National Geographic : 1917 Jun
white "petals" are not petals at all; they are sterile florets, gaily bedecked in white, waving a welcome to the passing bees and butterflies, whom they invite to the feast which the yellow florets have prepared for them. Like all other progressive flowers, the daisy has designed ways to insure itself the boon of cross-fertili zation. The two arms of the pistil are kept tightly closed until the pollen is gone; then they open up and become sticky, so that the bee which comes their way from another blossom must leave with them some of the grains of pollen it has gathered elsewhere. THE SEGO LILY (Calochortus nuttallii Torr. and Gr.) Utah's floral queen belongs to the tulip branch of the lily family. It has a remarkable list of relatives, good, bad, and indifferent, close and distant. These kinsfolk range from the evil-smelling carrion flower to the delight fully fragrant lily-of-the-valley; from the gor geous and assertive butterfly tulip to the timid, unassuming fairy bell; from the poisonous sego and the hog potato to the edible comass and the soap-like amole (see page 512). The sego lily is a variety of the mariposa tulip. Its flower is about two inches across, and its white petals are tinged sometimes with yellowish green and sometimes with lilac. The flowers usually follow individual taste in color ings and wear a wide range of the prettiest gowns imaginable. Mariposa in Spanish means butterfly, and the members of the mariposa group of flowers, to which the sego lily belongs, are marvelous in their hues and delightful in their imitation of the decorative patterns and color combinations of their insect friends. A visitor to the big trees of the Mariposa Grove relates how she found a bed of sego lilies in which, upon close examination, she dis covered fourteen distinct markings, the flowers resembling so many butterflies with wings out spread for flight, their rich color glistening in the sun. The sego lily was even more to the early Mormon church in Utah than was the may flower to the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The may flower was the springtime's first harbinger and a blossom of hope; the sego lily was not only early on the scene to gladden a somewhat dreary landscape, but its roots proved edible. The followers of Brigham Young looked upon it in somewhat the same light as the Jews looked upon the manna that saved them dur ing their wanderings in the wilderness. There fore the sego lily has figured largely in the history of the Mormon Church in Utah and has been accorded the distinction of State flower as a proof of the early settlers' grati tude. THE SAHUARO (Carnegiea gigantea [formerly known as Cereus giganteus] (Engelm.) Britton and Rose) When the legislature of Arizona selected the column cactus, known to laymen as the sa- huaro, as the State flower, it chose a repre sentative which for tenacity and ability to live under stressful conditions is unsurpassed. The sahuaro grows so as sometimes to resemble an upstanding Brobdingnagian cucumber and at others to look like a huge green candelabra. It thrives on the mountain slopes where other plants cannot survive the shortage of moisture, rearing its thick, cylindrical branches straight up into the air as high as 40 feet. These are armed with rows of spines arranged in star shapes, and in May and June bear exquisite whitish, waxlike flowers, perfect in form and opening in the daytime (see page 513). We always think it wise to save for a "rainy" day; but paradoxical as it may sound, the "rainy" day of the cactus is the day when it fails to rain for a long time. So it has ar ranged its household economy for "making hay" while the rain falls. In wet weather it converts itself into a sort of green-hued sponge, drinking up great stores of water. It long ago suppressed the last vestige of a leaf, and in lieu thereof has covered itself with a thick, hard, impervious coating which some times has a grayish bloom on the surface. In other species the coating is covered by a mass of thick hairs. In this way it is able to pre vent evaporation of its moisture under the fiercest sun and calmly to await new supplies. It is indeed the vegetable counterpart of the camel. We think of the cacti as unfriendly, yet the birds often find them a refuge. Woodpeckers make holes in the sahuaro for their nesting places. Other small birds of the arid regions move in when the woodpeckers move out. One of these is a small owl, said to be the tiniest of all members of the owl tribe. Another feathered friend of the cacti is the cactus wren, a little songster with a grayish brown back, a darker head, a spotted breast,] and a white line over the eye. It builds a large, flask-shaped nest of grasses and twigs which it lines with feathers. The nest is entered by a covered way or neck several inches long. The column cactus, like most of its relatives, is a prolific producer of seeds. Millions reach the ground, thousands may germinate, but only now and then does one escape the perils of childhood and become a full-grown cactus. In their youthful days the sahuaros are odd, round plants only a few inches high and with the spines, which protect them from animal depredations, undeveloped. The fruits of this species have a crimson flesh and black seeds, reminding one in those respects of the Georgia watermelon. The Papago Indians eat both the meat and the seeds. THE CACTUS (Echinocereus fendleri (Engelm.) Ruempl.) In choosing the cactus as New Mexico's flower favorite the school children of that State honored a family of plants which are almost exclusively Americans. If a few spe cies that originated in Africa be excepted, the cacti are limited to America.