National Geographic : 1947 Jul
More Plants from Age-old China T HERE is an old Chinese story, having to do with wanderlust, which tells us that he who lives beside a waterfall need not travel far just to listen to the ocean, for water makes much the same sound whether dashing against a rocky shore or pouring over stones. The legend ends: "Furthermore, when you are away, who will tend your garden?" CAMELLIA: Although introduced into West ern gardens mainly by way of Japan and therefore known under such historically mis leading names as Camellia japonica and C. Sasanqua (the latter derived from a Japanese vernacular name), it would appear that the basic species from which our garden Camel lias have been derived, for the most part, can be traced back to forms once wild in China. Botanically, the Tea Plant is very closely related to the Camellias; it also is Chinese. HOLLYHOCK (Althaea rosea): Rearing its showy spikes of flowers in our midsummer gardens, this species now comes in so many shades and forms that our grandmothers scarcely would recognize this old favorite. CHINA ASTER (Callistephus chinensis): In its wild form this species has a single series of petal-like, purplish-blue ray flowers around the margin and a large number of small yellow flowers in the center of the head. Cultivated "double" forms are now generally seen. Se lected types vary greatly in color, but for some reason no really yellow forms are known. The name of this species is not just something invented by botanists to make things more difficult; like all scientific names for plants, it means something. Callistephus is the Greek for "beautiful crown" and chinensis means "living in, or from China." Hence this plant might well be called "The Chinese Beautiful Crown." BLACKBERRY-LILY (Belamcanda chinen sis): This plant, shown in the lower fore ground of our picture, once almost disappeared from gardens. Thanks to workers who now have given us a wider variety of color forms and larger, more showy flowers, this old fa vorite is making a comeback and promises to be popular again. Its common name is derived from the blackberrylike appearance of the ripe fruit after it splits open, exposing the black seed; one of these fruits is shown. However, the plant is neither a "blackberry" nor a "lily"-it is a member of the Iris Family. And that is why botanists often look askance at the common names of plants; not only are they sometimes incorrect and misleading, but they may vary greatly from place to place. Why not call this pretty flower by its real name? After all, it is only a slightly modi fied (and for us spellable and pronounceable) form of the name it has carried for untold cen turies in its native home. Split the syllables Bel-am-CAN-da-and repeat them slowly un til the natural music they make becomes familiar. CHRYSANTHEMUM: Back against the wall in our picture is a bed of Chrysanthemums, one of the countless forms in which this great group of showy plants occurs. Merely for convenience in classification, botanists have put the garden and florists' "Mums" into a single species, Chrysanthemum morifolium, but they have been grown and hybridized for so many centuries that there now seems but little chance of determining exactly from which of the wild species they have come. All we know is that, primarily, our modern garden "Mums" are of Chinese origin. CLEMATIS (Clematis lanuginosa): Scram bling over the wall is a plant of this, the largest flowered of all known wild species of this remarkable genus. In combination with the somewhat more lively-colored species, such as the southwestern Asiatic and southern Euro pean C. viticella and the Japanese C. patens, this Chinese species has been the most im portant parent of the present large-flowered, hybrid garden forms, such as the long-popular Jackman's Clematis and many others. Frost free gardens have their own special kinds. FORSYTHIA: Although occasionally called "Golden Bells," here is an instance where the scientific name, Forsythia, actually is more often heard than the so-called common name and has become almost standard usage. Two species are grown, Forsythia viridissima, and the somewhat pendulous-branched F. suspensa, as well as their hybrid, F. intermedia. It would be difficult to explain to a gardener how the early, spring-flowering Forsythia got into this picture with mainly late summer bloomers. Actually, we got tired having him around he's such a common and persistent fellow and chased him away several times. But just as the picture was finished we noted that he had sneaked back again and stuck his head through the Moon Gate, almost as if he were hissing in old sibilant Mandarinese: "You don't dare leave me out of this! I'm Chinese too!"