Wild Flowers, An Aid to Knowledge of Our Wild Flowers and - Their Insect Visitors - - Title: Nature's Garden
by Neltje Blanchan
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Etext prepared by Gerry Rising.

WILD FLOWERS. An Aid to Knowledge of Our Wild Flowers and Their Insect Visitors

By Neltje Blanchan


Surely a foreword of explanation is called for from one who has the temerity to offer a surfeited public still another book on wild flowers. Inasmuch as science has proved that almost every blossom in the world is everything it is because of its necessity to attract insect friends or to repel its foes - its form, mechanism, color, markings, odor, time of opening and closing, and its season of blooming being the result of natural selection by that special insect upon which each depends more or less absolutely for help in perpetuating its species - it seems fully time that the vitally important and interesting relationship existing between our common wild flowers and their winged benefactors should be presented in a popular book.

Is it enough to know merely the name of the flower you meet in the meadow? The blossom has an inner meaning, hopes and fears that inspire its brief existence, a scheme of salvation for its species in the struggle for survival that it has been slowly perfecting with some insect's help through the ages. It is not a passive thing to be admired by human eyes, nor does it waste its sweetness on the desert air. It is a sentient being, impelled to act intelligently through the same strong desires that animate us, and endowed with certain powers differing only in degree, but not in kind, from those of the animal creation. Desire ever creates form.

Do you doubt it? Then study the mechanism of one of our common orchids or milkweeds that are adjusted with such marvelous delicacy to the length of a bee's tongue or of a butterfly's leg; learn why so many flowers have sticky calices or protective hairs; why the skunk cabbage, purple trillium, and carrion flower emit a fetid odor while other flowers, especially the white or pale yellow night bloomers, charm with their delicious breath; see if you cannot discover why the immigrant daisy already whitens our fields with descendants as numerous as the sands of the seashore, whereas you may tramp a whole day without finding a single native ladies' slipper. What of the sundew that not only catches insects, but secretes gastric juice to digest them? What of the bladderwort, in whose inflated traps tiny crustaceans are imprisoned, or the pitcher plant, that makes soup of its guests? Why are gnats and flies seen about certain flowers, bees, butterflies, moths or humming birds about others, each visitor choosing the restaurant most to his liking? With what infinite pains the wants of each guest are catered to! How relentlessly are pilferers punished! The endless devices of the more ambitious flowers to save their species from degeneracy by close inbreeding through fertilization with their own pollen, alone prove the operation of Mind through them. How plants travel, how they send seeds abroad in the world to found new colonies, might be studied with profit by Anglo-Saxon expansionists. Do vice and virtue exist side by side in the vegetable world also? Yes, and every sinner is branded as surely as was Cain. The dodder, Indian pipe, broomrape and beech-drops wear the floral equivalent of the striped suit and the shaved head. Although claiming most respectable and exalted kinsfolk, they are degenerates not far above the fungi. In short, this is a universe that we live in; and all that share the One Life are one in essence, for natural law is spiritual law. "Through Nature to God," flowers show a way to the scientist lacking faith.

Although it has been stated by evolutionists for many years that in order to know the flowers, their insect relationships must first be understood, it is believed that "Nature's Garden" is the first American work to explain them in any considerable number of species. Dr. Asa Gray, William Hamilton Gibson, Clarence Moores Weed, and Miss Maud Going in their delightful books or lectures have shown the interdependence of a score or more of different blossoms and their insect visitors. Hidden away in the proceedings of scientific societies' technical papers are the invaluable observations of such men as Dr. William Trelease of Wisconsin and Professor Charles Robertson of Illinois. To the latter especially, I am glad to acknowledge my indebtedness. Sprengel, Darwin, Muller, Delpino, and Lubbock, among others, have given the world classical volumes on European flora only, but showing a vast array of facts which the theory of adaptation to insects alone correlates and explains. That the results of illumining researches should be so slow in enlightening the popular mind can be due only to the technical, scientific language used in setting them forth, language as foreign to the average reader as Chinese, and not to be deciphered by the average student either, without the help of a glossary. These writings, as well as the vast array of popular books - too many for individual mention - have been freely consulted after studies made afield.

To Sprengel belongs the glory of first exalting flowers above the level of botanical specimens. After studying the wild geranium he became 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, one, Nehemias Grew, had said that it was necessary for pollen to reach the stigma of a flower in order that it might set fertile seed, and Linnaeus bad to come to his rescue with conclusive evidence to convince a doubting world that he was right. 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 within the wild geranium protect its nectar from rain for the insect benefactor's benefit; that most flowers which secrete nectar have what he termed "honey guides" - spots of bright color, heavy veining, or some such pathfinder for the visitor on the petals; that sometimes the male flowers, the staminate ones, are separated from the seed-bearing or pistillate ones on distinct plants, he left it to Darwin to show that cross-fertilization by insects, 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 marvelous floral mechanism is adapted. The wind is a wasteful, uncertain pollen distributor. Insects transfer it more economically, especially the more highly organized and industrious ones. In a few instances hummingbirds, as well, unwittingly do the flower's bidding while they feast now here, now there. In spite of Sprengel's most patient and scientific research, that shed great light on the theory of natural selection a half century before Darwin advanced it, he never knew that flowers are nearly always sterile to pollen of another species when carried to them on the bodies of insect visitors, or that cross-pollenized blossoms defeat the self-pollinated ones in the struggle for survival. These facts Darwin proved in endless experiments.

Because bees depend absolutely upon flowers, not only for their own food but for that of future generations for whom they labor; because they are the most diligent of all visitors, and are rarely diverted from one species of flower to another while on their rounds collecting, as they must, both nectar and pollen, it follows they are the most important fertilizing agents. It is estimated that, should they perish, more than half the flowers in the world would be exterminated with them! Australian farmers imported clover from Europe, and although they had luxuriant fields of it, no seed was set for next year's planting, because they had failed to import the bumblebee. After his arrival, their loss was speedily made good.

Ages before men cultivated gardens, they had tiny helpers they knew not of. Gardeners win all the glory of producing a Lawson pink or a new chrysanthemum; but only for a few seasons do they select, hybridize, according to their own rules of taste. They take up the work where insects left it off after countless centuries of toil. Thus it is to the night-flying moth, long of tongue, keen of scent, that we are indebted for the deep, white, fragrant Easter lily, for example, and not to the florist; albeit the moth is in his turn indebted to the lily for the length of his tongue and his keen nerves: neither could have advanced without the other. What long vistas through the ages of creation does not this interdependence of flowers and insects open!

