BLUEEYED MARY INNOCENCE BROADLEAVED COLLINSIA
(Collinsia verna) Figwort family
Flowers - On slender, weak stalks; whorled in axils of upper
leaves. Blue on lower lip of corolla, its middle lobe folded
lengthwise to enclose 4 adhering stamens and pistil; upper lip
white, with scalloped margins; corolla from 1/2
to 3/4 in. long,
its throat about equaling the deeply 5-cleft calyx. Stem: Hoary,
slender, simple or branched, from 6 in. to 2 ft. high. Leaves:
Thin, opposite; upper and more acute ones clasping the stem;
lower, ovate ones on short petioles. Fruit: A round capsule to
which the enlarged calyx adheres.
Preferred Habitat - Moist meadows, woods, and thickets. Flowering
Season - April-June.
Distribution - Western New York and Pennsylvania to Wisconsin,
Kentucky, and Indian Territory.
Next of kin to the great Paulonia tree, whose deliciously sweet,
vanilla-scented, trumpet-shaped violet flowers are happily fast
becoming as common here as in their native Japan, what has this
fragile, odorless blossom of the meadows in common with it?
Apparently nothing; but superficial appearances count for little
or nothing among scientists, to whom the structure of floral
organs is of prime importance; and analysis instantly shows the
close relationship between these dissimilar-looking cousins. Even
without analysis one can readily see that the monkey flower is
not far removed.
Because few writers have arisen as yet in the newly settled
regions of the middle West and Southwest, where blue-eyed Mary
dyes acres of meadow land with her heavenly color, her praises
are little sung in the books, but are loudly buzzed by myriads of
bees that are her most devoted lovers. "I regard the flower as
especially adapted to the early flying bees with abdominal
collecting brushes for pollen - i.e., species of Osmia - and
these bees," says Professor Robertson of Illinois, "although not
the exclusive visitors, are far more abundant and important than
all the other visitors together." For them are the brownish marks
on the palate provided as pathfinders. At the pressure of their
strong heads the palate yields to give them entrance, and at
their removal it springs back to protect the pollen against the
inroads of flies, mining bees, and beetles. As the longer stamens
shed their pollen before the shorter ones mature theirs, bees
must visit the flower several times to collect it all.
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