Growing like branching wands of golden-rod, the Dense-flowered,
White-wreathed, or Starry Aster (A. multiflorus) bears its
flower-heads crowded close along the branches, where many small, stiff
leaves, like miniature pine needles, follow them. Each flower measures
only about a quarter of an inch across. From Maine to Georgia and Texas
westward to Arizona and British Columbia the common bushy plant lifts
its rather erect, curving, feathery branches perhaps only a foot,
sometimes above a man's head, from August till November, in such dry,
open, sterile ground as the white Heath Aster also chooses.
Flower-heads--Composite, yellow, 1 in. wide or less, a few
flowers on glandular stalks; each composed of perfect tubular disk
florets surrounded by pistillate ray florets; the involucre
campanulate, its narrow bracts overlapping in several series. Stem:
Stout, silky, hairy when young, nearly smooth later, 1 to 2-1/2 ft.
tall. Leaves: Alternate, oblong to spatulate, entire.
Preferred Habitat--Dry soil, or sandy, not far inland.
Distribution--Long Island and Pennsylvania to the Gulf
Whoever comes upon clumps of these handsome flowers by the dusty
roadside cannot but be impressed with the appropriateness of their
generic name (Chrysos = gold; opsis = aspect). Farther
north and south, it is the Hairy Golden Aster (C. villosa), a
hoary-haired plant with similar flowers borne at midsummer, that is the
Daisy Fleabane; Sweet Scabious
Flower-heads--Numerous, daisy-like, about 1/2 in. across;
70 long, fine, white rays (or purple or pink tinged), arranged around
yellow disk florets in a rough, hemispheric cup whose bracts overlap.
Stem: Erect, 1 to 4 ft. high, branching above, with
hairs. Leaves: Thin, lower ones ovate, coarsely toothed,
upper ones sessile, becoming smaller, lance-shaped.
Preferred Habitat--Fields, waste land, roadsides.
Distribution--Nova Scotia to Virginia, westward to
At a glance one knows this flower to be akin to Robin's plantain, the
asters and daisy. A smaller, more delicate species, with mostly entire
leaves and appressed hairs (E. ramosus)--E. strigosum of
similar range and season of bloom. Both soon grow hoary-headed after
they have been fertilized by countless insects crawling over them
(Erigeron = early old). That either of these plants, or the
small-flowered, strong-scented Salt-marsh Fleabane (Pluchea
camphorata), drive away fleas, is believed only by those who have
used them dried, reduced to powder, and sprinkled in kennels, from
which, however, they have been known to drive away dogs.
Robin's, or Poor Robin's, or Robert's Plantain; Blue Spring Daisy;
Flower-heads--Composite, daisy-like, 1 to 1-1/2 in.
circle of about 50 pale bluish-violet ray florets; the disk florets
greenish yellow. Stem: Simple, erect, hairy, juicy, flexible,
in. to 2 ft. high, producing runners and offsets from base. Leaves:
Spatulate, in a flat tuft about the root; stem leaves narrow, more
acute, seated, or partly clasping.
Preferred Habitat--Moist ground, hills, banks, grassy
Distribution--United States and Canada, east of the
Like an aster blooming long before its season, Robin's Plantain wears a
finely cut lavender fringe around a yellow disk of minute florets; but
one of the first, not the last, in the long procession of composites
appeared when we see gay companies of these flowers nodding their heads
above the grass in the spring breezes as if they were village gossips.
Pearly, or Large-flowered, Everlasting; Immortelle, Silver Leaf;
Moonshine; Cottonweed; None-so-pretty
Flower-heads--Numerous pearly-white scales of the
tubular florets only; borne in broad, rather flat, compound corymbs at
the summit. Stem: Cottony, 1 to 3 ft. high, leafy to the top.
Leaves: Upper ones small, narrow, linear; lower ones
lance-shaped, rolled backward, more or less woolly beneath.
Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, hillsides, open woods,
Distribution--North Carolina, Kansas, and California, far
When the small, white, overlapping scales of an everlasting's oblong
involucre expand stiff and straight, each pert little flower-head
resembles nothing so much as a miniature pond lily, only what would be
lily's yellow stamens are in this case the true flowers, which become
brown in drying. It will be noticed that these tiny florets, so well
protected in the centre, are of two different kinds, separated on
distinct heads: the female florets with a tubular, five-cleft corolla,
two-cleft style, and a copious pappus of hairy bristles; the staminate,
or male, florets more slender, the anthers tailed at the base.
Self-fertilization being, of course, impossible under such an
arrangement, the florets are absolutely dependent upon little winged
pollen carriers, whose sweet reward is well protected for them from
pilfering ants by the cottony substance on the wiry stem, a device
successfully employed by thistles also.
