OBEDIENT PLANT FALSE DRAGONHEAD LION'S HEART
(Physostegia Virginiana) Mint family
Flowers - Pale magenta, purplish rose, or flesh-colored, often
variegated with white, 1 in. long or over, in dense spikes from 4
to 8 in. long. Calyx a 5-toothed oblong bell, swollen and
remaining open in fruit, held up
by lance-shaped bracts. Corolla
tubular and much enlarged where it divides into 2 lips, the upper
lip concave, rounded, entire, the lower lip 3 lobed. Stamens 4,
in two pairs under roof of upper lip, the filaments hairy; 1
pistil. Stem: 1 to 4 ft. high, simple or branched above, leafy.
Leaves: Opposite, firm, oblong to oblong-lanceolate, narrowing at
base, deeply saw-edged.
Preferred Habitat - Moist soil.
Flowering Season - July-September.
Distribution - Quebec to the Northwest Territory, southward to
the Gulf of Mexico as far west as Texas.
Bright patches of this curious flower enliven railroad ditches,
gutters, moist meadows and brooksides - curious, for it has the
peculiarity of remaining in any position in which it is placed.
With one puff a child can easily blow the blossoms to the
opposite side of the spike, there to stay in meek obedience to
his will. "The flowers are made to assume their definite
position," says Professor W. W. Bailey in the "Botanical
Gazette," "by friction of the pedicels against the subtending
bracts. Remove the bracts, and they at once fall limp."
Qf course the plant has some better reason for this peculiar
obedience to every breath that blows than to amuse windy-cheeked
boys and girls. Is not the ready movement useful during stormy
weather in turning the mouth of the flower away from driving
rain, and in fair days, when insects are abroad, in presenting
its gaping lips where they can best alight? We all know that
insects, like birds, make long flights most easily with the wind,
but in rising and alighting it is their practice to turn against
it. When bees, for example, are out for food on windy days, and
must make frequent stops for refreshment among the flowers, they
will be found going against the wind, possibly to catch the
whiffs of fragrance borne on it that guide them to feast, but
more likely that they may rise and alight readily. One always
sees bumblebees conspicuous among the obedient plant's visitors.
After the anthers have shed their pollen - and tiny teeth at the
edges of the outer pair aid its complete removal by insects - the
stigma comes up to occupy their place under the roof. Certainly
this flower; which is so ill-adapted to fertilize itself, has
every reason to court insect messengers in fair and stormy
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