(Streptopus roseus) Lily-of-the-Valley family
Flowers - Dull, purplish pink, 1/2 in. long or less, solitary, on
threadlike, curved footstalks longer than the small flower
itself, nodding from leaf-axils. Perianth bill-shaped, of 6
spreading segments; stamens 6, 2-horned; style spreading into 3
branches, stigmatic on
inner side. Stem: 1 to 2 1/2 ft. high,
simple or forked. Leaves: Thin, alternate, green on both sides,
many nerved, tapering at end, rounded at base, where they are
seated on stem. Fruit: A round, red, many-seeded berry.
Preferred Habitat - Moist woods.
Flowering Season - May-July.
Distribution - North America east and west, southward to Georgia
As we look down on this graceful plant, no blossoms are visible;
but if we bend the zig-zagged stem backward, we shall discover
the little rosy bells swaying from the base of the leaves on
curved footstalks (streptos = twisted, pous = a foot or stalk)
very much as the plant's relatives the Solomon's seals grow. In
the confident expectation of having its seeds dropped far and
wide, it bears showy red berries in August for the birds now
wandering through the woods with increased, hungry families.
The CLASPING-LEAVED TWISTED-STALK (S. amplexifolius), which has
one or two greenish-white bells nodding from its axils, may be
distinguished when not in flower by its leaves, which are hoary -
not green - on the under side, or by its oval berry. Indeed most
plants living in wet soil have a coating of down on the under
sides of their leaves to prevent the pores from clogging with
MOCCASIN FLOWER; PINK, VENUS', or STEMLESS LADY'S SLIPPER
(Cypripedium acaule) Orchid family
Flowers - Fragrant, solitary, large, showy, drooping from end of
scape, 6 to 12 in. high. Sepals lance-shaped, spreading, greenish
purple, 2 in. long or less; petals narrower and longer than
sepals. Lip an inflated sac, often over 2 in. long, slit down the
middle, and folded inwardly above, pale magenta, veined with
darker pink upper part of interior crested with long white hairs.
Stamens united with style into unsymmetrical declined column,
bearing an anther on either side, and a dilated triangular
petal-like sterile stamen above, arching over the broad concave
stigma. Leaves: 2, from the base; elliptic, thick, 6 to 8 in.
Preferred Habitat - Deep, rocky, or sandy woods.
Flowering Season - May-June.
Distribution - Canada southward to North Carolina, westward to
Minnesota and Kentucky.
Because most people cannot forbear picking this exquisite flower
that seems too beautiful to be found outside a millionaire's
hothouse, it is becoming rarer every year, until the finding of
one in the deep forest, where it must now hide, has become the
event of a day's walk. Once it was the commonest of the orchids.
"Cross-fertilization," says Darwin, "results in offspring which
vanquish the offspring of self-fertilization in the struggle for
existence." This has been the motto of the orchid family for
ages. No group of plants has taken more elaborate precautions
against self-pollination or developed more elaborate and
ingenious mechanism to compel insects to transfer their pollen
The fissure down the front of the pink lady's slipper is not so
wide but that a bee must use some force to push against its
elastic sloping sides and enter the large banquet chamber where
he finds generous entertainment secreted among the fine white
hairs in the upper part. Presently he has feasted enough. Now one
can hear him buzzing about inside, trying to find a way out of
the trap. Toward the two little gleams of light through apertures
at the end of a passage beyond the nectary hairs, he at length
finds his way. Narrower and narrower grows the passage until it
would seem as if he could never struggle through; nor can he
until his back has rubbed along the sticky, overhanging stigma,
which is furnished with minute, rigid, sharply pointed papillae,
all directed forward, and placed there for the express purpose of
combing out the pollen he has brought from another flower on his
back or head. The imported pollen having been safely removed, he
still has to struggle on toward freedom through one of the narrow
openings, where an anther almost blocks his way.
As he works outward, this anther, drawn downward on its hinge,
plasters his back with yellow granular pollen as a parting gift,
and away he flies to another lady's slipper to have it combed out
by the sticky stigma as described above. The smallest bees can
squeeze through the passage without paying toll. To those of the
Andrena and Halictus tribe the flower is evidently best adapted.
Sometimes the largest bumblebees, either unable or unwilling to
get out by the legitimate route, bite their way to liberty.
Mutilated sacs are not uncommon. But when unable to get out by
fair means, and too bewildered to escape by foul, the large bee
must sometimes perish miserably in his gorgeous prison.
