National Geographic : 1922 Jul
MIDSUMMER WILD FLOWERS A dainty and delicate perennial is this mod est flower, but with enough strength to climb 5,000 feet without turning a leaf. Another name of the bluebell is harebell, a survival of the days of poor spellers, who spelled hair with an "e." It was known in Scotland as the "hairhell" because of the fila mental nature of its branches. Other old English names for the bluebell were "ladies' thimble" and "witch's thimble." The flowering season of the bluebell is from June to September. TANSY OR BITTER BUTTON Tanacetum vulgare L. [Plate XV, left] The tansy is an example of a flower that has not yet learned the art of display in advertis ing. By an effective use of white or colored rays or petals, the ox-eye daisy, the black-eyed susan, and other flowers can accomplish more with one head on a branch than the tansy does with a dozen. Many plants have forty of these heads, and each head contains some 400 florets, 16,oco florets to a plant. This plant grows from eighteen to forty inches tall, loves the roadsides, and ranges from Nova Scotia to North Carolina and Mis souri. It blooms from July to September. Like many another plant, the tansy came to America as a cultivated herb. The colonists thought they could not do without their tansy herbs and bitters, and least of all without their tansy tea. But, once here, the tansy got tired of the coddling of the garden and gave ear to the call of the wild. Under a lens the leaves are seen to be dotted with glands containing the oil that gives the plant its strongly aromatic flavor and scent. It is this oil that has given the tansy its value in medicine and cookery. SILVER ASTER Aster concolor L. [Plate XV, middle] Growing in dry, sandy soil near the coast, in Massachusetts and southward, this attractive member of the aster branch of the composite family has a stem from two to three feet tall, unbranched below the flower, and with leaves crowded and pressed close to it. Sir John Lubbock was of the opinion that all flowers originally were merely pistils and sta mens surrounded by green leaves. Blue has been shown to be the favorite color of bees, and in their efforts to please, the flowers have first produced either white or yellow petals and rays, and then have become red, as a rule, be fore being able to stand among the elite blues. EARLY GOLDENROD Solidago juncea Ait. [Plate XV, right] As was related in the biography of the field goldenrod, which appeared in the June, 1917, number of THE GEOGRAPHIC, the goldenrods have representatives in almost every month of the floral calendar, in almost every kind of soil, and in almost every locality. The sub ject of this sketch comes into bloom by the end of June and remains until the end of Sep tember. It grows from two to four feet tall on dry, rocky banks and along roadsides from Maine to North Carolina and westward to Missouri. With their wealth of blossoms the golden rods are indeed the merchant princes of flower land. Their showy display advertising catches the eyes of innumerable hosts of insects, and they do a land-office business in the distribu tion of their pollen. ORANGE MILKWORT Polygala lutea L. [Plate XVI, left] Rejoicing in its bucolic name of wild bach elor's button, the orange milkwort, or wild bachelor's button, has clover-like heads closely packed with small florets. The plant grows from 6 to 12 inches tall. Polygala's flowering season is from June to October, and it is equally at home in the swamps of Long Is land, the pine barrens of New Jersey, the coasts of Florida, and the lowlands of Louisi ana. Some of the milkwort species have two sets of flowers, "one for beauty and one for use, one playful for the world and one serious for posterity." In truth, however, such milkworts, afraid that their fine flowers may fail to set seed, because the rains keep the bees indoors, or some other catastrophe occurs, have another set, much less showy, whose development was arrested in the bud. Without petals, nectaries, or fragrance, their stamens are small, their pistils immature, and they have nothing to offer the bee. But if their showy sisters fail to perpetuate the family, they step in, self fertilized, and save the family from extinc tion. COMMON DODDER Cuscuta gronovii Willd. [Plate XVI, right] Cousin of the bindweeds and the morning glories, the common dodder is a black sheep of a proud family. Early in life it is well-behaved, getting its living from the soil in an orthodox fashion. But just as soon as it finds a suitable plant upon which to attach itself, it sends out innumerable tiny suckers that gradually exhaust the juices of the plant upon which it makes its parasitic attack. While it is drinking the life sap of its unwilling host it forgets to maintain its connection with the soil, the stem from the ground wasting away, and if its host perishes it must die also. Living off of juices other plants have drawn out of the soil, it loses its chlorophyll and be comes a leafless, scale-bearing plant. The dodder develops an abundant supply of globular seed-vessels. These either fall to the ground and sink into the soil or float off in the water to found new colonies. Known in some places as the "love vine" and elsewhere as "angel's hair," the dodder flowers from July to September and finds its preferred habitat in moist soil, meadows, ditches, and beside streams. Its range is from Nova Scotia and Manitoba to the Gulf States.