National Geographic : 1917 Jun
zation, the sunflower is a native American gone forth to render rich recompense to other nations and other continents for the plants they have given us. In China its fiber is used as an adulterant of silk; in southern Russia the seeds are widely employed both in making oil and as a substitute for our peanut. The pocketful of sunflower seed plays the same r6le in some parts of Russia as the bag of pea nuts here. Much of the sunflower oil pro duced in Russia is used in making soaps and candles. Europe, Asia, and Africa all culti vate this plant. When the Spaniards first visited Peru they found the sunflower as much the national flower of the Incas as it today is the State flower of Kansas. The Incas gave it a deeper reverence because of its resemblance to the radiant sun. In their temples the priestesses wore sunflowers on their bosoms, carried them in lieu of tapers, and otherwise used them in their services. The Spanish invaders found many images of sunflowers wrought with ex quisite workmanship in pure virgin gold. These wonderful images, among many others, helped to excite the cupidity of the conquista dors and thus to bring about the downfall of the Incas. In North America there are about 40 known species of sunflower. South America has about 20 species that do not exist on our own continent. THE TRUMPET VINE (Bignonia radicans L.) Who that has studied the enthusiasm with which that frail and filmy creature, the ruby throated humming-bird, flits from flower to flower of the trumpet vine, burying its head and shoulders deep in the enveloping petals as it strives to drain the last drop from the floral honey cup, or who that has observed closely the constant effort of the trumpet flower to captivate this capricious, swift-winged beauty can doubt the community of interest between them. When Audubon came to paint his plate showing the ruby-throats in life colors, he por trayed them hovering about a cluster of the trumpet vine's flowers (see page 509). Kentucky has made the trumpet vine her State flower, and few States can boast of such a brilliant member of the sisterhood of em blematic blossoms. Growing on a vine that has as much vitality as a Lexington thorough bred and as much resourcefulness in holding its own in the gruelling free-for-all race for existence as any star of the turf, the trumpet flower is well beloved by those who live within the Blue Grass State and by a host who enjoy no such fortune. Except in the -West, the vine is no blatant intruder in places where it is not wanted and never drives the careful farmer distracted by a disposition to preempt land which he dedi cates to grass. Rather it seeks the moist rich wood and thicket, desiring only to have its chance to survive in this habitat without in truding upon every kind of landscape. Invited to do so by the lover of flowers, it willingly comes out of the woods and forms a delightful arbor for any porch. Sometimes, in parts of the country where it did not originally grow wild, it lives as an "escape" from the portico arbor of the well-kept home. It begins to flower in August and seeds in September. From Jersey's shores to the Mississippi's banks, from the Lakes to the Gulf, it finds hospitable soil and genial weather. Were it human, the trumpet vine would per haps not be loved so well. Its instincts of sur vival are so strong that it does not hesitate to trample upon the rights of weaker neighbors in its efforts to reach the top. Sometimes its aerial rootlets carry it upward or onward until it has stalks as much as 40 feet long. Ever reaching up and striving for a place with the elect of the plant world, it would be in danger of being called a "social climber"; but as a flower we can admire its determination to win its place in the unhampered room at the top. THE PINE CONE AND TASSEL (Pinus strobus L.) When the school children of Maine elected the pine cone and tassel as the floral standard bearer for their State, they not only followed the precedent that made theirs the "Pine Tree State," but they honored the first-born of the flowering plants; for science tells us that in the long process of evolution, when some of the members of the fern family began to strive for higher things, their first success on the road to perfection was to become cone-bearers. And so today the cone-bearers remain the great middle class in the flower world between the plebeian fern on the one hand and the patri cian rose and the noble lily on the other (see page 51o). How wonderful and how charming is the story of the pine's household economy! It is so equipped that it can make its home down in the lands of tropic warmth or up in the re gions of polar snow. The last tree one meets, almost, on a climb to the high summits of snow capped mountains is the pine. The gales may blow so hard and so persistently that not a limb is able to grow on the windward side; but, twisted and misshapen, the pine still lives on. Though the winds seem harsh to the pine, they are none the less its good friends. It em ploys them as the messengers in the spreading of its pollen. The pistils and stamens grow in separate flowers, and the breezes transport the pollen from tassel to cone and from tree to tree. Each grain is provided with two tiny bladders which give it buoyancy and enable it to take a balloon ride. In the region where the winds blow the hardest they serve the coni fers best, for there insects are scarce and the trees would be exterminated if they had to de pend on such pollen-bearers. This is only an other evidence of the natural ability of the pine to adjust itself to its surroundings. The tree that could go on and on through number less generations evolving a conifer out of a fern naturally would have adaptability enough to meet the wind both as foe and friend.