SNAKE BERRY POISONFLOWER WOODY NIGHTSHADE
(Solanum Dulcamara) Potato family
Flowers - Blue, purple, or, rarely, white with greenish spots on
each lobe; about 1/2 in. broad, clustered in slender, drooping
cymes. Calyx 5-lobed, oblong, persistent on the berry; corolla
deeply, sharply 5-cleft, wheel-shaped, or points curved backward;
inserted on throat, yellow, protruding, the anthers
united to form a cone; stigma small. Stem: Climbing or
straggling, woody below, branched, 2 to 8 ft. long. Leaves:
Alternate, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 2 1/2 in. wide, pointed at the
apex, usually heart-shaped at base; some with 2 distinct leaflets
below on the petiole, others have leaflets united with leaf like
lower lobes or wings. Fruit: A bright red, oval berry.
Preferred Habitat - Moist thickets, fence rows.
Flowering Season - May-September.
Distribution - United States east of Kansas, north of New Jersey.
Canada, Europe, and Asia.
More beautiful than the graceful flowers are the drooping cymes
of bright berries, turning from green to yellow, then to orange
and scarlet, in the tangled thicket by the shady roadside in
autumn, when the unpretending, shrubby vine, that has crowded its
way through the rank midsummer vegetation, becomes a joy to the
eye. Another bittersweet, so-called, festoons the hedgerows with
yellow berries which, bursting, show their scarlet-coated seeds.
Rose hips and mountain-ash berries, among many other conspicuous
bits of color, arrest attention, but not for us were they
designed. Now the birds are migrating, and, hungry with their
long flight, they gladly stop to feed upon fare so attractive.
Hard, indigestible seeds traverse the alimentary canal without
alteration and are deposited many miles from the parent that bore
them. Nature's methods for widely distributing plants cannot but
stir the dullest imagination.
The purple pendent flowers of this nightshade secrete no nectar,
therefore many insects let them alone; but it is now believed
that no part of the plant is poisonous. Certainly one that claims
the potato, tomato, and eggplant among its kin has no right to be
dangerous. The BLACK, GARDEN, or DEADLY NIGHTSHADE, also called
MOREL (S. nigrum), bears jet-black berries that are alleged to be
fatal. Nevertheless, female bumblebees, to which its white
flowers are specially adapted, visit them to draw out pollen from
the chinks of the anthers with their jaws, just as they do in the
case of the wild, sensitive plant, and with no more disastrous
result. It has been well said that the nightshades are a blessing
both to the sick and to the doctors. The present species takes
its name from dulcis, sweet, and amaras, bitter, referring to the
taste of the juice; the generic name is derived from solamen,
solace or consolation, referring to the relief afforded by the
narcotic properties of some of these plants.
BLUE or WILD TOADFLAX; BLUE LINARIA
(Linaria Canadensis) Figwort family
Flowers - Pale blue to purple, small, irregular, in slender
spikes. Calyx 5-pointed; corolla 2-lipped, with curved spur
longer than its tube, which is nearly closed by a white, 2-ridged
projection or palate; the upper lip erect, 2-lobed; lower lip
3-lobed, spreading. Stamens 4, in pairs, in throat; 1 pistil.
Stem: Slender, weak, of sterile shoots, prostrate; flowering
stem, ascending or erect, 4 in. to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Small,
linear, alternately scattered along stem, or oblong in pairs or
threes on leafy sterile shoots.
Preferred Habitat - Dry soil, gravel, or sand.
Flowering Season - May-October.
Distribution - North, Central, and South Americas.
Sometimes lying prostrate in the dust, sometimes erect, the
linaria's delicate spikes of bloom wear an air of injured
innocence, yet the plant, weak as it looks, has managed to spread
over three Americas from ocean to ocean. More beautiful than the
rather scrawny flowers are the tufts of cool green foliage made
by the sterile shoots that take complete possession of a wide
area around the parent plants.
Unlike its relative butter-and-eggs, the corolla of this toadflax
is so contracted that bees cannot enter it; but by inserting
their long tongues, they nevertheless manage to drain it. Small,
short-tongued bees contrive to reach only a little nectar. The
palate, so valuable to the other linaria, has in this one lost
its function; and the larger flies, taking advantage of the
flower's weakness, pilfer both sweets and pollen. Butterflies, to
which a slender spurred flower is especially attractive, visit
this one in great numbers, and as they cannot regale themselves
without touching the anthers and stigma, they may be regarded as
the legitimate visitors.
Wolf, rat, mouse, sow, cow, cat, snake, dragon, dog, toad, are
among the many animal prefixes to the names of flowers that the
English country people have given for various and often most
interesting reasons. Just as dog, used as a prefix, expresses an
idea of worthlessness to them, so toad suggests a spurious plant;
the toadflax being made to bear what is meant to be an odious
name because before flowering it resembles the true flax, linum,
from which the generic title is derived.
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