Over five hundred flowers in this book have been classified according to color, because it is believed that the novice, with no knowledge of botany whatever, can most readily identify the specimen found afield by this method, which has the added advantage of being the simple one adopted by the higher insects ages before books were written. Technicalities have been avoided in the text wherever possible, not to discourage the beginner from entering upon one of the most enjoyable and elevating branches of Nature study. The scientific names and classification follow that method adopted by the International Botanical Congress which has now superseded all others; nevertheless the titles employed by Gray, with which older botanists in this country are familiar, are also indicated where they differ from the new nomenclature.

NELTJE BLANCHAN, New York, March, 1900


Preface List of Illustrations Blue to Purple Flowers Magenta to Pink Flowers White and Greenish Flowers Yellow and Orange Flowers Red and Indefinites Appendices: Fragrant Flowers or Leaves Unpleasantly Scented Plants and Shrubs Conspicuous in Fruit Plant Families Represented

"Let us content ourselves no longer with being mere 'botanists' - historians of structural facts. The flowers are not mere comely or curious vegetable creations, with colors, odors, petals, stamens and innumerable technical attributes. The wonted insight alike of scientist, philosopher, theologian, and dreamer is now repudiated in the new revelation. Beauty is not 'its own excuse for being,' nor was fragrance ever 'wasted on the desert air.' The seer has at last heard and interpreted the voice in the wilderness. The flower is no longer a simple passive victim in the busy bee's sweet pillage, but rather a conscious being, with hopes, aspirations and companionships. The insect is its counterpart. Its fragrance is but a perfumed whisper of welcome, its color is as the wooing blush and rosy lip, its portals are decked for his coming, and its sweet hospitalities humored to his tarrying; and as it speeds its parting affinity, rests content that its life's consummation has been fulfilled." - William Hamilton Gibson.

"I often think, when working over my plants, of what Linnaeus once said of the unfolding of a blossom: 'I saw God in His glory passing near me, and bowed my head in worship.' The scientific aspect of the same thought has been put into words by Tennyson:

'Flower in the crannied wall I pluck you out of the crannies, I hold you here, root and all in my hand Little flower, - but if I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is.'

No deeper thought was ever uttered by poet. For in this world of plants, which, with its magician, chlorophyll, conjuring with sunbeams, is ceaselessly at work bringing life out of death, - in this quiet vegetable world we may find the elementary principles of all life in almost visible operation." - JOHN FISKE in "Through Nature to God."


"If blue is the favorite color of bees, and if bees have so much to do with the origin of flowers, how is it that there are so few blue ones? I believe the explanation to be that all blue flowers have descended from ancestors in which the flowers were green; or, to speak more precisely, in which the leaves surrounding the stamens and pistil were green; and that they have passed through stages of white or yellow, and generally red, before becoming blue." - Sir John Lubbock in "Ants, Bees, and Wasps."

VIRGINIA or COMMON DAY-FLOWER (Commelina Virginica) Spiderwort family

Flowers - Blue, 1 in. broad or less, irregular, grouped at end of stem, and upheld by long leaf-like bracts. Calyx of 3 unequal sepals; 3 petals, 1 inconspicuous, 2 showy, rounded. Perfect stamens 3; the anther 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: A 3-celled capsule, seed in each cell. Preferred Habitat - Moist, shady ground. Flowering Season - June - September. Distribution - Southern New York to Illinois and Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, and through tropical America to Paraguay. - Britton and Browne.

Delightful Linnaeus, who dearly loved his little joke, himself confesses 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."

In the morning we find the day-flower open and alert-looking, owing to the sharp, erect bracts that give it support; after noon, or as soon as it has been fertilized by the female bees, that are its chief benefactors while collecting its abundant pollen, the lovely petals roll up, never to open again, and quickly wilt into a wet, shapeless mass, which, if we touch it, leaves a sticky blue fluid on our finger-tips.

The SLENDER DAY-FLOWER (C. erecta), the next of kin, a more fragile-looking, smaller-flowered, and narrower-leafed species, blooms from August to October, from Pennsylvania southward to tropical America and westward to Texas.

SPIDERWORT; WIDOW'S or JOB'S TEARS (Tradescantia Virginiana) Spiderwort family

Flowers - Purplish blue, rarely white, showy, ephemeral, 1 to 2 in. broad; usually several flowers, but more drooping buds, clustered and seated between long blade-like bracts at end of stern. Calyx of 3 sepals, much longer than capsule. Corolla of 3 regular petals; 6 fertile stamens, bearded; anthers orange; 1 pistil. Stem: 8 in. to 3 ft. tall, fleshy, erect, mucilaginous, leafy. Leaves: Opposite, long, blade-like, keeled, clasping, or sheathing stem at base. Fruit: 3-celled capsule. Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods, thickets, gardens. Flowering Season - May-August. Distribution - New York and Virginia westward to South Dakota and Arkansas.

As so very many of our blue flowers are merely naturalized immigrants from Europe, it is well to know we have sent to England at least one native that was considered fit to adorn the grounds of Hampton Court. John Tradescant, gardener to Charles I, for whom the plant and its kin were named, had seeds sent him by a relative in the Virginia colony; and before long the deep azure blossoms with their golden anthers were seen in gardens on both sides of the Atlantic - another one of the many instances where the possibilities of our wild flowers under cultivation had to be first pointed out to us by Europeans.

Like its relative the dayflower, the spiderwort opens for part of a day only. In the morning it is wide awake and pert; early in the afternoon its petals have begun to retreat within the calyx, until presently they become "dissolved in tears," like Job or the traditional widow. What was flower only a few hours ago is now a fluid jelly that trickles at the touch. Tomorrow fresh buds will open, and a continuous succession of bloom may be relied upon for a long season. Since its stigma is widely separated from the anthers and surpasses them, it is probable the flower cannot fertilize itself, but is wholly dependent on the female bees and other insects that come to it for pollen. Note the hairs on the stamens provided as footholds for the bees.

The plant is a cousin of the "Wandering Jew" (T. repens), so commonly grown either in water or earth in American sitting-rooms. In a shady lane within New York city limits, where a few stems were thrown out one spring about five years ago, the entire bank is now covered with the vine, that has rooted by its hairy joints, and, in spite of frosts and blizzards, continues to bear its true-blue flowers throughout the summer.

PICKEREL WEED (Pontederia cordata) Pickerel-weed family

Flowers - Bright purplish blue, including filaments, anthers, and 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, fleshy, to 4 ft. tall, not often over 2 ft. above water line. Leaves: Several bract-like, sheathing stem at base; leaf only, midway on flower-stalk, 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. Flowering Season - June-October. 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 as the gradually lengthened spike keeps up an uninterrupted succession of bloom for months, more than ample provision is made for the perpetuation 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 up in summer, and often the pickerel weed looks as brown as a bulrush where it is stranded in the baked mud in August. When seed falls on such ground, if indeed it germinates at all, the young plant naturally withers away.

