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. Asa Don Dickinson, and is now offered in the hope that many more people will 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 perpetuation and the improvement of their species. The means they employ to accomplish these ends are so various and so consummately clever that, in 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 few 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 the bank for future use, of punishing vice and rewarding virtue—these and many other problems of mankind the flowers have worked out with the help of insects, through the ages. To really understand what the wild flowers are doing, what the scheme of each one is, besides looking beautiful, is 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 Gray's New 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
WATER-PLANTAIN FAMILY (Alismaceae) Broad-leaved Arrow-head
ARUM FAMILY (Araceae) Jack-in-the-Pulpit; Skunk Cabbage
SPIDERWORT FAMILY (Commelinaceae) Virginia or Common Day-flower
PICKEREL-WEED FAMILY (Pontederiaceae) Pickerel Weed
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"; Yellow Clintonia; Wild Spikenard or False Solomon's Seal; Hairy, True or Twin-flowered Solomon's Seal; Early or Dwarf Wake-Robin; Purple Trillium; Ill-scented Wake-Robin or Birth-root; Carrion flower
AMARYLLIS FAMILY (Amaryllidaceae) Yellow Star-grass
IRIS FAMILY (Iridaceae) Larger Blue Flag, Blue Iris or Fleur-de-lis; Blackberry Lily; Pointed Blue-eyed Grass, Eye-bright or Blue Star
ORCHIS FAMILY (Orchidaceae) Large Yellow Lady's Slipper, Whippoorwill's Shoe or Yellow Moccasin Flower; Moccasin Flower or Pink, Venus' or Stemless Lady's Slipper; Showy, Gay or Spring Orchis; Large, Early or Purple-fringed Orchis; White-fringed Orchis; Yellow-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) Common Chickweed; Corn Cockle, Corn Rose, Corn or Red Campion, or Crown-of-the-Field; Starry Campion; 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 Squirrel Cup; 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; Wild Columbine; 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) Bloodroot; Greater Celandine or Swallow-wort
FUMITORY FAMILY (Fumariaceae) Dutchman's Breeches; Squirrel Corn
MUSTARD FAMILY (Cruciferae) Shepherd's Purse; Black Mustard
PITCHER-PLANT FAMILY (Sarraceniaceae) Pitcher-plant, Side-saddle Flower or Indian Dipper
SUNDEW FAMILY (Dioseraceae) Round-leaved Sundew or Dew-plant
SAXIFRAGE FAMILY (Saxifragaceae) Early Saxifrage; False Miterwort, Coolwort or Foam Flower; Grass of Parnassus
WITCH-HAZEL FAMILY (Hamamelidaceae) Witch-hazel
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; Wild Roses
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; Ground-nut; Wild or Hog Peanut
WOOD-SORREL FAMILY (Oxalidaceae) White or True Wood-sorrel or Alleluia; Violet Wood-sorrel
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; Yellow Violets; White 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) Flowering Dogwood
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 Pinxter-flower; 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; Star-flower; Scarlet Pimpernel, Poor Man's Weatherglass or Shepherd's Clock; Shooting Star or American Cowslip
GENTIAN FAMILY (Gentianaceae) Bitter-bloom or Rose-Pink; Fringed Gentian; Closed or Blind Gentian
DOGBANE FAMILY (Apocynaceae) Spreading or Fly-trap Dogbane
MILKWEED FAMILY (Asclepiadaceae) Common Milkweed or Silkweed; Butterfly-weed
CONVOLVULUS FAMILY (Convolvulaceae) Hedge or Great Bindweed; Gronovius' or Common Dodder or Strangle-weed
POLEMONIUM FAMILY (Polemoniaceae) Ground or Moss Pink
BORAGE FAMILY (Boraginaceae) Forget-me-not; 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; Motherwort; Oswego Tea, Bee Balm or Indian's Plume; Wild Bergamot
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; Moth Mullein; Butter-and-eggs or Yellow Toadflax; Blue or Wild Toadflax or Blue Linaria; Hairy Beard-tongue; Snake-head, Turtle-head or Cod-head; Monkey-flower; Common Speedwell, Fluellin or Paul's Betony; American Brooklime; Culver's-root; Downy False Foxglove; Large Purple Gerardia; Scarlet Painted Cup or Indian Paint-brush; Wood Betony or Loosewort
BROOM-RAPE FAMILY (Orobanchaceae) Beech-drops
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' Looking-glass or Clasping Bellflower
LOBELIA FAMILY (Lobeliaceae) Cardinal Flower; Great Lobelia
