National Geographic : 1939 Aug
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE SPIDERWORT FAMILY (Commelinaceae) Spiderworts belong to that division of the plant kingdom called "monocotyledons," since the tiny plant as it bursts from the seed has but one seed leaf instead of two. Later, when the mature leaves appear, they are frequently long and narrow like grass leaves, or, if broader, can be distinguished by the veins which run parallel to each other instead of forming networks or branching freely as they' do in most plant families. The flowers of spiderworts have three green sepals and usually three brightly colored petals that last only a short time after the bud opens. There are but few spiderworts at home out side of the Tropics, but many of them may be grown in the garden in any rich, light soil. Spiderwort N. Y. to N. C.; west to Ark., Kan., Minn. The spiderworts are exquisitely fragile blos soms, lovely with tints of rose color or laven der blue (1). When the spring and early summer seasons are warm and moist, the slen der-leaved plants may thrive to such a point that railway embankments or prairies and meadows of the Middle West become spec tacular with bloom. The beauty is fleeting, however, for as the temperature rises toward midmorning, the petals wilt and the buds await the coolness of another day. The most important spiderwort under culti vation is called the "wandering Jew" (T. tri color), since the trailing stems grow to great lengths and wander in all directions. Dayflower N. Y. to Fla.; west to Tex. and Kan. Dayflowers (2) are the progressive members of the spiderwort family, for they have seen fit to enlarge two of the petals at the expense of the third, so that a casual glance gives the impression that there are but two. These, however, are a blue of such purity and in tensity that it cannot be matched by any color on the artist's palette. The other parts of the flower have also taken on an unusual appear ance that makes it easy to distinguish them. LILY FAMILY (Liliaceae) Apparently the true lilies have found that their device for attracting insects, by means of having the six parts of the perianth brightly colored instead of leaving the three sepals green as the dayflowers have done, has been an enormous advantage in the struggle for exist ence, for they constitute a very large family spread all over the world except the Arctic zone. Moreover, among them may be found some of the most beautiful flowers in existence anywhere, of which tulips, hyacinths, day lilies, spring lilies, and mariposa lilies are known to every flower lover. Red Lily Maine to N. C.; west to S. D. and Manitoba In the moister climate of the eastern part of the country red lilies (3) take to the woods and thickets, but in the Middle West or the Rocky Mountains of Colorado they prefer brook banks and wet meadows. These hand some plants are tall and stately, with large blossoms of brilliant vermilion at the ends of stiff stems with whorls of narrow leaves. That few gardens exhibit any of the many lovely species available for cultivation may be due to a mistaken notion that lilies are diffi cult subjects. It is true that some require a close imitation of their native habitats to thrive, but others, with beautiful flowers suit able for cutting, are remarkably easy to grow. Yellow Lily Nova Scotia to Ga.; west to Ala., Neb., Minn. This beautiful golden-yellow lily (4), deco rated with maroon spots, is nowhere especially abundant, but may be found in swamps, meadows, and fields throughout the eastern half of the country where varieties with red flowers or recurved perianths also occur. The Turk's-cap lily (L. superbum), and the Canada lily (L. canadense), with orange or orange-red blossoms, are perhaps more strictly eastern. while the stately plants of the western yellow lily (L. parryi) seek moisture on the middle slopes of the mountains in southern California and bear huge flowers of pale yellow. Pink Onion Colo. to Ariz.; west to Calif. and B. C . To many who are accustomed to thinking of onions only in terms of the leafy bulb which appears in the kitchen or on the table as a vegetable of special flavor or quality, it may never have occurred that there are also onion flowers. Not only do onion plants produce blossoms as well as stems and leaves, but they are often daintily attractive or brilliantly colored, and, since they usually occur in clusters, may also be effectively ornamental. This pink onion (5) has small flowers of rose lavender, loosely clustered at the ends of rather stiff but slender stems, and is fond of prairie sites as well as the lower slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The different flowers in a single group open successively from the out side toward the center, so that at any stage there may be capsules enclosed in papery ca lyxes ripening on down-bent stalks, full-blown blossoms making up most of the cluster and unopened buds pushing up in the center. In middle-western hills and mountains the nodding onion (A. cernuum) is so named be cause of the pendent position of the blossoms, a lovely rose pink. The purplish field onion (A. vineale) of eastern fields and meadows is a European emigrant that repays naturaliza tion in this country by infesting pastures and tainting the flavor of butter in spring.