In the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Mr. W. H. Leggett, who made a careful study of the flower, tells that three forms occur, not on the same, but on different plants, being even more distinctly trimorphic than the purple Loosestrife. As these flowers set no seed without insects' aid, the provisions made to secure the greatest benefit from their visits are marvelous. Of the three kinds of blossoms, one raises its stigma on a long style reaching to the top of the flower; a second form lifts its stigma only halfway up, and the third keeps its stigma in the bottom of the tube. Now, there are two sets of stamens, three in each set bearing pollen grains of different size and value. Whenever the stigma is high, the two sets of stamens keep out of its way by occupying the lowest and middle positions, or just where the stigmas occur in the two other forms; or, let us say, whenever the stigma is in one of the three positions, the different sets of stamens occupy the other two. In a long series of experiments on flowers occurring in two and three forms - dimorphic and trimorphic - Darwin proved that perfect fertility can be obtained only when the stigma in each form is pollenized with grains carried from the stamens of a corresponding height. For example, a bee on entering the flower must get his abdomen dusted with pollen from the long stamens, his chest covered from the middle-length stamens, and his tongue and chin from the set in the bottom of the tube nearest the nectary. When he flies off to visit another flower, these parts of his body coming in contact with the stigmas that occupy precisely the position where the stamens were in other individuals, he necessarily brushes off each lot of pollen just where it will do the most good. Pollen brought from high stamens, for example, to a low stigma, even should it reach it, which is scarcely likely, takes little or no effect. Thus cross-fertilization is absolutely essential, and in three-formed flowers there are two chances to one of securing it.

WILD HYACINTH, SCILLA or SQUILL. QUAMASH (Quamasia kyacinthina; Scilla Fraseri of Gray) Lily family

Flowers - Several or many, pale violet blue, or rarely white, in a long, loose raceme; perianth of 6 equal, narrowly oblong, widely spreading divisions, the thread-like filaments inserted at their bases; style thread-like, with 3-lobed stigma. Scape: 1 to 2 ft. high, from egg-shaped, nearly black bulb, 1 to 1 1/2 in. long. Leaves: Grass-like, shorter than flowering scape, from the base. Fruit: A 3-angled, oval capsule containing shining black seeds. Preferred Habitat - Meadows, prairies, and along banks of streams. Flowering Season - April-May. Distribution - Pennsylvania and Ohio westward to Minnesota, south to Alabama and Texas.

Coming with the crocuses, before the snow is off the ground, and remaining long after their regal gold and purple chalices have withered, the Siberian scillas sold by seedsmen here deserve a place in every garden, for their porcelain-blue color is rare as it is charming; the early date when they bloom makes them especially welcome; and, once planted and left undisturbed, the bulbs increase rapidly, without injury from overcrowding. Evidently they need little encouragement to run wild. Nevertheless they are not wild scillas, however commonly they may be miscalled so. Certainly ladies' tresses, known as wild hyacinth in parts of New England, has even less right to the name.

Our true native wild hyacinth, or scilla, is quite a different flower, not so pure a blue as the Siberian scilla, and paler; yet in the middle West, where it abounds, there are few lovelier sights in spring than a colony of these blossoms directed obliquely upward from slender, swaying scapes among the lush grass. Their upward slant brings the stigma in immediate contact with an incoming visitor's pollen-laden body. As the stamens diverge with the spreading of the divisions of the perianth, to which they are attached, the stigma receives pollen brought from another flower, before the visitor dusts himself anew in searching for refreshment, thus effecting cross-pollination. Ants, bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and beetles may be seen about the wild hyacinth, which is obviously best adapted to the bees. The smallest insects that visit it may possibly defeat Nature's plan and obtain nectar without fertilizing the flower, owing to the wide passage between stamens and stigma. In about an hour, one May morning, Professor Charles Robertson captured over six hundred insects, representing thirty-eight distinct species, on a patch of wild hyacinths in Illinois.

The bulb of a MEDITERRANEAN SCILLA (S. maritima) furnishes the sourish-sweet syrup of squills used in medicine for bronchial troubles.

The GRAPE HYACINTH (Muscari botrycides), also known as Baby's Breath, because of its delicate faint fragrance, escapes from gardens at slight encouragement to grow wild in the roadsides and meadows from Massachusetts to Virginia and westward to Ohio. Its tiny, deep-blue, globular flowers, stiffly set around a fleshy scape that rises between erect, blade-like, channeled leaves, appear spring after spring wherever the small bulbs have been planted. On the east end of Long Island there are certain meadows literally blued with the little runaways.

PURPLE TRILLIUM, ILL-SCENTED WAKE-ROBIN or BIRTH-ROOT (Trillium erectum) Lily-of-the-Valley family

Flowers - Solitary, dark, dull purple, or purplish red; rarely 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 i6 in. high, from tuber-like rootstock. Leaves: In a whorl of 3; broadly ovate, abruptly pointed, netted-veined. Fruit: A 6-angled, ovate, reddish berry. Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods. Flowering Season - April-June. Distribution - Nova Scotia westward to Manitoba, southward to North 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 certain insects needful for cross-pollination. Which are they? Beetles have been 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), which 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 the preceding, is seated in a whorl of three egg-shaped, sometimes blotched, leaves, possesses a rather pleasant odor; nevertheless it seems. to have 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 its way toward an ideal of which we see a part only complete. In deep, rich, moist woods and thickets the. sessile trillium blooms in April or May, from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Minnesota southward nearly to the Gulf.


Flowers - Several, 2 to 3 in. long, violet-blue variegated with yellow, green, or white, and purple veined. Six divisions of the perianth: 3 outer ones spreading, recurved; 1 of them bearded, much longer and wider 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 ft. high, 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 prominently 3-lobed, and with 2 rows of round, flat seeds closely packed in each cell. Rootstock: Creeping, horizontal, fleshy. Preferred Habitat - Marshes, wet meadows. Flowering Season - May-July. Distribution - Newfoundland and Manitoba to Arkansas and Florida.

"The fleur-de-lys, which is the flower of chivalry," says Ruskin, "has a 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 became corrupted into its present form. Doubtless the royal flower was the white iris, and as li is the Celtic for white, there is room for 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."

When Napoleon wished to pose as the true successor of those ancient French kings whose territory included the half of Europe - ignoring every Louis who ever sat on the throne, for their very name and emblem had become odious to the people - he discarded the fleur-de-lis, to replace it with golden bees, the symbol in armory for industry and perseverance. It is said some relics of gold and fine stones, somewhat resembling an insect in shape, had been found in the tomb of Clovis's father, and on the supposition that these had been bees, Napoleon appropriated them for the imperial badge. Henceforth "Napoleonic bees" appeared on his coronation robe and wherever a heraldic emblem could be employed.