COMPOSITE FAMILY (Compositae) Iron-weed or Flat Top; Joe Pye Weed, Trumpet Weed, or Tall or Purple Boneset or Thoroughwort; Golden-rods; Blue and Purple Asters or Starworts; White Asters or Starworts; Golden Aster; Daisy Fleabane or Sweet Scabious; Robin's or Robert's Plantain or Blue Spring Daisy; Pearly or Large-flowered Everlasting or Immortelle, Elecampane or Horseheal; 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; Common Dandelion; Tall or Wild Lettuce; Orange or Tawny Hawkweed or Devil's Paint-brush
GENERAL INDEX OF NAMES
WATER-PLANTAIN FAMILY (Alismaceae)
Sagittaria latifolia (S. variabilis)
Flowers—White, 1 to 1-1/2 in. wide, in 3-bracted whorls of 3, borne 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 variable; 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 the circumpolar regions.
Wading into shallow water or standing on some muddy shore, like a heron, 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 of 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.
ARUM FAMILY (Araceae)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit; Indian Turnip
Flowers—Minute, greenish yellow, clustered on the lower part of a 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 slender 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 thickened club.
Preferred Habitat—Moist woodland and thickets.
Distribution—Nova Scotia westward to Minnesota, and southward to the Gulf states.
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; or 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 gnat, 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, for 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 provided 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 the 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 in 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 and 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 to 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 thick, rounded, fleshy spadix, and hidden within a swollen, shell-shaped, purplish-brown to greenish-yellow, usually mottled, spathe, close to the ground, that appears before the leaves. Spadix much enlarged and spongy in fruit, the bulb-like berries imbedded in its surface. Leaves: In 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 Minnesota and Iowa.
This despised relative of the stately calla lily proclaims spring in the very teeth of winter, being the first bold adventurer above ground. When 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 is 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 tempting, 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 base of the grooved leafstalks.
SPIDERWORT FAMILY (Commelinaceae)
Virginia, or Common Day-flower
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, 1 seed in each cell.
Preferred Habitat—Moist, shady ground.
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." Soon after noon, the day-flower's petals roll up, never to open again.
PICKEREL-WEED FAMILY (Pontederiaceae)
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, 1 to 4 ft. tall, not often over 2 ft. above water line. Leaves: Several bract-like, sheathing stem at base; 1 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.
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 bullrush 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.
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 only 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 with pollen from long, middle-length, and short stamens respectively. When he visits 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 brushes off each lot of pollen just where it will do the most good.
LILY FAMILY (Liliaceae)
American White Hellebore; Indian Poke; Itch-weed
Flowers—Dingy, pale yellowish or whitish green, growing greener with 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. tall. Leaves: Plaited, lower ones broadly oval, pointed, 6 to 12 in. long; 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; southward in 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 "Anatomie 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 weed, 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 foliage 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, and speckled 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 rootstock composed of numerous fleshy white scales. Leaves: Lance-shaped to oblong; usually in whorls of fours to tens, or some alternate. Fruit: An erect, oblong, 3-celled capsule, the flat, horizontal seeds packed in 2 rows in each cavity.
Preferred Habitat—Swamps, low meadows, moist fields.
Distribution—Nova Scotia to Georgia, westward beyond the Mississippi.