An imaginary blossom that never fades has been the dream of poets from
Milton's day; but seeing one, who loves it? Our amaranth has the aspect
of an artificial flower--stiff, dry, soulless, quite in keeping with
decorations on the average farmhouse mantelpiece. Here it forms the
uncheering of winter bouquets, or a wreath about flowers made from the
lifeless hair of some dear departed.
Elecampane; Horseheal; Yellow Starwort
Flower-heads--Large, yellow, solitary or a few, 2 to 4 in.
long, stout peduncles; the scaly green involucre nearly 1 in. high,
holding disk florets surrounded by a fringe of long, very narrow,
3-toothed ray florets. Stem: Usually unbranched, 2 to 6 ft.
hairy above. Leaves: Alternate, large, broadly oblong, pointed,
saw-edged, rough above, woolly beneath; some with heart-shaped,
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides, fields, fence-rows, damp
Distribution--Nova Scotia to the Carolinas, and westward
The elecampane has not always led a vagabond existence. Once it had its
passage paid across the Atlantic, because special virtue was attributed
to its thick, mucilaginous roots as a horse medicine. For more than two
thousand years it has been employed by home doctors in Europe and Asia;
and at first Old World immigrants thought they could not live here
without the plant on their farms. Once given a chance to naturalize
itself, no composite is slow in seizing it. The vigorous elecampane,
rearing its fringy, yellow disks above lichen-covered stone walls in
England, the Virginia rail fence, and the rank weedy growth along
barbed-wire barriers farther west, now bids fair to cross the
Black-eyed Susan; Yellow or Ox-eye Daisy; Nigger-head; Golden
Jerusalem; Purple Cone-flower
Flower-heads--From 10 to 20 orange-yellow neutral rays
conical, dark purplish-brown disk of florets containing both stamens
and pistil. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. tall, hairy, rough, usually
often tufted. Leaves: Oblong to lance-shaped, thick, sparingly
Preferred Habitat--Open sunny places; dry fields.
Distribution--Ontario and the Northwest Territory south to
and the Gulf states.
So very many weeds having come to our Eastern shores from Europe, and
marched farther and farther west year by year, it is but fair that
black-eyed Susan, a native of Western clover fields, should travel
toward the Atlantic in bundles of hay whenever she gets the chance, to
repay Eastern farmers in their own coin. Do these gorgeous heads know
that all our showy rudbeckias--some with orange red at the base of
ray florets--have become prime favorites of late years in European
gardens, so offering them still another chance to overrun the Old
to which so much American hay is shipped? Thrifty farmers may decry the
importation into their mowing lots, but there is a glory to the
cone-flower beside which the glitter of a gold coin fades into paltry
nothingness. Having been instructed in the decorative usefulness of all
this genus by European landscape gardeners, we Americans now importune
the Department of Agriculture for seeds through members of Congress,
even Representatives of States that have passed stringent laws against
the dissemination of "weeds." Inasmuch as each black-eyed Susan puts
into daily operation the business methods of the white daisy, methods
which have become a sort of creed for the entire composite horde to
by, it is plain that she may defy both farmers and legislators. Bees,
wasps, flies butterflies, and beetles could not be kept away from an
entertainer so generous; for while the nectar in the deep, tubular
florets may be drained only by long, slender tongues, pollen is
accessible to all. Any one who has had a jar of these yellow daisies
standing on a polished table indoors, and tried to keep its surface
from a ring of golden dust around the flowers, knows how abundant their
pollen is. The black-eyed Susan, like the English sparrow, has come to
stay--let farmers and law-makers do what they will.
Tall or Giant Sunflower
Flower-heads--Several, on long, rough-hairy peduncles;
in. broad; 10 to 20 pale yellow neutral rays around a yellowish disk
whose florets are perfect, fertile. Stem: 3 to 12 ft. tall,
bristly-hairy, usually branching above, often reddish; from a
fleshy root. Leaves: Rough, firm, lance-shaped, saw-toothed,
Preferred Habitat--Low ground, wet meadows, swamps.
Distribution--Maine to Nebraska and the Northwest
the Gulf of Mexico.