But even in the meadows of France Napoleon need not have looked far from the fleurs-de-lis growing there to find bees. Indeed, 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 moisture, 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 John 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 marvelously guarded against fertilization from its own pollen. The bee, flying off to another iris, must first brush past the projecting lip of the over-arching 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 because unable to perpetuate its race. And yet man has greedily appropriated all the beauties of the floral kingdom as designed for his sole delight

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.

In spite of the name given to another species, the SOUTHERN BLUE FLAG (I. hexagona) is really the larger one; its leaves, which are bright green, and never hoary, often equaling the stem in its height of from two to three feet. The handsome solitary flower, similar to that of the larger blue flag, nevertheless has its broad outer divisions fully an inch larger, and is seated in the axils at the top of the circular stem. The oblong, cylindric, six-angled capsule also contains two rows of seeds in each cavity. From South Carolina and Florida to Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas one finds this iris blooming in the swamps during April and May.

The SLENDER BLUE FLAG (I. prismatica; I. Virginica of Gray), found growing from New Brunswick to North Carolina, but mainly near the coast, and often in the same oozy ground with the larger blue flag, may be known by its grass-like leaves, two or three of which usually branch out from the slender flexuous stem; by its solitary or two blue flowers, variegated with white and veined with yellow, that rear themselves on slender foot-stems; and by the sharply three-angled, narrow, oblong capsule, in which but one row of seeds is borne in each cavity. This is the most graceful member of a rather stiffly stately family.

POINTED BLUE-EYED GRASS; EYE-BRIGHT; BLUE STAR (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) Iris family

Flowers - From blue to purple, with a yellow center; a Western variety, white; usually several buds at the end of 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, 2-edged. Leaves: Grass-like, pale, rigid, mostly from base. Fruit: 3-celled capsule, nearly globose. Preferred Habitat - Moist fields and meadows. Flowering Season - May-August. Distribution - Newfoundland to British Columbia, from eastern slope of 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 on 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 in 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 or EARLY, PURPLE-FRINGED ORCHIS (Habenaria grandiflora; H. fimbriata of Gray) Orchid family

Flowers - Pink-purple and pale lilac, sometimes nearly white; fragrant, alternate, clustered in thick, dense spikes from 3 to 15 in. long. Upper 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: Oval, large, sheathing the stem below; smaller, lance-shaped ones higher up; bracts above. Root: Thick, fibrous. Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist meadows, muddy places, woods. Flowering Season - June-August. Distribution - New Brunswick to Ontario; southward to North Carolina, 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 marvelous mechanism, and Gray, his instant disciple, revealed the hidden purposes of our native American species, no less wonderfully constructed than the 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 to 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, whose 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 disks 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 center, or just far enough to require the moth, in thrusting his proboscis into the nectary, to strike 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 with a pollen mass attached to his tongue, instead of to his eyes; this is when he does not make his entrance from the exact center - 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 little horns; and their change of attitude while they are being carried to fertilize another flower is quite as exquisitely exact.

Usually in wetter ground than we find its more beautiful big sister growing in, most frequently in swamps and bogs, the SMALLER PURPLE-FRINGED ORCHIS (H. psycodes) lifts its perfumed lilac spires. Thither go the butterflies and long-lipped bees to feast in July and August. Inasmuch as without their aid the orchid must perish from its inability to set fertile seed, no wonder it woos its benefactors with a showy mass of color, charming fringes, sweet perfume, and copious draughts of nectar, and makes their visits of the utmost value to itself by the ingenious mechanism described above. Here is no waste of pollen; that is snugly packed in little bundles, ready to be carried off, but placed where they cannot come in contact with the adjoining stigma, since every orchid, almost without exception, refuses to be deteriorated through self-fertilization.

>From New Jersey and Illinois southward, particularly in mountainous regions, if not among the mountains themselves, the FRINGELESS PURPLE ORCHIS (H. perarnoena) may be found blooming in moist meadows through July and August. Moisture, from which to manufacture the nectar that orchids rely upon so largely to entice insects to work for them, is naturally a prime necessity; yet Sprengel attempted to prove that many orchids are gaudy shams and produce no nectar, but exist by an organized system of deception. "Scheinsaftblumen" he called them. From the number of butterflies seen hovering about this fringeless orchis and its more attractive kin, it is small wonder their nectaries are soon exhausted and they are accused of being gay deceivers. Sprengel's much-quoted theory would credit moths, butterflies, and even the highly intelligent bees with scant sense; but Darwin, who thoroughly tested it, forever exonerated these insects from imputed stupidity and the flowers from gross dishonesty. He found that many European orchids secrete their nectar between the outer and inner walls of the tube, which a bumblebee can easily pierce, but where Sprengel never thought to look for it. The large lip of this orchis is not fringed, but has a fine picotee edge. The showy violet-purple, long-spurred flowers are alternately set on a stem that is doing its best if it reach a height of two and a half feet.

WATER-SHIELD or WATER TARGET (Brasenia purpurea; B. peltata of Gray) Water-lily family

Flowers - Small, dull purplish, about 1/2 in. across, on stout footstalks from axils of upper leaves; 3 narrow sepals and petals; stamens 12 to 18; pistils 4 to 18, forming 1 to 3-seeded pods. Stem: From submerged rootstock; slender, branching, several feet long, covered with clear jelly, as are footstalks and lower leaf surfaces. Leaves: On long petioles attached to center of underside of leaf, floating or rising, oval to roundish, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 1/2 to 2 in. wide. Preferred Habitat - Still, rather deep water of ponds and slow streams. Flowering Season - All summer. Distribution - Parts of Asia, Africa, and Australia, Nova Scotia to Cuba, and westward from California to Puget Sound.

Of this pretty water plant Dr. Abbott says, in "Wasteland Wanderings": "I gathered a number of floating, delicate leaves, and endeavored to secure the entire stem also; but this was too difficult a task for an August afternoon. The under side of the stem and leaf are purplish brown and were covered with translucent jelly, embedded in which were millions of what I took to be insects' eggs. They certainly had that appearance. I was far more interested to find that, usually, beneath each leaf there was hiding a little pike. The largest was not two inches in length. When disturbed, they swam a few inches, and seemed wholly 'at sea' if there was not another leaf near by to afford them shelter."

EUROPEAN or COMMON GARDEN COLUMBINE (Aquilegia vulgaris) Crowfoot family

Flowers - Showy, blue, purple, or white, 1 1/2 to 2 in. broad, or about as broad as long; spurs stout and strongly incurved. General characteristics of plant resembling wild columbine. Preferred Habitat - Escaped from gardens to woods and fields in Eastern and Middle States. Native of Europe. Flowering Season - May-July.

