(Septamnium Virginianum; Epifegus Virginiana of Gray)
Flowers - Small, dull purple and white, tawny, or brownish
striped; scattered along loose, tiny bracted, ascending branches.
Stem: Brownish or reddish tinged, slender, tough, branching
above, 6 in. to 2 ft. tall, from brittle, fibrous roots.
Habitat - Under beech, oak, and chestnut trees.
Flowering Season - August-October.
Distribution - New Brunswick, westward to Ontario and Missouri,
south to the Gulf States.
Nearly related to the broom-rape is this less attractive pirate,
a taller, brownish-purple plant, with a disagreeable odor, whose
erect, branching stem without leaves is still furnished with
brownish scales, the remains of what were once green leaves in
virtuous ancestors, no doubt. But perhaps even these relics of
honesty may one day disappear. Nature brands every sinner
somehow; and the loss of green from a plant's leaves may be taken
as a certain indication that theft of another's food stamps it
with this outward and visible sign of guilt. The grains of green
to which foliage owes its color are among the most essential of
products to honest vegetables that have to grub in the soil for a
living, since it is only in such cells as contain it that
assimilation of food can take place. As chlorophyll, or
leaf-green, acts only under the influence of light and air, most
plants expose all the leaf surface possible; but a parasite,
which absorbs from others juices already assimilated, certainly
has no use for chlorophyll, nor for leaves either; and in the
broom-rape, beech-drops, and Indian pipe, among other thieves, we
see leaves degenerated into bracts more or less without color,
according to the extent of their crime. Now they cannot
manufacture carbohydrates, even if they would, any more than
On the beech-drop's slender branches two kinds of flowers are
seated: below are the minute fertile ones, which never open, but,
without imported pollen, ripen an abundance of seed with
literally the closest economy. Nevertheless, to save the species
from still deeper degeneracy through perpetual
self-fertilization, small purplish-striped flowers above them
mature stigmas and anthers on different days, and invite insect
visits to help them produce a few cross-fertilized seeds. Even a
few will save it. Every plant which bears cleistogamous or blind
flowers - violets, wood-sorrel, jewelweed, among others - must
also display some showy ones.
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