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 on 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, neither 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 wild in 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 life 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 enough 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 have our being."
Tallest and most prolific of bloom among our native lilies, as it is the most variable in color, size, and form, the Turk's Cap, or Turban Lily (L. superbum), sometimes nearly merges its identity into its Canadian 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 the surrounding vegetation. Like the color of most flowers, theirs intensifies in salt air. Commonly from three to seven lilies appear in a 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, or sometimes 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, lance-shaped, seated at intervals on the stem.
Preferred Habitat—Dry woods, sandy soil, borders, and thickets.
Distribution—Northern border of United States, westward to Ontario, 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 Celtic 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 purple, 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 and streaked with brown or all green, oblong, 3 to 8 in. long, narrowing into clasping petioles.
Preferred Habitat—Moist open woods and thickets, brooksides.
Distribution—Nova Scotia to Florida, westward to the Mississippi.
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 spring, however, at once sees the fitting application of adder's tongue. But how 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 ground thaws.
Flowers—Straw color or greenish yellow, less than 1 in. long, 3 to 6 nodding on slender pedicels from the summit of a leafless scape 6 to 15 in. tall. Perianth of 6 spreading divisions, the 6 stamens attached; style, 3-lobed. Leaves: Dark, glossy, large, oval to oblong, 2 to 5 (usually 3), sheathing at the base. Fruit: Oval blue berries on upright pedicels.
Preferred Habitat—Moist, rich, cool woods and thickets.
Distribution-—From the Carolinas and Wisconsin far northward.
To name canals, bridges, city thoroughfares, booming factory towns after 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 to the lovers of flowers in Massachusetts? If named after a man, it must be 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 leisure 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 densely flowered terminal raceme. Perianth of 6 separate, spreading segments; 6 stamens; 1 pistil. Stem: Simple, somewhat angled, 1 to 3 ft. high, 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 and British Columbia.
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 of 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, from the axils of the true Solomon's Seal. Later in summer, when hungry birds wander through the woods with increased families, the Wild Spikenard offers them branching clusters of pale red speckled berries, whereas the 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, 1 to 4, but 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 to 4 in. long, seated on stem, pale beneath and softly hairy along veins. Rootstock: Thick, horizontal, jointed, scarred. (Polygonatum = many joints.) Fruit: A blue-black berry.
Preferred Habitat—Woods, thickets, shady banks.
Distribution—New Brunswick to Florida, westward to Michigan.
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 erect or curved 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 rootstock. Leaves: 3 in a whorl below the flower, 1 to 2 in. long, broadly oval, rounded at end, on short petioles. Fruit: A 3-lobed reddish berry, about 1/2 in. diameter, the sepals adhering.
Preferred Habitat—Rich, moist woods and thickets.
Distribution—Pennsylvania, westward to Minnesota and Iowa, south to Kentucky.
Only this delicate little flower, as white as the snow it sometimes must 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 lovely that many shady nooks in English rock-gardens and ferneries contain imported clumps of the vigorous plant—is the Large-flowered Wake-Robin, or White Wood Lily (T. grandiflorum). Under favorable conditions the 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 may 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 far westward as Ontario and Missouri, and south to Georgia, is the Nodding Wake-Robin (T. cernuum), whose white or pinkish flower droops from its 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 Painted 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 leaves, 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; 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 16 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.
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—Carrion-scented, yellowish-green, 15 to 80 small, 6-parted ones clustered in an umbel on a long peduncle. Stem: Smooth, unarmed, climbing with the help of tendril-like appendages from the base of leafstalks. Leaves: Egg-shaped, heart-shaped, or rounded, pointed tipped, parallel-nerved, petioled. Fruit: Bluish-black berries.
Preferred Habitat—Moist soil, thickets, woods, roadside fences.
Distribution—Northern Canada to the Gulf states, westward to Nebraska.