A heavier, less graceful flower than either the wild red and yellow columbine or the exquisite, long-spurred, blue and white species (A. coerulea) of the Rocky Mountain region; nevertheless this European immigrant, now making itself at home here, is a charming addition to our flora. How are insects to reach the well of nectar secreted in the tip of its incurved, hooked spur? Certain of the long-lipped bees, large bumblebees, whose tongues have developed as rapidly as the flower, are able to drain it. Hummingbirds, partial to red flowers, fertilize the wild columbine, but let this one alone. Muller watched a female bumblebee making several vain attempts to sip this blue one. Soon the brilliant idea of biting a hole through each spur flashed through her little brain, and the first experiment proving delightfully successful, she proceeded to bite holes through other flowers without first trying to suck them. Apparently she satisfied her feminine conscience with the reflection that the flower which made dining so difficult for its benefactors deserved no better treatment.

FIELD or BRANCHED LARKSPUR; KNIGHT'S-SPUR; LARK-HEEL (Delphinium Consoilda) Crowfoot family

Flowers - Blue to pinkish and whitish, 1 to 1 1/2 in. long, hung on slender stems and scattered along spreading branches; 5 petal-like sepals, the rear one prolonged into long, slender, curving spur; 2 petals, united. Stem: 1 to 2 1/2 ft. high. Leaves: Divided into very finely cut linear segments. Fruit: Erect, smooth pod tipped with a short beak; open on one side. Preferred Habitat - Roadsides and fields. Flowering Season - June-August. Distribution - Naturalized from Europe; from New Jersey southward, occasionally escaped from gardens farther north.

Keats should certainly have extolled the larkspurs in his sonnet on blue. No more beautiful group of plants contributes to the charm of gardens, woods, and roadsides, where some have escaped cultivation and become naturalized, than the delphinium, that take their name from a fancied resemblance to a dolphin (delphin), given them by Linnaeus in one of his wild flights of imagination. Having lost the power to fertilize themselves, according to Muller, they are pollenized by both bees and butterflies, insects whose tongues have kept pace with the development of certain flowers, such as the larkspur, columbine, and violet, that they may reach into the deep recesses of the spurs where the nectar is hidden from all but benefactors.

The TALL WILD LARKSPUR (D. urceolatum; D. exaltatum of Gray) waves long, crowded, downy wands of intense purplish blue in the rich woods of Western Pennsylvania, southward to the Carolinas and Alabama, and westward to Nebraska. Its spur is nearly straight, not to increase the difficulty a bee must have in pressing his lips through the upper and lower petals to reach the nectar at the end of it. First, the stamens successively raise themselves in the passage back of the petals to dust his head; then, when each has shed its pollen and bent down again, the pistil takes its turn in occupying the place, so that a pollen-laden bee, coming to visit the blossom from an earlier flower; can scarcely help fertilizing it. It is said there are but two insects in Europe with lips long enough to reach the bottom of the long horn of plenty hung by the BEE LARKSPUR (D. elatum), that we know only in gardens here. Its yellowish bearded lower petals readily deceive one into thinking a bee has just alighted there.

>From April to June the DWARF LARKSPUR or STAGGER-WEED (D. tricorne), which, however, may sometimes grow three feet high, lifts a loose raceme of blue, rarely white, flowers an inch or more long, at the end of a stout stem rising from a tuberous root. Its slightly ascending spur, its three widely spreading seed vessels, and the deeply cut leaf of from five to seven divisions are distinguishing characteristics. From Western Pennsylvania and Georgia to Arkansas and Minnesota it is found in rather stiff soil. Butterflies, which prefer erect flowers, have some difficulty to cling while they drain the almost upright spurs, especially the Papilios, which usually suck with their wings in motion. But the bees, to which the delphinium are best adapted, although butterflies visit them quite as frequently, find a convenient landing place prepared for them, and fertilize the flower while they sip with ease.

More slender, downy, and dwarf of stem than the preceding is the CAROLINA LARKSPUR (D. Carolinianum), whose blue flowers, varying to white, and its very finely cleft leaves, may be found in the South, on prairies in the North and West, and in the Rocky Mountain region.


Flowers - Blue, lavender, purple, pinkish, or white; occasionally, not 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 involucre directly under flower, simulate a calyx, for which they might be mistaken. Stems: Spreading from the root, 4 to 6 in. high, a solitary flower or leaf borne at end of each furry stem. Leaves: 3-lobed and 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 pistils, dry, 1-seeded, oblong, sharply pointed, never opening. Preferred Habitat - Woods; light soil on hillsides. Flowering Season - December-May. Distribution - Canada to Northern Florida, Manitoba to Iowa and Missouri. Most common East.

Even under the snow itself bravely blooms the delicate hepatica, wrapped 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 gates 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 of 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 and recalls that of the sweet violets. A correspondent, who seems to have carefully observed these fragrant hepaticas, writes me that this gift of odor is constant in the same plant; that the plant which bears sweet-scented flowers this year will bear them next."

It is not evident that insect aid is necessary to transfer the tiny, hairy spiral ejected from each cell of the antherid, after it has burst from ripeness, to the canal of the flask-shaped organ at whose base the germ-cell is located. Perfect flowers can fertilize themselves. But pollen-feeding flies, and female hive bees which collect it, and the earliest butterflies trifle about the blossoms when the first warm days come. Whether they are rewarded by finding nectar or not is still a mooted question. Possibly the papillae which cover the receptacle secrete nectar, for almost without exception the insect visitors thrust their proboscides down between the spreading filaments as if certain of a sip. None merely feed on the pollen except the flies and the hive bee.

The SHARP-LOBED LIVER-LEAF (Hepatica acuta) differs chiefly from the preceding in having the ends of the lobes of its leaves and the tips of the three leaflets that form its involucre quite sharply pointed. Its range, while perhaps not actually more westerly, appears so, since it is rare in the East, where its cousin is so abundant; and common in the West, where the round-lobed liver-leaf is scarce. It blooms in March and April. Professor Halsted has noted that this species bears staminate flowers on one plant and pistillate flowers on another; whereas the Hepatica Hepatica usually bears flowers of both sexes above the same root. The blossoms, which close at night to keep warm, and open in the morning, remain on the beautiful plant for a long time to accommodate the bees and flies that, in this case, are essential to the perpetuation of the species.

PURPLE VIRGIN'S BOWER (Atragene Americana) Crowfoot family

Flowers - Showy, purplish blue, about 3 in. across; 4 sepals, broadly expanded, thin, translucent, strongly veined, very large, simulating petals; petals small, spoon-shaped; stamens very numerous ; styles long, persistent, plumed throughout. Stem: Trailing or partly climbing with the help of leafstalks and leaflets. Leaves: Opposite, compounded of 3 egg-shaped, pointed leaflets on slender petioles. Preferred Habitat - - Rocky woodlands. Flowering Season - May-June. Distribution - Hudson Bay westward, south to Minnesota and Virginia.

