(Helianthemum Canadense) Rock-rose family
Flowers - Solitary, or rarely 2; about 1 in. across, 5-parted,
with showy yellow petals; the 5 unequal sepals hairy. Also
abundant small flowers lacking petals, produced from the axils
later. Stem: Erect, 3 in. to 2 ft. high;
at first simple, later
with elongated branches. Leaves: Alternate, oblong, almost seated
Preferred Habitat - Dry fields, sandy or rocky soil.
Flowering Season - Petal-bearing flowers, May-July.
Distribution - New England to the Carolinas, westward to
Wisconsin and Kentucky.
Only for a day, and that must be a bright sunny one, does the
solitary frost-flower expand its delicate yellow petals. On the
next, after pollen has been brought to it by insect messengers
and its own carried away, the now useless petal advertisements
fall, and the numerous stamens, inserted upon the receptacle with
them, also drop off, leaving the club-shaped pistil to develop
with the ovary into a rounded, ovoid, three-valved capsule.
Notice how flat the stamens lie upon the petals to keep safely
out of reach of the stigma. Another flower, exactly like the
first, now expands, and the bloom continues for weeks. Why does
only one blossom open at a time? Because the whole aim of the
showy flowers is to set cross-fertilized seed, and when only one
at a time appears, pollination not only between distinct blossoms
but between distinct plants insures the healthiest, most vigorous
offspring - a wise precaution against degeneracy, in view of the
quantities of self-fertilized seed that will be set late in
summer by the tiny apetalous flowers that never open (see white
wood sorrel). Surely two kinds of blossoms should be enough for
any species; but why call this the frost-flower when its bloom is
ended by autumn? Only the witch-hazel may be said to flower for
the first time after frost. When the stubble in the dry fields is
white some cold November morning, comparatively few notice the
ice crystals, like specks of glistening quartz, at the base of
the stems of this plant. The similar HOARY FROST-WEED (H. majus),
whose showy flowers appear in clusters at the hoary stein's
summit, in June and July, also bears them. Often this ice
formation assumes exquisite feathery, whimsical forms, bursting
the bark asunder where an astonishing quantity of sap gushes
forth and freezes. Indeed, so much sap sometimes goes to the
making of this crystal flower, that it would seem as if an extra
reservoir in the soil must pump some up to supply it with its
large fantastic corolla.
BEACH or FALSE HEATHER; POVERTY GRASS
(Hudsonia tomentosa) Rock-rose family
Flowers - Bright yellow, small, about 1/4 in. across, numerous,
closely ascending the upper part of the heath-like branches.
Sepals 5, unequal; 5 petals; stamens, 9 to 18. Stem: 4 to 8 in.
tall, tufted, densely branched and matted, hoary hairy, pale.
Leaves: Overlapping like scales, very small.
Preferred Habitat - Sands of the seashore, pine barrens, beaches
of rivers and lakes.
Flowering Season - May-July.
Distribution - New Brunswick to Maryland, west to Lake of the
Like the showy flowers of the frost-weed, these minute ones open
in the sunshine only, and then but for a single day.
Nevertheless, the hoary, heath-like little shrub, by growing in
large colonies and keeping up a succession of bright bloom,
tinges the sand dunes back of the beach with charming color that
artists delight to paint in the foreground of their marine
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Next: YELLOW VIOLETS
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