"It would be safe to say," says John Burroughs, "that there is a species of smilax with an unsavory name, that the bee does not visit, herbacea. The production of this plant is a curious freak of 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.
AMARYLLIS FAMILY (Amaryllidaceae)
Hypoxis hirsuta (H. erecta)
Flowers—Bright yellow within, greenish and hairy outside, about 1/2 in. across, 6-parted; the perianth divisions spreading, narrowly oblong; 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 scapes, slender, grass-like, more or less hairy.
Preferred Habitat—Dry, open woods, prairies, grassy waste places, fields.
Distribution—From Maine far westward, and south to the Gulf of Mexico.
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 must 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.
IRIS FAMILY (Iridaceae)
Larger Blue Flag; Blue Iris; Fleur-de-lis; Flower-de-luce
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.
Distribution—Newfoundland and Manitoba to Arkansas and Florida.
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 marvellously guarded against fertilization from its own pollen. The bee, 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 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 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."
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 crimson and purple within (Pardos = leopard; anthos = flower); borne in 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 and Missouri.
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 its 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 Western 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, 2-edged. Leaves: Grass-like, pale, rigid, mostly from base. Fruit: 3-celled capsule, nearly globose.
Preferred Habitat—Moist fields and meadows.
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 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.
ORCHIS FAMILY (Orchidaceae)
Large Yellow Lady's Slipper; Whippoorwill's Shoe; Yellow Moccasin Flower
Cypripedium pubescens (C. hirsutum)
Flower—Solitary, large, showy, borne at the top of a leafy stem 1 to 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 to 5 in. long, parallel-nerved, sheathing.
Preferred Habitat—Moist or boggy woods and thickets; hilly ground.
Distribution—Nova Scotia to Alabama, westward to Minnesota and Nebraska.
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 delicately 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 Washington.
Moccasin Flower; Pink, Venus', or Stemless Lady's Slipper
Flowers—Fragrant, solitary, large, showy, drooping from end of scape, 6 to 12 in. high. Sepals lance-shaped, spreading, greenish purple, 2 in. 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 to 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 vanquish the offspring of self-fertilization in the struggle for existence." This has been the motto of the orchid family for ages. No group of plants has 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 but that a bee must use some force to push against its elastic sloping sides 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 papillae, 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 to 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 lower lip 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. high, thick, fleshy, 5-sided. Leaves: 2, large, broadly ovate, glossy green, silvery on underside, rising from a few scales from root. Fruit: A sharply angled capsule, 1 in. long.
Preferred Habitat—Rich, moist woods, especially under hemlocks.
Distribution—From New Brunswick and Ontario southward to our Southern 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 cornucopia 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, frogs, 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 from 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 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.
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 marvellous 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 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 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 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 little 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 6 in. long. 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 Canada to Newfoundland.
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 man, but for the bee, the moth, and the butterfly, are orchids where they are and what they are.
Flowers—Bright yellow or orange, borne in a showy, closely set, oblong spike, 3 to 6 in. long. The lip of each flower copiously fringed; 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: Lance-shaped, clasping.
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 spire of inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers, more attractive to the eye of the 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 that 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 of 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, small, 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, loose 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 1-1/2 ft. high, slender, naked. Leaf: Solitary, long, grass-like, from a round bulb arising from bulb of previous year.
Preferred Habitat—Swamps, cranberry bogs, and low meadows.
Distribution—Newfoundland to Florida, and westward to the Mississippi.
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; but we 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, violet 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 first, coming after the flower, but attaining length of 6 in. Root: Bulbous. Fruit: A 6-ribbed capsule, 1 in. long, rarely maturing.
Preferred Habitat—Northern bogs and swamps.
Distribution—From North Carolina and Indiana northward to the Fur Countries.
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 with 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, fragrant, nodding 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 several pointed, wrapping bracts. Leaves: From or near the base, linear, almost grass-like.
Preferred Habitat—Low meadows, ditches, and swamps.
Distribution—Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico, and westward to the Mississippi.
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 mechanism, 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 guide it aright, and by the slight contact with the furrowed rostellum, it splits, and releases a boat-shaped disk standing vertically on its stern 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 sticky, milky fluid exudes, hardens, and the boat-shaped disk, with pollen masses attached, may be withdrawn on the bristle just as the bee removes 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," says 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."
BUCKWHEAT FAMILY (Polygonaceae)
Common Persicaria, Pink Knotweed, or Jointweed; Smartweed
Flowers—Very small, pink, collected in terminal, dense, narrow obtuse 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: Oblong, lance-shaped, entire edged, 2 to 11 in. long, with stout midrib, sharply tapering at tip, rounded into short petioles below.
Preferred Habitat—Waste places, roadsides, moist soil.
Distribution—Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico; westward to Texas and Minnesota.
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 discourage the pilferers. Shortly after fertilization, the little rounded, flat-sided fruit begins to form inside the persistent pink calyx. At any 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, about 1/4 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: Stout, pithy, erect, branching, reddening toward the end of summer, 4 to 10 ft. tall, from a large, perennial, poisonous root. Leaves: Alternate, 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 waste soil, 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 leaves, and even the footstalks, take on splendid tints of crimson lake, and the dark berries hang heavy with juice in the thickets, then the birds, with 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 fertilizers 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 annihilated 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.
PINK FAMILY (Caryophyllaceae)
Stellaria media (Alsine media)
Flowers—Small, white, on slender pedicels from leaf axils, also in terminal clusters. Calyx (usually) of 5 sepals, much longer than the 5 (usually) 2-parted petals; 2-10 stamens; 3 or 4 styles. Stem: Weak, branched, tufted, leafy, 4 to 6 in. long, a hairy fringe on one side. Leaves: Opposite, actually oval, lower ones petioled, upper ones 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 chickweed flowers.
Corn Cockle; Corn Rose; Corn or Red Campion; Crown-of-the-Field
Flowers—Magenta or bright purplish crimson, 1 to 3 in. broad, 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: Opposite, seated on stem, long, narrow, pointed, erect. Fruit: a 1-celled, many-seeded capsule.
Preferred Habitat—Wheat and other grain fields; dry, waste places.
Distribution—United States at large; most common in Central and 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 own 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 James the 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 clustered in a showy, pyramidal panicle. Calyx bell-shaped, swollen, 5-toothed, sticky; 5 fringed and clawed petals; 10 long, exserted stamens; 3 styles. Stem: Erect, leafy, 2 to 3-1/2 ft. tall, rough-hairy. Leaves: Oval, 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 to the 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 it 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, on slender 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 tufts. Leaves: Basal ones spatulate; 2 or 3 pairs of lance-shaped, smaller leaves seated on stem.
Preferred Habitat—Dry, gravelly, sandy, or rocky soil.
Distribution—New England, south to Georgia, westward to Kentucky.
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 it, and here their struggles end as flies' do on sticky fly-paper, or birds' 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; Fuller's Herb
Flowers—Pink or whitish, fragrant, about 1 inch broad, loosely 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 3 in. long, about 1 in. wide, 3 to 5 ribbed. Fruit: An oblong capsule, 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 she 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.
PURSLANE FAMILY (Portulacaceae)
Spring Beauty; Claytonia
Flowers—White veined with pink, or all pink, the veinings of deeper 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 above, 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 Georgia and Texas.
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 incurved horn before the others have even started.
WATER-LILY FAMILY (Nymphaeaceae)
Large Yellow Pond, or Water, Lily; Cow Lily; Spatterdock
Nymphaea advena (Nuphar advena)
Flowers—Yellow or greenish outside, rarely purple tinged, round, depressed, 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 in. across. Sepals 6, unequal, concave, thick, 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 of Mexico, 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 be remembered,