To how many sun-shaped golden disks with outflashing rays might not the
generic name of this clan (helios = the sun, anthos = a
as fittingly applied: from midsummer till frost the earth seems given
to floral counterparts of his worshipful majesty. If, as we are told,
one ninth of all flowering plants in the world belong to the composite
order, of which more than sixteen hundred species are found in North
America north of Mexico, surely more than half this number are made up
after the daisy pattern, the most successful arrangement known, and the
majority of these are wholly or partly yellow. Most conspicuous of the
horde are the sunflowers, albeit they never reach in the wild state the
gigantic dimensions and weight that cultivated, dark-brown centred
varieties produced from the common sunflower have attained. For many
years the origin of the latter flower, which suddenly shone forth in
European gardens with unwonted splendor, was in doubt. Only lately it
was learned that when Champlain and Segur visited the Indians on Lake
Huron's eastern shores about three centuries ago, they saw them
cultivating this plant, which must have been brought by them from its
native prairies beyond the Mississippi---a plant whose stalks furnished
them with a textile fibre, its leaves fodder, its flowers a yellow dye,
and its seeds, most valuable of all, food and hair-oil! Early settlers
in Canada were not slow in sending home to Europe so decorative and
useful an acquisition. Swine, poultry, and parrots were fed on its rich
seeds. Its flowers, even under Indian cultivation, had already reached
abnormal size. Of the sixty varied and interesting species of wild
sunflowers known to scientists, all are North American.
Moore's pretty statement,
"As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look which she turn'd when he rose,"
lacks only truth to make it fact. The flower does not travel daily on
its stalk from east to west. Often the top of the stem turns sharply
toward the light to give the leaves better exposure, but the presence
absence of a terminal flower affects its action not at all.
Sneeze weed; Swamp Sunflower
Flower-heads--Bright yellow, 1 to 2 in. across, numerous,
long peduncles in corymb-like clusters; the rays 3 to 5 cleft, and
drooping around the yellow or yellowish-brown disk. Stem: 2 to
tall, branched above. Leaves: Alternate, firm, lance-shaped to
toothed, seated on stem or the bases slightly decurrent; bitter.
Preferred Habitat--Swamps, wet ground, banks of streams.
Distribution--Quebec to the Northwest Territory; southward
Most cows know enough to respect the bitter leaves' desire to be let
alone; but many a pail of milk has been spoiled by a mouthful of
Helenium among the herbage. Whoever cares to learn from
this was called sneezeweed, must take a whiff of snuff made of the
and powdered leaves.
Yarrow; Milfoil; Old Man's Pepper; Nosebleed
Flower-heads--Grayish-white, rarely pinkish, in a hard,
flat-topped, compound cluster. Ray florets 4 to 6, pistillate, fertile;
disk florets yellow, afterward brown, perfect, fertile. Stem:
from horizontal root-stalk, 1 to 2 ft. high, leafy, sometimes hairy.
Leaves: Very finely dissected (Millefolium =
narrowly oblong in outline.
Preferred Habitat--Waste land, dry fields, banks,
Distribution--Naturalized from Europe and Asia throughout
Everywhere this commonest of common weeds confronts us; the compact,
dusty-looking clusters appearing not by waysides only, around the
world, but in the mythology, folk-lore, medicine, and literature of
many peoples. Chiron, the centaur, who taught its virtues to Achilles
that he might make an ointment to heal his Myrmidons wounded in the
siege of Troy, named the plant for this favorite pupil, giving his own
to the beautiful Blue Cornflower (Centaurea Cyanus). As a
as an herb-tea brewed by crones to cure divers ailments, from loss of
hair to the ague; as an inducement to nosebleed for the relief of
congestive headache; as an ingredient of an especially intoxicating
beer made by the Swedes, it is mentioned in old books. Nowadays we are
satisfied merely to admire the feathery masses of lace-like foliage
formed by young plants, to whiff the wholesome, nutty, autumnal odor of
its flowers, or to wonder at the marvellous scheme it employs to
overrun the earth.
Dog's or Foetid Camomile: Mayweed; Pig-sty Daisy; Dillweed;
Anthemis Cotula (Maruta Cotula)
Flower-heads--Like smaller daisies, about 1 in. broad; 10
notched, neutral ray florets around a convex or conical yellow disk,
whose florets are fertile, containing both stamens and pistil, their
tubular corollas 5-cleft. Stem: Smooth, much branched, 1 to 2
high, leafy, with unpleasant odor and acrid taste. Leaves: Very
dissected into slender segments.
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides, dry waste land, sandy
Distribution--Throughout North America, except in
"Naturalized from Europe, and widely distributed as a weed in Asia,
Africa, and Australasia" (Britton and Brown's "Flora"). Little wonder
the camomile encompasses the earth, for it imitates the triumphant
daisy, putting into practice those business methods of the modern
department store, by which the composite horde have become the most
successful strugglers for survival.
Dog, used as a prefix by several of the plant's folk-names, implies
contempt for its worthlessness. It is quite another species, the Garden
Camomile (A. nobilis), which furnishes the apothecary with those
flowers which, when steeped into a bitter, aromatic tea, have been
supposed for generations to make a superior tonic and blood purifier.
