National Geographic : 1917 Jun
THE APPLE BLOSSOM (Malus sylvestris Mill) The apple blossom shares with the carnation the distinction of being the only two flowers in Nature's garden that have won two legis latures to their standards in the "battle of the buds" for popular affection. While Ohio and Indiana have pledged legislative fealty to the carnation, Arkansas and Michigan have cast their fortunes with the apple blossom (see . page 501). There are a few commonwealths which, while agreeing that a thing of beauty is a joy for ever, are yet utilitarian enough to hold that when a delight to the eye ripens into a joy to the palate it is to be prized above all other forms of loveliness. Florida and Delaware share this view with Arkansas and Michigan. Certainly, whoever has seen an apple orchard in full bloom, with its whole acres of pink and white petals set in a framework of green, will not need to wonder why two legislatures should prize especially the beauty of the apple blossom. The apple blossom is one of the progressives of the floral world. It wants a hardy, strong, resistant posterity; so it takes careful precau tion to insure cross-fertilization. The stigmas reach maturity before the anthers begin to shed their pollen, and in this way the insects have every opportunity to bring pollen from another blossom. But if the bees and the but terflies chance to overlook one, it retains its petals until its own anthers are developed and can enable it to produce an apple. Perhaps nowhere else do egetamore striking picture of what selection may accom plish than in the case of the apple tree and its fruit. Contrast the stately and spreading winesap tree in a well-cultivated orchard with the small, knotty-limbed, scaly-wooded wild crab tree. Isn't it almost like contrasting a stately elm with a dwarfed hawthorn? And yet, is there as much difference between the ancestral crab and the descendant winesap trees as there is between their fruits? The wild crab-apple, though a gnarled, knotty, thorny, acrid-fruited tree, is the Adam 'of a wonderful race. An orchardist recently counted more than three hundred varieties of apples, all of them direct descendants of this sturdy pioneer. What could bear better testimony to the value of apples than the poetical proverbs which have crept into our language celebrating their qualities! "To eat an apple before going to bed will make the doctor beg his bread," says one of these; and another declares, "An .apple eaten every day will send one's doctor far away." An old Saxon coronation cere mony carried with it a benediction after this fashion: "May this land be filled with apples." Any one who looks at a modern apple or chard finds it hard to realize how close is the relationship of the apple to the rose, and yet they belong to the same order, Rosace, the apple's thorns having passed under the soften ing influences of a kindly civilization. Now the only thorn the apple possesses is the figura tive one that is hidden in the green fruit, which small boys often discover to their anguish. In history, tradition, and mysticism the apple has played a distinguished role. Through it, we are told, "came man's first disobedience, which brought death into the world and all our woe." Juno gave Jupiter an apple on their wedding day, and a poorly thrown on ,was the immediate cause of the ruin of Troy, Paris gave a golden apple to Venus; Atalanta lost her race by stopping to pick up one, and the fair fruits of the Hesperides were the apples of gold. In the west of England the village girls used to gather crab-apples and mark them with the initials of their beaux. The ones that were most nearly perfect on old St. Michaelmas Day were supposed to represent the lovers who would make the best husbands. In our own land to this day girls tell their fortunes on Hallowe'en by naming the apples and counting the seeds. An apple paring thrown over the shoulder on that fateful night will form the initial of the future mate. THE GOLDEN POPPY (Eschscholtzia californica Cham.) No State has chosen its representative flower more appropriately than California. The golden poppy, the very essence of California's sun shine, has woven its brightness into the history of the Pacific coast. During the spring months, when it covers valley, field, and mountain side with a cloth of gold, men, women, and children make a festival of poppy-gathering like the Japanese at cherry-blossom time (see p. 502). Tradition alleges that a tilted mesa north of Pasadena when aglow with poppies in the spring used to serve as a beacon to coasting ships, more than twenty-five miles away, a tale which is not wisely questioned by one who has never seen the glory of a golden-poppy field. Certain it is that early Spanish explorers saw some of the hillsides covered with these flow ers and named the coast "The Land of Fire." It was "sacred to San Pascual," they said, "since his altar-cloth is spread upon all its hills." No State flower had more lovely rivals Baby Blue Eyes, the butterfly or Mariposa tulips, the gilias, the lupines, and the Califor nia peony have a firm hold on the affections of nature lovers in a Commonwealth. from whose floral treasures the finest 'cultivated gar dens in the world have been enriched. But the golden poppy safely outdistanced all compet itors and is now the crowned queen of the land of the setting sun. The scientific name of this poppy was ac quired when a Russian scientific expedition under Kotzebue, in 1815, explored what is now California. Chamisso, the naturalist of the expedition, named it for' Dr. Eschscholtz, a companion naturalist, the Eschscholtzia cali fornica. It is an unfortunate name; and the extra "t" must have been inserted amid that array of consonants with deliberate intent to appall: the English eye and paralyze the Eng lish-speaking tongue. Though copa de oro, the Spanish "cup of gold," has a poetic attractive ness; dyet, it is not much used, even by the Spanish Americans.