The day on which one finds this rare and beautiful flower in some rocky ravine high among the hills or mountains becomes memorable to the budding botanist. At an elevation of three thousand feet in the Catskills it trails its way over the rocks, fallen trees, and undergrowth of the forest, suggesting some of the handsome Japanese species introduced by Sieboldt and Fortune to Occidental gardens. No one who sees this broadly expanded blossom could confuse it either with the thick and bell-shaped purple LEATHER-FLOWER (C. Viorna), so exquisitely feathery in fruit, that grows in rich, moist soil from Pennsylvania southward and westward; or with the far more graceful and deliciously fragrant purple MARSH CLEMATIS (C. crispa) of our Southern States. The latter, though bell-shaped also, has thin, recurved sepals, and its persistent styles are silky, not feathery at seed-time.


Flowers - Dull purplish, very pale or bright reddish purple in close, round, terminal clusters, each flower 1/3 in. or less across, 5-parted, the petals twice as long as the sepals; 10 stamens, alternate ones attached to petals; pistils 4 or 5. Stem: 2 ft. high or less, erect, simple, in tufts, very smooth, pale green, juicy, leafy. Leaves: Alternate, oval, slightly scalloped, thick, fleshy, smooth, juicy, pale gray green, with stout midrib, seated on stalk. Preferred Habitat - Fields, waysides, rocky soil, originally escaped from gardens. Flowering Season - June- September. Distribution - Quebec westward, south to Michigan and Maryland.

Children know the live-forever, not so well by the variable flower - for it is a niggardly bloomer - as by the thick leaf that they delight to hold in the mouth until, having loosened the membrane, they are able to inflate it like a paper bag. Sometimes dull, sometimes bright, the flower clusters never fail to attract many insects to their feast, which is accessible even to those of short tongues. Each blossom is perfect in itself, i.e., it contains both stamens and pistils; but to guard against self-fertilization it ripens its anthers and sheds its pollen on the insects that carry it away to older flowers before its own stigmas mature and become susceptible to imported pollen. After the seed-cases take on color, they might be mistaken for blossoms.

As if the plant did not already possess enough popular names, it needs must share with the European goldenrod and our common mullein the title of Aaron's rod. Sedere, to sit, the root of the generic name, applies with rare appropriateness to this entire group that we usually find seated on garden walls, rocks, or, in Europe, even on the roofs of old buildings. Rooting freely from the joints, our plant forms thrifty tufts where there is little apparent nourishment; yet its endurance through prolonged drought is remarkable. Long after the farmer's scythe, sweeping over the roadside, has laid it low, it thrives on the juices stored up in fleshy leaves and stem until it proves its title to the most lusty of all folk names.

PURPLE or WATER AVENS (Geum rivale) Rose family

Flowers - Purple, with some orange chrome, 1 in. broad or less, terminal, solitary, nodding; calyx 5-lobed, purplish, spreading; 5 petals, abruptly narrowed into claws, forming a cup-shaped corolla; stamens and pistils of indefinite number; the styles, jointed and bent in middle, persistent, feathery below. Stem: 1 to 2 ft. high, erect, simple or nearly so, hairy, from thickish rootstock. Leaves: Chiefly from root, on footstems; lower leaves irregularly parted; the side segments usually few and small; the 1 to 3 terminal segments sharply, irregularly lobed; the few distant stem leaves 3-foliate or simple, mostly seated on stem. Fruit: A dry, hairy head stalked in calyx. Preferred Habitat - Swamps and low, wet ground. Flowering Season - May-July. Distribution - Newfoundland far westward, south to Colorado, eastward to Missouri and Pennsylvania, also northern parts of Old World.

Mischievous bumblebees, thrusting their long tongues between the sepals and petals of these unopened flowers, steal nectar without conferring any favor in return. Later, when they behave properly and put their heads inside to feast at the disk on which the stamens are inserted, they dutifully carry pollen from old flowers to the early maturing stigmas of younger ones. Self-fertilization must occur, however, if the bees have not removed all the pollen when a blossom closes. When the purple avens opens in Europe, the bees desert even the primrose to feast upon its abundant nectar. Since water is the prime necessity in the manufacture of this sweet, and since insects that feed upon it have so much to do with the multiplication of flowers, it is not surprising that the swamp, which has been called "nature's sanctuary," should have its altars so exquisitely decked. This blossom hangs its head, partly to protect its precious nectar from rain, and partly to make pilfering well nigh impossible to the unwelcome crawling insect that may have braved the forbidding hairy stems.


Flowers - Vivid blue, very rarely pink or white, butterfly-shaped corolla consisting of standard, wings, and keel; about 1/2 in. long, borne in a long raceme at end of stern; calyx 2-lipped, deeply toothed. Stem: Erect, branching, leafy, to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Palmnate, compounded of from 7 to 11 (usually 8) leaflets. Fruit: A broad, flat, very hairy pod, 1 1/2 in. long, and containing 4 or 5 seeds. Preferred Habitat - Dry, sandy places, banks, and hillsides. Flowering Season - May-June. Distribution - United States east of Mississippi, and eastern Canada.

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 wolf; whereas the lupine contents itself with sterile waste land no one should grudge it - steep gravelly banks, railroad tracks, exposed sunny hills, where even it must often burn out under fierce sunshine did not its root 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."

What is the advantage gained in the pea-shaped blossom? As usual, the insect that fertilizes the flower best knows the answer. The corolla has five petals, the upper one called the standard, chiefly a flaunted advertisement; two side wings, or platforms, to alight on; and a keel like a miniature boat, formed by the two lower petals, whose edges meet. In this the pistil, stamens, and nectar are concealed and protected. The pressure of a bee's weight as he alights on the wings, light as it must be, is nevertheless sufficient to depress and open the keel, which is elastically affected by their motion, and so to expose the pollen just where the long-lipped bee must rub off some against his underside as he sucks the nectar. He actually seems to pump the pollen that has fallen into the forward part of the keel upon himself, as he moves about. As soon as he leaves the flower, the elastic wings resume their former position, thus closing the keel to prevent waste of pollen. Take a sweet pea from the garden, press down its wings with the thumb and forefinger to imitate the action of the bee on them; note how the keel opens to display its treasures, and resumes its customary shape when the pressure is removed.

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."