SHOWY, GAY, or SPRING ORCHIS
(Orchis spectabilis) Orchid family
Flowers - Purplish pink, of deeper and lighter shade, the lower
lip white, and thick of texture; from 3 to 6 on a spike;
fragrant. Sepals pointed, united, arching above the converging
petals, and resembling a hood; lip large, spreading, prolonged
into a spur, which is largest at the tip and as long as the
twisted footstem. Sterm: 4 to 12 in. high, thick, fleshy,
5-sided. Leaves: 2 large, broadly ovate, glossy green, silvery on
under side, rising from a few scales from root. Fruit: A sharply
angled capsule, 1 in. long.
Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods, especially under hemlocks.
Flowering Season - April-June.
Distribution - From New Brunswick and Ontario southward to our
Southern States, westward to Nebraska.
Of the six floral leaves which every orchid, terrestrial or
aerial, possesses, one is always peculiar in form, pouch-shaped,
or a cornucopia filled with nectar, or a flaunted, fringed
banner, or a broad platform for the insect visitors to alight on.
Some orchids look to imaginative eyes as if they were
masquerading in the disguise of bees, moths, frogs, birds,
butterflies. A number of these queer freaks are to be found in
Europe. Spring traps, adhesive plasters, and hair-triggers
attached to explosive shells of pollen are among the many devices
by which orchids compel insects to cross-fertilize them, these
flowers as a family showing the most marvelous mechanism adapted
to their requirements from insects in the whole floral kingdom.
No other blossoms can so well afford to wear magenta, the ugliest
shade nature produces, the "lovely rosy purple" of Dutch bulb
growers, a color that has an unpleasant effect on not a few
American stomachs outside of Hoboken.
But an orchid, from the amazing cleverness of its operations, is
attractive under any circumstances to whomever understands
it. This earliest member of the family to appear charms the
female bumblebee, to whose anatomy it is especially adapted. The
males, whose faces are hairy where the females' are bare, and
therefore not calculated to retain the sticky pollen masses, are
not yet flying when the showy orchis blooms. Bombus Americanorum,
which can drain the longest spurs, B. separatus, B. terricola,
and, rarely, butterflies as well, have been caught with its
pollen masses attached. The bee alights on the projecting lip,
pushes her head into the mouth of the corolla, and, as she sips
the nectar from the horn of plenty, ruptures by the slight
pressure a membrane of the pouch where two sticky buttons, to
which two pollen masses are attached, lie imbedded. Instantly
after contact these adhere to the round bare spots on her face,
the viscid cement hardening before her head is fairly withdrawn.
Now the diverging pollen masses, that look like antennae, fall
from the perpendicular, by remarkable power of contraction, to a
horizontal attitude, that they may be in the precise position to
fertilize the stigma of the next flower visited - just as if they
possessed a reasoning intelligence! Even after all the pollen has
been deposited on the sticky stigmas of various blossoms,
stump-like caudicles to which the two little sacs were attached
have been found still plastered on a long-suffering bee. But so
rich in nectar are the moisture-loving orchids that, to obtain a
draught, the sticky plasters which she must carry do not seem too
dear a price to pay. In this showy orchis the nectar often rises
an eighth of an inch in the tube, and sufficient pressure to
cause a rupture will eject it a foot.
ROSE or SWEET POGONIA; SNAKE-MOUTH
(Pogonia ophioglossoides) Orchid family
Flowers - Pale rose pink, fragrant, about 1 in. long, usually
solitary at end of stem 8 to 15 in. high, and subtended by a
leaf-like bract. Sepals and petals equal, oval, about 1/2 in.
long, the lip spoon-shaped, crested, and fringed. Column shorter
than petals, thick, club-shaped. Anther terminal, attached to
back of column, pollen mass in each of its 2 sacs. Stigma a
flattened disk below anther. Leaves: 1 to 3, erect, lance-oblong,
sometimes one with long footstem from fibrous root.
Preferred Habitat - Swamps and low meadows.
Flowering Season - June-July.
Distribution - Canada to Florida, westward to Kansas.
Rearing its head above the low sedges, often brightened with
colonies of the grass pink at the same time, this shy recluse of
the swamps woos the passing bee with lovely color, a fragrance
like fresh red raspberries, an alluring alighting place all
fringed and crested, and with the prospect of hospitable
entertainment in the nectary beyond. So in she goes, between the
platform and the column overhead, pushing first her head, then
brushing her back against the stigma just below the end of the
thick column that almost closes the passage. Any powdery pollen
she brought on her back from another pogonia must now be brushed
off against the sticky stigma. Her feast ended, out she backs.
And now a wonderful thing happens. The lid of the anther which is
at the end of the column, catching in her shoulders, swings
outward on its elastic hinge, releasing a little shower of golden
dust, which she must carry on the hairs of her head or back until
the sticky stigma of the next pogonia entered kindly wipes it
off! This is one of the few orchids whose pollen, usually found
in masses, is not united by threads. Without the bee's aid in
releasing it from its little box, the lovely species would
quickly perish from the face of the earth.
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