Common Daisy; White-weed; White or Ox-eye Daisy; Marguerite; Love-me,
Flower-heads--Disk florets yellow, tubular, 4 or 5
stamens and pistil; surrounded by white ray florets, which are
pistillate, fertile. Stem: Smooth, rarely branched, 1 to 3 ft.
Leaves: Mostly oblong in outline, coarsely toothed and
Preferred Habitat--Meadows, pastures, roadsides, waste
Distribution--Throughout the United States and Canada; not
in the South and West.
Myriads and myriads of daisies, whitening our fields as if a belated
blizzard had covered them with a snowy mantle in June, fill the farmer
with dismay, the flower-lover with rapture. When vacation days have
come; when chains and white-capped old women are to be made of daisies
by happy children turned out of schoolrooms into meadows; when pretty
maids, like Goethe's Marguerite, tell their fortunes by the daisy
"petals"; when music bubbles up in a cascade of ecstasy from the
throats of bobolinks nesting among the daisies, timothy, and clover;
when the blue sky arches over the fairest scenes the year can show, and
all the world is full of sunshine and happy promises of fruition, must
we Americans always go to English literature for a song to fit our
"When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue,
Do paint the meadows with delight--"
sang Shakespeare. His lovely suggestion of an English spring recalls no
familiar picture to American minds. No more does Burns's.
"Wee, modest, crimson-tippit flower."
Shakespeare, Burns, Chaucer, Wordsworth, and all the British poets who
have written familiar lines about the daisy, extolled a quite different
flower from ours--Bellis perennis, the little pink and white
that hugs English turf as if it loved it--the true day's-eye, for it
closes at nightfall and opens with the dawn.
Now, what is the secret of the large, white daisy's triumphal conquest
of our territory? A naturalized immigrant from Europe and Asia, how
could it so quickly take possession? In the over-cultivated Old World
no weed can have half the chance for unrestricted colonizing that it
in our vast, unoccupied area. Most of our weeds are naturalized
foreigners, not natives. Once released from the harder conditions of
struggle at home (the seeds bring safely smuggled in among the ballast
of freight ships, or hay used in packing), they find life here easy,
pleasant; as if to make up for lost time, they increase a thousandfold.
If we look closely at a daisy--and a lens is necessary for any but the
most superficial acquaintance--we shall see that, far from being a
single flower, it is literally a host in itself. Each of the so-called
white "petals" is a female floret, whose open corolla has grown large,
white, and showy, to aid its sisters in advertising for insect
visitors--a prominence gained only by the loss of its stamens. The
yellow centre is composed of hundreds of minute tubular florets huddled
together in a green cup as closely as they can be packed. Inside each
these tiny yellow tubes stand the stamens, literally putting their
together. As the pistil within the ring of stamens develops and rises
through their midst, two little hair brushes on its tip sweep the
from their anthers as a rounded brush would remove the soot from a lamp
chimney. Now the pollen is elevated to a point where any insect
over the floret must remove it. The pollen gone, the pistil now spreads
its two arms, that were kept tightly closed together while any danger
self-fertilization lasted. Their surfaces become sticky, that pollen
brought from another flower may adhere to them. Notice that the pistils
in the white ray florets have no hair brushes on their tips, because,
stamens being there, there is no pollen to be swept out. Because
are among the most conspicuous of flowers, and have facilitated dining
for their visitors by offering them countless cups of refreshment that
may be drained with a minimum loss of time, almost every insect on
alights on them sooner or later. In short, they run their business on
the principle of a cooperative department store. Immense quantities of
the most vigorous, because cross-fertilized, seed being set in every
patch, small wonder that our fields are white with daisies--a long and
merry life to them!
Flower-heads--Small, round, of tubular florets only,
depressed involucre, and borne in flat-topped corymbs. Stem:
3 ft. tall, leafy. Leaves: Deeply and pinnately cleft into
toothed divisions; strong scented.
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides; commonly escaped from
Distribution--Nova Scotia, westward to Minnesota, south to
and North Carolina. Naturalized from Europe.
"In the spring time, are made with the leaves hereof newly sprung up,
and with eggs, cakes or Tansies which be pleasant in taste and goode
the Stomache," wrote quaint old Gerarde. That these were popular
dainties in the seventeenth century we further know through Pepys who
made a "pretty dinner" for some guests, to wit: "A brace of stewed
carps, six roasted chickens, and a jowl of salmon, hot, for the first
course; a tansy, and two neat's tongues, and cheese, the second."
"Art of Simpling," published in 1656, assures maidens that tansy leaves
laid to soak in buttermilk for nine days "maketh the complexion very
fair." Tansy tea, in short, cured every ill that flesh is heir to,
according to the simple faith of medieval herbalists--a faith surviving
in some old women even to this day. The name is said to be a corruption
of athanasia, derived from two Greek words meaning immortality.
some monks in reading Lucian came across the passage where Jove,
speaking of Ganymede to Mercury, says, "Take him hence, and when he has
tasted immortality let him return to us," their literal minds inferred
that this plant must have been what Ganymede tasted, hence they named
athanasia! So great credence having been given to its medicinal powers
in Europe, it is not strange the colonists felt they could not live in
the New World without tansy. Strong-scented pungent tufts topped with
bright yellow buttons--runaways from old gardens--are a conspicuous
feature along many a roadside leading to colonial homesteads.
Common or Plumed Thistle
Is land fulfilling the primal curse because it brings forth thistles?
So thinks the farmer, no doubt, but not the goldfinches which daintily
feed among the fluffy seeds, nor the bees, nor the "painted lady,"
which may be seen in all parts of the world where thistles grow,
hovering about the beautiful rose-purple flowers. In the prickly
cradle of leaves, the caterpillar of this thistle butterfly weaves a
web around its main food store.
When the Danes invaded Scotland, they stole a silent night march upon
the Scottish camp by marching barefoot; but a Dane inadvertently
on a thistle, and his sudden, sharp cry, arousing the sleeping Scots,
saved them and their country; hence the Scotch emblem.
From July to November blooms the Common, Burr, Spear, Plume, Bank,
Horse, Bull, Blue, Button, Bell, or Roadside Thistle (C. lanceolatum
or Carduus lanceolatus), a native of Europe and Asia, now a
thoroughly naturalized American from Newfoundland to Georgia, westward
to Nebraska. Its violet flower-heads, about an inch and a half across,
and as high as wide, are mostly solitary at the ends of formidable
branches, up which few crawling creatures venture. But in the deep tube
of each floret there is nectar secreted for the flying visitor who can
properly transfer pollen from flower to flower. Such a one suffers no
inconvenience from the prickles, but, on the contrary, finds a larger
feast saved for him because of them. Dense, matted, wool-like hairs,
that cover the bristling stems of most thistles, make climbing mighty
unpleasant for ants, which ever delight in pilfering sweets. Perhaps
has the temerity to start upward.
"Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall,"
"If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all,"
might be the ant's passionate outburst to the thistle, and the
reply, instead of a Sir Walter and Queen Elizabeth couplet. Long,
lance-shaped, deeply cleft, sharply pointed, and prickly dark green
leaves make the ascent almost unendurable; nevertheless, the ant
bravely mounts to where the bristle-pointed, overlapping scales of the
deep green cup hold the luscious flowers. Now his feet becoming
entangled in the cottony fibres wound about the scaly armor, and a
bristling bodyguard thrusting spears at him in his struggles to escape,
death happily releases him. All this tragedy to insure the thistle's
cross-fertilized seed that, seated on the autumn winds, shall be blown
far and wide in quest of happy conditions for the offspring!
Sometimes the Pasture or Fragrant Thistle (C. pumilum or Carduus
odoratus) still further protects its beautiful, odorous purple or
whitish flower-head, that often measures three inches across, with a
formidable array of prickly small leaves just below it. In case a
would-be pilferer breaks through these lines, however, there is a
glutinous strip on the outside of the bracts that compose the cup
wherein the nectar-filled florets are packed; and here, in sight of
Mecca, he meets his death, just as a bird is caught on limed twigs. The
Pasture Thistle, whose range is only from Maine to Delaware, blooms
July to September.
Chicory; Succory; Blue Sailors; Bunk
Flower-head--Bright, deep azure to gray blue, rarely
1 to 1-1/2 in. broad, set close to stem, often in small clusters for
nearly the entire length; each head a composite of ray flowers only,
5-toothed at upper edge, and set in a flat green receptacle. Stem:
Rigid, branching, 1 to 3 ft. high. Leaves: Lower ones spreading
ground, 3 to 6 in. long, spatulate, with deeply cut or irregular edges,
narrowed into petioles, from a deep tap-root; upper leaves of stem and
branches minute, bract-like.
Preferred Habitat--Roadsides, waste places, fields.
Distribution--Common in eastern United States and Canada,
Carolinas; also sparingly westward to Nebraska.