CANADIAN or SHOWY TICK-TREFOIL (Meibomia Canadensis; Desmodium Canadense of Gray) Pea family

Flowers - Pinkish or bluish purple, butterfly-shaped, about 1/2 in. long, borne in dense, terminal, elongated racemes. Stem; Erect, hairy, leafy, 2 to 8 ft. high. Leaves: Compounded of 3 oblong leaflets, the central one largest; upper leaves nearly seated on stem; bracts, conspicuous before flowering, early falling off. Fruit: A flat pod, about 1 in. long, jointed, and covered with minute hooked bristles, the lower edge of pod scalloped; almost seated in calyx. Preferred Habitat - Thickets, woods, riverbanks, bogs. Flowering Season - July-September. Distribution - New Brunswick to Northwest Territory, south to North Carolina, westward to Indian Territory and Dakota.

As one travels hundreds or even thousands of miles in a comfortable railway carriage and sees the same flowers growing throughout the length and breadth of the area, one cannot but wonder however the plants manage to make the journey. We know some creep along the ground, or under it, a tortoise pace, but a winning one; that some send their offspring flying away from home, like dandelions and thistles; and many others with wings and darts are blown by the wind. Berries have their seeds dropped afar by birds. Aquatic plants and those that grow beside running water travel by river and flood. European species reach our shores among the ballast. Darwin raised over sixty wild plants from seed carried in a pellet of mud taken from the leg of a partridge. So on and so on. The imagination delights to picture these floral vagabonds, each with its own clever method of getting a fresh start in the world. But by none of these methods just mentioned do the tick-trefoils spread abroad. Theirs is indeed a by hook or by crook system. The scalloped, jointed pod, where the seeds lie concealed, has minute crooked bristles, which catch in the clothing of man or beast, so that every herd of sheep, every dog, every man, woman, or child who passes through a patch of trefoils gives them a lift. After a walk through the woods and lanes of late summer and autumn, one's clothes reveal scores of tramps that have stolen a ride in the hope of being picked off and dropped amid better conditions in which to rear a family.

Only the largest bees can easily "explode" the showy tick-trefoil. A bumblebee alights upon a flower, thrusts his head under the base of the standard petal, and forces apart the wing petals with his legs, in order to dislodge them from the standard. This motion causes the keel, also connected with the standard, to snap down violently, thus releasing the column within and sending upward an explosion of pollen on the under surface of the bee. Here we see the wing petals acting as triggers to discharge the flower. Depress them and up flies the fertilizing dust - once. The little gun will not "go off" twice. No nectar rewards the visitor, which usually is a pollen-collecting bee. The highly intelligent and important bumblebee has the advantage over his smaller kin in being able to discharge the pollen from both large and smaller flowers.

The NAKED-FLOWERED TICK-TREFOIL (M. nudiflora; D. nudiflorum of Gray) lifts narrow, few-flowered panicles of rose-purple blooms during July and August. The flowers are much smaller than those of the showy trefoil; however, when seen in masses, they form conspicuous patches of color in dry woods. Note that there is a flower stalk which is usually leafless and also a leaf-bearing stem rising from the base of the plant, the latter with its leaves all crowded at the top, if you would distinguish this very common species from its multitudinous kin. The trefoliate leaves are pale beneath. The two or three jointed pod rises far above the calyx on its own stalk, as in the next species.

The POINTED-LEAVED TICK-TREFOIL (M. grandifiora; D. acuminatum of Gray) has for its distinguishing feature a cluster of leaves high up on the same stem from which rises a stalk bearing a quantity of purple flowers that are large by comparison only. The leaves have leaflets from two to six inches long, rounded on the sides, but acutely pointed, and with scattered hairs above and below. This trefoil is found blooming in dry or rocky woods, throughout a wide range, from June to September.

Lying outstretched for two to six feet on the dry ground of open woods and copses east of the Mississippi, the PROSTRATE TICK-TREFOIL (M. Michauxii; D. rotundifoliurn of Gray) can certainly be named by its soft hairiness, the almost perfect roundness of its trefoliate leaves, its rather loose racemes of deep purple flowers that spring both from the leaf axils and from the ends of the sometimes branching stem; and by its three to five jointed pod, which is deeply scalloped on its lower edge and somewhat indented above, as well.


Flowers - Blue, later purple; 1/2 in. long, growing downward in 1-sided 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: Slender, weak, climbing or trailing, downy, 2 to 4 ft. long. Leaves: Tendril bearing, divided into 18 to 24 thin, narrow, oblong leaflets. Fruit: A smooth pod 1 in. long or less, 5 to 8 seeded. Preferred Habitat - Dry soil, fields, wastelands. Flowering Season - June-August. Distribution - United States from New Jersey, Kentucky, and Iowa 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. Dr. 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 surreptitiously, the natural inference, of course, being that some bees, like small boys, are naturally depraved.

In cultivated fields and waste places farther south and westward to the Pacific Coast roams the COMMON or PEBBLE VETCH OR TARE (V. saliva), another domesticated weed that has come to us from Europe, where it is extensively grown for fodder. Let no reproach fall on these innocent plants that bear an opprobrious name: the tare of Scripture is altogether different, the bearded darnel of Mediterranean regions, whose leaves deceive one by simulating those of wheat, and whose smaller seeds, instead of nourishing man, poison him. Only one or two light blue-purple flowers grow in the axils of the leaves of our common vetch. The leaf, compounded of from eight to fourteen leaflets, indented at the top, has a long terminal tendril, whose little sharp tip assists the awkward vine, like a grappling hook.

The AMERICAN VETCH or TARE or PEA VINE (V. Americana) boasts slightly larger bluish-purple flowers than the blue vetch, but fewer of them; from three to nine only forming its loose raceme. In moist soil throughout a very broad northerly and westerly range it climbs and trails its graceful way, with the help of the tendrils on the tips of leaves compounded of from eight to fourteen oblong, blunt, and veiny leaflets.

BEACH, SEA, SEASIDE, or EVERLASTING PEA (Lathyrus maritimus) Pea family

Flowers - Purple, butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard petal, wings, and keel; 1 in. long or less, clustered in short raceme at end of slender footstalk from leaf axils; calyx 5-toothed; stamens 10 (9 and 1); style curved, flattened, bearded on inner side. Stem: to 2 ft. long, stout, reclining, spreading, leafy. Leaves: Compounded of 3 to 6 pairs of oblong leaflets somewhat larger than halberd-shaped stipules at base of leaf; branched tendrils at end of it. Fruit: A flat, 2-valved, veiny pod, continuous between the seeds. Preferred Habitat - Beaches of Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, also of Great Lakes. Flowering Season - May-August. Sometimes blooming again in autumn. Distribution - New Jersey to Arctic Circle; also Northern Europe and Asia.

