National Geographic : 1917 Jun
territory to the western group of States, from Montana and Wyoming to Washington and California. Its flowers matching the orange blossom in beauty, its bursting buds appearing to be fairly pin-cushions, its fragrance as de lightful as the odors that sweep over Elysian fields, its leaves a delicate, soft, shimmering green, the Idaho syringa is a shrub well equipped to awaken enthusiasm in every lover of flowers (see page 505). The syringa belongs to the saxifrage family, which has some 250 species scattered through out the North Temperate world. It has many close relatives--various species of Philadel phus, which is the botanical name for all the species we in our common garden variety of nomenclature call the syringas. There is Phil adelphus grandiflorus, which grows in the South Atlantic States and is famous for its rich and fragrant flowers; Philadelphus ino dorus, with the same range, but without the same fragrance; Philadelphus hirsutus, dwell ing in the North Carolina-Alabama mountains and arraying itself in hairy leaves; Philadel phus coronarius, the mock orange of the East ern States and everywhere loved for its beau tiful and wonderfully fragrant blossoms. The syringas are unfortunate in their popu lar name. Ptolemy Philadelphus loved them and they became Philadelphus this or Phila delphus that. But the world at large wanted a name more to popular liking and by common consent they became syringas. Now that would be all.right if it did not happen that syringa is the botanical name of the lilac, to which family the popularly named syringas bear no relation. THE VIOLET (Viola) One does not often meet two flowers so different in appearance, so dissimilar in dispo sition, so unlike in their tastes, as the modest blue violet and the gorgeous goldenrod, the one content to be seen only by the eyes that search for it, the other seeking the spotlight of every landscape, so that no eye may over look it (see page 505). And yet the little violet blossom and the big yellow flower are rivals for the highest honors in flowerland. Three States have adopted the violet and a fourth is not yet sure on which side of the issue between them it will finally line up. Illinois has cast its lot with the violet by legislative action. Nebraska has come out for the goldenrod by the same route. Rhode Island: and Wisconsin have by the votes of their school children declared themselves cham pions of the violet. On the other hand, Mis souri and Alabama are reputed to favor the goldenrod, although no action recognized by either State government has been taken. New Jersey is agreed that her flower shall be one or the other, and there is a rumor that she wishes it could be both. Yet no one can blame this indecision on the lack of grounds for choice between them, for there is certainly little else than choice. Habit, color, haunt, dis position, almost every point, is different in them. There are many violets scattered over the country, among them the "bird-foot," the "common," the "arrow-leaved," the "marsh," the "sweet white," the "lance-leaved," the "downy yellow," and even the "dog." But, whatever their distinctions, they are all good to look upon, interesting to study, and modest to a fault. Best of all, they manage in :their several species to gladden all communities from the Arctic to the Gulf and from the Atlantic Ocean. to the Pacific. Perhaps first among all the species is the common or purple hooded. Its royal color, its gentle dignity, its rich profusion, its wide range of territory, have given it a deep hold on popular affection. The different species are distinguished as stemmed and stemless, bearded and beardless, by the character of the spur, the color of the flower, and the shape of the leaf. In r st of them the lower petal is prolonged backward so as to form a spur and a nectar jar, whichh is usually protected by little tufts ofihair at the throat of the flower. Some violets have put; away the ordinary processes of inbreeding and now strive, by pro ducing liberal supplies of nectar, to attract the bees and butterflies and to enlist their services as carriers. But, knowing how readily their insect friends are wooed away by the more showy, more thickly clustered flowers of other families, they have not abandoned entirely the old idea of self-fertilization. If they fail to set seed by the cross-fertilization method, they promptly develop small, inconspicuous blos soms that fertilize themselves, and therefore enable the plant to produce sufficient seeds to prevent its extinction by the race-suicide route. One writer who knows the poetry of flower land tells us that the witch-hazel is not the only sharpshooter of the autumn wood. Down among the dry leaves, he declares, it has a tiny rival, the blue violet, withwhich it occa sionally exchanges a salute. The latter closes its reign as a debutante among the blossoms in May. Then it settles down to the stern realities of life and the production of seeds. As the late autumn comes, its pods begin to force out their tiny seeds just as the small boy shoots a cherry stone by pressing it between his thumb and finger. Each pod in its turn fires away, hurling the seed babies as far as o1 feet, with an admonition that they creep down into the soil, there to dwell in darkness, silence, and inactivity until the winds whisper to the pines the glad news that spring is com ing, and that message is passed along to the seeds under the snow. Violets have figured in many of the ro mances of civilization. An old tradition has it that the flower was raised from the body of Io by the agency of Diana. Homer and Virgil knew its delicate beauty, and the Athenians were never so much complimented as when they were said to be violet-crowned. The pansy that we love so well and for which our English cousins have so many nick names is, after all, only a violet that has had a chance. Some call it "Heart's-ease," others "Meet-her-in-the-entry," others "Kiss-her-in the-buttery," and still others "Jump-up-and kiss-me" and "Tickle-my-fancy."