At least the dried and ground root of this European invader is known to
hosts of people who buy it undisguised or not, according as they count
it an improvement to their coffee or a disagreeable adulterant. So
is the demand for chicory that, notwithstanding its cheapness, it is
often in its turn adulterated with roasted wheat, rye, acorns, and
carrots. Forced and blanched in a warm, dark place, the bitter leaves
find a ready market as a salad known as "barbe de Capucin" by the
fanciful French. Endive and dandelion, the chicory's relatives, appear
on the table, too in spring, where people have learned the
of salads, as they certainly have in Europe.
From the depth to which the tap-root penetrates, it is not unlikely
the succory derived its name from the Latin succurrere = to run
under. The Arabic name chicourey testifies to the almost
influence of Arabian physicians and writers in Europe after the
Conquest. As chicorée, achicoria, chicoria, cicorea,
cichorei, cikorie, tsikorei, and cicorie the plant is known
respectively to the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Germans,
Dutch, Swedes, Russians, and Danes.
On cloudy days or in the morning only throughout midsummer the "peasant
posy" opens its "dear blue eyes"
"Where tired feet
Toil to and fro;
Where flaunting Sin
May see thy heavenly hue,
Or weary Sorrow look from thee
Toward a tenderer blue!"
In his "Humble Bee" Emerson, too, sees only beauty in the
"Succory to match the sky;"
but, mirabile dictu, Vergil, rarely caught in a prosaic,
"And spreading succ'ry chokes the rising field."
Common Dandelion; Blowball; Lion's-tooth; Peasant's Clock
Taraxacum officinale (T. Dens-leonis)
Flower-head--Solitary, golden yellow, 1 to 2 in. across,
150 to 200 perfect ray florets on a flat receptacle at the top of a
hollow, milky scape 2 to 18 in. tall. Leaves: From a very deep,
bitter root; oblong to spatulate in outline, irregularly jagged.
Preferred Habitat--Lawns, fields, grassy waste places.
Flowering Season--Every month in the year.
Distribution--Around the civilized world.
"Dear common flower that grow'st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless
"Gold such as thine ne'er drew the Spanish prow
Through the primeval hush of Indian seas,
Nor wrinkled the lean brow
Of age, to rob the lover's heart of ease.
'Tis the spring's largess, which she scatters now
To rich and poor alike, with lavish hand;
Though most hearts never understand
To take it at God's value, but pass by
The offered wealth with unrewarded eye."
Let the triumphant Anglo-Saxon with dreams of expansion that include
round earth, the student of sociology who wishes an insight into
cooperative methods as opposed to individualism, the young man anxious
to learn how to get on, parents with children to be equipped for the
struggle for existence, business men and employers of labor, all sit
down beside the dandelion and take its lesson to heart. How has it
managed without navies and armies--for it is no imperialist--to land
peaceful legions on every part of the civilized world and take
possession of the soil? How can this neglected wayside composite weed
triumph over the most gorgeous hothouse individual on which the
horticulturist expends all the science at his command; to flourish
others give up the struggle defeated; to send its vigorous offspring
abroad prepared for similar conquest of adverse conditions wherever
to attract myriads of customers to its department store, and by
consummate executive ability to make every visitor unwittingly
contribute to its success? Any one who doubts the dandelion's fitness
survive should humble himself by spending days and weeks on his knees,
trying to eradicate the plant from even one small lawn with a knife,
only to find the turf starred with golden blossoms, or, worse still
his point of view, hoary with seed balloons the following spring.
Deep, very deep, the stocky bitter root penetrates where heat and
drought affect it not, nor nibbling rabbits, moles, grubs of insects,
and other burrowers break through and steal. Cut off the upper portion
only with your knife, and not one, but several, plants will likely
sprout from what remains; and, however late in the season, will
economize stem and leaf to produce flowers and seeds, cuddled close
within the tuft, that set all your pains at naught. "Never say die" is
the dandelion's motto. An exceedingly bitter medicine is extracted
from the root of this dandelion. Likewise are the leaves bitter.
Although they appear so early in the spring, they must be especially
tempting to grazing cattle and predaceous insects, the rosettes remain
untouched, while other succulent, agreeable plants are devoured
wholesale. Only Italians and other thrifty Old World immigrants, who
go about then with sack and knife collecting the fresh young tufts,
give the plants pause; but even they leave the roots intact. When
boiled like spinach or eaten with French salad dressing, the bitter
juices are extracted from the leaves or disguised--mean tactics by an
enemy outside the dandelion's calculation. All nations know the plant
by some equivalent for the name dent de lion = lion's tooth,
the jagged edges of the leaves suggest.
After flowering, it again looks like a bud, lowering its head to mature
seed unobserved. Presently rising on a gradually lengthened scape to
elevate it where there is no interruption for the passing breeze from
surrounding rivals, the transformed head, now globular, white, airy, is
even more exquisite, set as it is with scores of tiny parachutes ready
to sail away. A child's breath puffing out the time of day, a vireo
plucking at the fluffy ball for lining to put in its nest, the summer
breeze, the scythe, rake, and mowing machines, sudden gusts of winds
sweeping the country before thunderstorms--these are among the agents
that set the flying vagabonds free. In the hay used for packing they
travel to foreign lands in ships, and, once landed, readily adapt
themselves to conditions as they find them. After soaking in the briny
ocean for twenty-eight days--long enough for a current to carry them a
thousand miles along the coast--they are still able to germinate.
Tall or Wild Lettuce; Wild Opium; Horse-weed
Flower-heads--Numerous, small, about 1/4 in. across,
cylindric, rays pale yellow; followed by abundant, soft, bright white
pappus; the heads growing in loose, branching, terminal clusters.
Stem: Smooth, 3 to 10 ft. high, leafy up to the flower
juice milky. Leaves: Upper ones lance-shaped; lower ones often
ft. long, wavy-lobed, often pinnatifid, taper pointed, narrowed into
Preferred Habitat--Moist, open ground; roadsides.
Distribution--Georgia, westward to Arkansas, north to the
Few gardeners allow the table lettuce (sativa) to go to seed;
it is next of kin to this common wayside weed, it bears a strong
likeness to it in the loose, narrow panicles of cream-colored flowers,
followed by more charming, bright, white little pompons. Where the
garden varieties originated, or what they were, nobody knows. Herodotus
says lettuce was eaten as a salad in 550 B.C.; in Pliny's time it was
cultivated, and even blanched, so as to be had at all seasons of the
year by the Romans. Among the privy-purse expenses of Henry VIII is a
reward to a certain gardener for bringing "lettuze" and cherries to
Hampton Court. Quaint old Parkinson, enumerating "the vertues of the
lettice," says, "They all cool a hot and fainting stomache." When the
milky juice has been thickened (lactucarium), it is sometimes
a substitute for opium by regular practitioners--a fluid employed by
plants themselves, it is thought, to discourage creatures from feasting
at their expense. Certain caterpillars, however, eat the leaves
but offer lettuce or poppy foliage to grazing cattle, and they will go
without food rather than touch it.
"What's one man's poison, Signer,
Is another's meat or drink."
Rabbits, for example, have been fed on the deadly nightshade for a week
Orange or Tawny Hawkweed; Golden Mouse-ear Hawkweed; Devil's
Flower-heads--Reddish orange; 1 in. across or less, the
overlapping in several series; several heads on short peduncles in a
terminal cluster. Stem: Usually leafless, or with 1 to 2 small
leaves; 6 to 20 in. high, slender, hairy, from a tuft of hairy,
spatulate, or oblong leaves at the base.
Preferred Habitat--Fields, woods, roadsides, dry places.
Distribution--Pennsylvania and Middle states northward
A popular title in England, from whence the plant originally came, is
Grimm the Collier. All the plants in this genus take their name from
hierax--a hawk, because people in the old country once
birds of prey swooped earthward to sharpen their eyesight with leaves
the hawkweed, hawkbit, or speerhawk, as they are variously called.
Transplanted into the garden, the orange hawkweed forms a spreading
of unusual, splendid color.
The Rattlesnake-weed, Early or Vein-leaf Hawkweed, Snake or Poor
Plantain (H. venosum), with flower-heads only about half an inch
across, sends up a smooth, slender stem, paniculately branched above,
display the numerous dandelion-yellow disks as early as May, although
October is not too late to find this generous bloomer in pine
dry thickets, and sandy soil. Purplish-veined oval leaves, more or less
hairy, that spread in a tuft next the ground, are probably as
efficacious in curing shake bites as those of the Rattlesnake Plantain.
When a credulous generation believed that the Creator had indicated
some sign on each plant the special use for which each was intended,
many leaves were found to have veinings suggesting the marks on a
snake's body; therefore, by simple reasoning, they must extract venom.
How delightful is faith cure!