Sturdy clumps of the beach pea, growing beyond reach of the tide in the dunes and sandy wastelands back of the beach, afford the bee the last restaurant where he may regale himself without fear of drowning. From some members of the pea family, as from the wild lupine, for example, his weight, as he moves about, actually pumps the pollen that has fallen into the forward part of the blossom's keel onto his body, that he may transfer it to another flower. In some other members his weight so depresses the keel that the stamens are forced out to dust him over, the flower resuming its original position to protect its nectar and the remaining pollen just as soon as the pressure is removed. Other peas, again, burst at his pressure, and discharge their pollen on him. Now, in the beach pea, and similarly in the vetches, the style is hairy on its inner side, to brush out the pollen on the visitor who sets the automatic sweeper in motion as he alights and moves about. So perfectly have many members of this interesting family adapted their structure to the requirements of insects, and so implicitly do they rely on their automatic mechanism, that they have actually lost the power to fertilize themselves.

In moist or wet ground throughout a northern range from ocean to ocean, the MARSH VETCHLING (Lathyrus palustris) bears its purple, butterfly-shaped flowers, that are the merest trifle over half the size of those of the beach pea. From two to six of these little blossoms are alternately set along the end of the stalk. The leaflets, which are narrowly oblong, and acute at the apex, stand up opposite each other in pairs (from two to four) along the main leafstalk, that splits at the end to form hooked tendrils.

BUTTERFLY or BLUE PEA (Clitoria Mariana) Pea family

Flowers - Bright lavender blue, showy, about 2 in. long; from 1 to 3 borne on a short peduncle. Calyx tubular, 5-toothed; corolla butterfly-shaped, consisting of very large, erect standard petal, notched at rounded apex; 2 oblong, curved wings, and shorter, acute keel; 10 stamens; style incurved, and hairy along inner side. Stem: Smooth, ascending or partly twining, 1 to 3 ft. high. Leaves: Compounded of 3 oblong leaflets, paler beneath, each on short stalk. Fruit: A few-seeded, acutely pointed pod about 1 in. long. Preferred Habitat - Dry soil. Flowering Season - June-July. Distribution - New Jersey to Florida, westward to Missouri, Texas, and Mexico.

A beautiful blossom, flaunting a large banner out of all proportion to the size of its other parts, that it may arrest the attention of its benefactors the bees. According to Henderson, the plant, which is found in our Southern States and over the Mexican border, grows also in the Khasia Mountains of India, but in no intervening place. Several members of the tropic-loving genus, that produce large, highly colored flowers, have been introduced to American hothouses; but the blue butterfly pea is our only native representative. The genus is thought to take its name from kleio, to shut up, in reference to the habit these peas have of seeding long before the flower drops off.

WILD or HOG PEANUT (Falcata comosa; Amphicarpaea monoica of Gray) Pea family

Flowers - Numerous small, showy ones, borne in drooping clusters from 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 pistil. (Also solitary fertile flowers, lacking petals, on thread-like, creeping branches from lower axils or underground). Stem: Twining wiry brownish-hairy, to 8 ft. long. Leaves: Compounded of 3 thin leaflets, egg-shaped at base, acutely pointed at tip. Fruit: Hairy pod 1 in. long. Also 1-seeded, pale, rounded, underground peanut. Preferred Habitat - Moist thickets, shady roadsides. Flowering Season - August-September. Distribution - New Brunswick westward to Nebraska, south to Gulf of Mexico.

Amphicarpaea ("seed at both ends"), the Greek name by which this graceful vine was formerly 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 showy lilac blossoms of the wild peanut yield comparatively few cross-fertilized seeds, these are quite sufficient to enable the vine to maintain those desired features which are the inheritance from ancestors 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 pasture 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,

VIOLETS (Viola) Violet family

Lacking perfume only to be a perfectly satisfying flower, the COMMON, PURPLE, MEADOW, or HOODED BLUE VIOLET (V. obliqua; V. cucullata of Gray) has nevertheless 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 in 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 center 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.

Beards on the spurred lower petal and the two side petals give the bees a foothold when they turn head downward, as some must, to suck nectar. This attitude enables them to receive the pollen dusted on their abdomens, when they jar the flower, at a point nearest their pollen-collecting hairs. It is also an economical advantage to the flower which can sift the pollen downward on the bee instead of exposing it to the pollen-eating interlopers. Among the latter may be classed the bumblebees and butterflies whose long lips and tongues pilfer ad libitum. "For the proper visitors of the bearded violets," says Professor Robertson, "we must look to the small bees, among which the Osmias are the most important."

When science was younger and hair splitting an uncommon indulgence of botanists, the EARLY BLUE VIOLET (Viola palmata) was thought to be simply a variety of the common purple violet, whose heart-shaped leaves frequently show a tendency to divide into lobes. But the early blue violet, however roundish or heart-shaped its early leaves may be, has the later ones variously divided into from three to thirteen lobes, often almost as much cut on the sides as the leaves of the bird's-foot violet. In dry soil, chiefly in the woods, this violet may be found from Southern Canada westward to Minnesota, and south to northern boundaries of the Gulf States. Only its side petals are bearded to form footrests for the insects that search for the deeply secreted nectar. Many butterflies visit this flower. On entering it a bee must first touch the stigma before any fresh golden pollen is released from the anther cone, and cross-fertilization naturally results.

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 lower 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 from 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.

The WOOLLY BLUE VIOLET (V. sororia), whose stems and younger leaves, at least, are covered with hairs, and whose purplish-blue flowers are more or less bearded within, prefers a shady but dry situation; whereas its next of kin, the ARROW-LEAVED VIOLET (V. sagittata), delights in moist but open meadows and marshes. The latter's long, arrow, or halberd-shaped leaves, usually entire above the middle, but slightly lobed below it, may rear themselves nine inches high in favorable soil, or in dry uplands perhaps only two inches. The flowering scapes grow as tall as the leaves. All but the lower petal of the large, deep, dark, purplish-blue flower are bearded. This species produces an abundance of late cleistogamous flowers on erect stems. These peculiar greenish flowers without petals, that are so often mistaken for buds or seed vessels; that never open, but without insect aid ripen quantities of fertile seed, are usually borne, if not actually under ground, then not far above it, on nearly all violet plants. It will be observed that all species which bear blind flowers rely somewhat on showy, cross-fertilized blossoms also to counteract degeneracy from close inbreeding.

The OVATE-LEAVED VIOLET (V. ovata), formerly reckoned as a mere variety of the former species, is now accorded a distinct rank. Not all the blossoms, but an occasional clump, has a faint perfume like sweet clover. The leaf is elongated, but rather too round to be halberd-shaped; the stems are hairy; and the flowers, which closely resemble those of the arrow-leaved violet, are earlier; making these two species, which are popularly mistaken for one, among the earliest and commonest of their clan. The dry soil of upland woods and thickets is the ovate-leaved violet's preferred habitat.

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 the true 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 scientific spirit:

"1. Why is the flower situated on a long stalk which is upright, but curved downwards 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 stamens. 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 not come in contact with the bee.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse