(Sagittaria latifolia; S. variabilis of Gray) Water-plantain
Flowers - White, 1 to 1 1/2 in. wide, in 3-bracted whorls of 3,
borne near the summit of a leafless scape 4 in. to 4 ft. tall.
Calyx of 3 sepals corolla of 3
rounded, spreading petals. Stamens
and pistils numerous, the former yellow in upper flowers usually
absent or imperfect in lower pistillate flowers. Leaves:
Exceedingly variable; those under water usually long and
grasslike; upper ones sharply arrow-shaped or blunt and broad,
spongy or leathery, on long petioles.
Preferred Habitat - Shallow water and mud.
Flowering Season - July-September.
Distribution - From Mexico northward throughout our area to the
Wading into shallow water or standing on some muddy shore, like a
heron, this striking plant, so often found in that bird's haunts,
is quite as decorative in a picture, and, happily, far more
approachable in life. Indeed, one of the comforts of botany as
compared with bird study is that we may get close enough to the
flowers to observe their last detail, whereas the bird we have
followed laboriously over hill and dale, through briers and
swamps, darts away beyond the range of field-glasses with
While no single plant is yet thoroughly known to scientists, in
spite of the years of study devoted by specialists to separate
groups, no plant remains wholly meaningless. When Keppler
discovered the majestic order of movement of the heavenly bodies,
he exclaimed, "Oh God, I think Thy thoughts after Thee!" - the
expression of a discipleship every reverent soul must be
conscious of in penetrating, be it ever so little a way, into the
inner meaning of the humblest wayside weed.
Fragile, delicate, pure white, golden-centered flowers of the
arrowhead, usually clustered about the top of the scape,
naturally are the first to attract the attention whether of man
or insect. Below these, dull green, unattractive collections of
pistils, which by courtesy only may be called flowers, also form
little groups of three. Like the Quakers at meeting, the male and
female arrowhead flowers are separated, often on distinct plants.
Of course the insect visitors - bees and flies chiefly - alight
on the showy staminate blossoms first, and transfer pollen from
them to the dull pistillate ones later, as it was intended they
should, to prevent self-fertilization. How endless are the
devices of the flowers to guard against this evil and to compel
insects to cross-pollinate them! The most minute detail of the
mechanism involved, which the microscope reveals, only increases
our interest and wonder.
Any plant which elects to grow in shallow water must be
amphibious; it must be able to breathe beneath the surface as the
fish do, and also be adapted to thrive without those parts that
correspond to gills; for ponds and streams have an unpleasant way
of drying up in summer, leaving it stranded on the shore. This
accounts in part for the variable leaves on the arrowhead, those
underneath the water being long and ribbon-like, to bring the
greatest possible area into contact with the air with which the
water is charged. Broad leaves would be torn to shreds by the
current through which grass-like blades glide harmlessly; but
when this plant grows on shore, having no longer use for its
lower ribbons, it loses them, and expands only broad arrow-shaped
surfaces to the sunny air, leaves to be supplied with carbonic
acid to assimilate, and sunshine to turn off the oxygen and store
up the carbon into their system.
Next: WATER ARUM MARSH CALLA
|ADD TO EBOOK