National Geographic : 1927 May
WILD FLOWERS OF THE WEST ard is wanting and close inspection will reveal other differences. The two broad wings are brightly colored sepals which inclose the three inconspicuous petals. One of the latter is curiously fringed, thus affording the bee a foothold as it probes for the nectar. The entire method of pollina tion is intricate and unusual, but the flowers are not entirely dependent upon insect visitors. Like those other irregular flowers, the violets, the milkwort bears inconspicuous blossoms near the roots. Tlese do not take the trouble to open at all, but are self-pollinated in the bud, open ing only to free the imprisoned seeds. MALLOW FAMILY Malvacacae Bush Mallow (Malastrum fasciculatum [Nutt.] Greene. Plate V, figure I). - The deli cate rose-lavender flowers of the bush mallow nestle among soft gray leaves on wandlike branches and make the tall shrubs a distinctive feature of the hillsides and canyons in southern California. The fragrant blossoms appear in the spring and summer and look very like small hollyhocks. The (lark crimson of the stamens forms a pleasing contrast to thle paler petals, their number and habit of uniting the filaments into a column furnishing a clue to the relation ship. Resembling buttercups and poppies in abun dance of stamens and the latter also in the loose union of the pistils, they find their place in the family tree near these groups. The mallow family furnishes many favorites of garden and greenhouse, the hollyhock rank ing first. The waxmallow (Malvaviscus arbo reus) is attractive, not only because of its beauty, but also on account of its ease of growth and freedom from insects. Abutilon and hibiscus are other favorites. Mission Mallow (La'atera assurgcntiflora Kell. Plate V, figure 2).-The brilliant rose purple flowers with conspicuous dark veinings, together with the beautiful maplelike evergreen leaves of the mission mallow, justify the Fran ciscan monks in their choice of this shrub as an ornamental in their gardens. From these it has escaped and now runs wild throughout the coast region of California, though it may be found most abundantly in the northern part of the State. The mission mallow is especially striking in the ravines and gullies of bold headlands, where it braves the salt spray, with the silvery salt bush for its companion. For this reason it is often employed as a windbreak for vegetable gardens near the sea. The plants are easy of cultivation and will grow from seed to a height of six feet, and flower within the year. Checkerbloom (Sidalcca malvaeflora [DC.] Gray. Plate V, figure 3).-The spreading stems of the checkerbloom rise gracefully from basal clusters of geraniumlike leaves and bear ex quisite rose-lavender flowers along their upper sides. Found along the coast as far north as Washington and eastward to Wyoming and Texas, they form an attractive feature of grassy hills and mesas in spring and early summer, offering an effective contrast to the stiff bunches of blue-flowered grass-irises. GERANIUM FAMILY Geraniaceae Wild Geranium (Geranium incisium Nutt. Plate V, figure 4).-Brightening the margins of the Sierra woods with magenta blossoms or venturing forth along the roadsides, the wild geranium is a familiar sight in spring and sum mer, from the Yosemite north and eastward to the Rockies. The shade forms are taller, smoother, and thinner-leaved than the plants that prefer the sunshine, the latter often be coming small and hairy. The eastern wild geranium (Geranium nacu latnii) finds its home in open deciduous woods from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Mississippi to the Atlantic. Its root fur nishes the extract of geranium used in medicine as an astringent. Near relatives of the geranium are the com mon nasturtium (Tropacolum majus) and the garden balsam (Inpaticns balsanmina). In Cali fornia the former often escapes and turns canyon floors into a kaleidoscope of color. The garden balsam may be found growing wild in shady woods of the East and as far west as Kansas and Nebraska. It is sometimes known as "touch-me-not," since the ripe pods will snap at a touch and send the seeds in all directions. WOODSORREL FAMILY Oxalidaceae Yellow Oxalis (Oxalis corniculata L. Plate V, figure 5).- The yellow woodsorrel dots lawns and gardens, and borders roadsides with masses of cloverlike leaves and bright flowers. It blooms all summer long and is widely distributed round the world as a number of named varie ties, of which the common woodsorrel of the East (Oxalis stricta) is one. In dry locations, both plants and blossoms are dwarfed, growing but an inch or two, while in the shade they stretch up to three feet and bear flowers half an inch across. Sometimes the foliage changes color and forms bronze mats on lawns or runs dark seams in the cracks of lime stone copings. The leaves have a pleasantly sour taste, due to the oxalic acid they contain, and also possess the interesting habit of folding their leaflets to gether at sundown and quietly going to sleep. Pink Oxalis (Oxalis oregona Nutt. Plate V, figure 6). -Loving moist shade, the pink oxalis carpets openings in the forest with its abundant and attractive leaves borne on slender stalks. Scattered here and there amid the dense foliage, the white or pale pink flowers are quite inconspicuous, although considerably larger than those of the yellow oxalis (Oxalis corniculata). It ranges as far north as Washing ton and is especially abundant in redwood forests, while a near relative, the common woodsorrel (Oxalis acetosclla), is widespread in cold, damp woods of Canada, our own East, Europe, Asia, and Africa.