BLUE TO PURPLE FLOWERS
Asters, Blue and Purple
Venus' Looking Glass
Violets, Blue and Purple
MAGENTA TO PINK
Moccasin Flower, Pink
WHITE AND GREENISH
Clover, White Sweet
Grass of Parnaoeas
New Jersey Tea
YELLOW AND ORANGE
Adder's Tongue, Yellow
Lily, Wild Yellow
RED AND INDEFINITES
Lily, Red, Wood
Painted Cups, Scarlet
INDEX OF NAMES
American white hellebore
Apple, May or Hog
Asters, Blue and Purple
Azalea, Pink, Purple, or Wild
Balm, Bee or Fragrant
Berry, Scarlet or Snake
Bindweed, Hedge or Great
Blue bells of Scotland
Blue-eyed grass, Pointed
Blue Mountain tea
Boneset, Tall or Purple
Broom, Yellow or Indigo
Camomile, Dog's or Foetid
Campion, Corn or Red
Cardinal flower, Blue
Clover, Common red, Purple, Meadow or Honeysuckle
Clover, White or Dutch
Clover, White sweet, Bokhara, or Tree
Corn cockle, rose or campion
Cornel, Low or Dwarf
Culver's root or physic
Cypripedium pubescens or hirsutum
Daisy, Blue spring
Daisy, White or Ox-eye
Daisy, Yellow or Ox-eye
Dodder, Gronovius' or Common
Dogbane, Spreading or Fly-trap
Downy false foxglove
Downy yellow violet
Early purple aster
Evening primrose family
Everlasting, Pearly or Large-flowered
False foxglove, Downy
False Solomon's seal
Field mustard or kale
Flag, Larger blue
Foxglove, Downy false
Frost-flower or Frost-wort
Gentian, Closed, Blind, or Bottle
Geranium, Wild or Spotted
Gerardia, Large purple
Giant St. John's-wort
Golden mouse-ear hawkweed
Grass of Parnassus
Great St. John's-wort
Habenaria blephariglottisHabenaria ciliaris
Habenaria fimbriata or grandiflora
Hairy golden aster
Hawkweed, Early or Vein leaf
Hawkweed, Golden mouse-ear
Hawkweed, Orange or Tawny
Heath aster, White
Hooded blue violet
Hypoxis hirsuta or erecta
Impatiens aurea or pallida
Impatiens biflora or fulva
Lady's tresses or traces, Nodding
Larger blue flag
Large purple gerardia
Large yellow lady's slipper
Large yellow pond or water lily
Late purple aster
Laurel, Mountain or American
Lettuce, Tall or Wild
Lily, Large yellow pond or water
Lily, Sweet-scented white water
Loosestrife, Four-leaved or Whorled
Low purple aster
Meadow buttercup, Common
Milkwort, Common, Field, or Purple
Mouse-ear hawkweed, Golden
Myosotis scorpioides or palustris
New England aster
New Jersey tea
Nodding ladies' tresses or traces
Old maid's bonnets
Old maid's pink
Old man's beard
Old man's pepper
Orchis, Gulf, Tubercled, or Small pale
Orchis, Large or Early purple-fringed
Painted cup, Scarlet
Parnassus, Grass of
Parsnip, Wild or Field
Peanut, Wild or Hog
Pentstemon hirsutus or pubescens
Pink, Ground or Moss
Pink, Hedge or Old maid's
Pink, Sea or Marsh
Plantain, Snake or Poor Robin's
Pointed blue-eyed grass
Polygala sanguinea or viridescens
Poor man's weatherglass
Poor Robin's plantain
Pride of Ohio
Purple-fringed orchis, Large or Early
Queen Anne's lace
Raspberry, Purple-flowering or Virginia
Rhododendron, American or Great
Rose mallow, Swamp
Rose of Plymouth
St. John's-wort family
Sarsaparilla, Wild or False
Seaside purple aster
Senna, Wild or American
Shepherd's weatherglass or clock
Showy purple aster
Shrubby St. John's-wort
Silene pennsylvanica or caroliniana
Small pale green orchis
Smooth yellow violet
Solomon's seal, False
Spotted wintergreen or pipsissewa
Spring daisy, Blue
Starworts, Blue and Purple
Stemless lady's slipper
Sunflower, Tall or Giant
Swamp pink or honeysuckle
Sweet clover, White
Sweet-scented white water-lily
Sweet white violet
Tall hairy golden-rod
Tare, Blue, Tufted, or Cow
Tea, Mountain or Ground
Thistle, Burr, Spear, Plume, Bank, Common, Horse, Bull, Blue, Button,
Bell, or Roadside
Thistle, Common or Plumed
Thistle, Pasture or Fragrant
Thorn, White or Scarlet fruited
Toadflax, Blue or Wild
Venus' lady's slipper
Vetch, Blue, Tufted, or Cow
Violet, Common purole, Meadow, or Hooded blue
Violet, Downy yellow
Violet, English, March or Sweet
Violet, Smooth yellow
Violet, Sweet white
Viper's herb or grass
Weatherglass, Poor Man's or Shepherd's
Wild lady's slipper
Wild yellow lily
Willow-herb, Creator Spiked
Wood aster, White
Wood lily, White
Wood-sorrel, White or True