(Alisma Plantago-aquatica) Water-plantain family
Flowers - Very small and numerous, white, or pale pink, whorled
in bracted clusters forming a large, loose panicle 6 to 15 in.
long on a usually solitary scape 1/2 to 3 ft. high. Calyx of 3
of 3 deciduous petals; 6 or more stamens; many
carpels in a ring on a small flat receptacle. Leaves: Erect or
floating, oblong or ovate, with several ribs, or lance-shaped or
grass-like, petioled, all from root.
Perferred Habitat - Shallow water, mud, marshes.
Flowering Season - June-September.
Distribution - North America, Europe, Asia.
Unlike its far more showy, decorative cousin the arrow-head, this
wee-blossomed plant, whose misty white panicles rise with
compensating generosity the world around, bears only perfect,
regular flowers. Twelve infinitesimal drops of nectar, secreted
in a fleshy ring around the center, are eagerly sought by flies.
As the anthers point obliquely outward and away from the stigmas,
an incoming fly, bearing pollen on his under side, usually
alights in the center, and leaves some of the vitalizing dust
just where it is most needed. But a "fly starting from a petal,"
says Muller, "usually applies its tongue to the nectar-drops one
by one, and after each it strokes an anther with its labellae; in
so doing it may bring various parts of its body in contact with
the anthers. As a rule, however, the parts which come in contact
with the anthers are not those which come in contact with the
stigmas in the same flower." Any plant that lives in shallow
water, which may dry up as summer advances, is under special
necessity to produce an extra quantity of cross-fertilized seed
to guard against extinction during drought. For the same reason
it bears several kinds of leaves adapted to its environment:
broad ones that spread their surfaces to the sunshine, and long
grass-like ones to glide through currents of water that would
tear those of any other shape. What diversity of leaf-form and
structure we meet daily, and yet how very little does the wisest
man of science understand of the reasons underlying such
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