WILD OR FIELD PARSNIP MADNEP TANK
(Pastinaca sativa) Carrot family
Flowers - Dull or greenish yellow, small, without involucre or
involucels; borne in 7 to 15 rayed umbels, 2 to 6 in. across.
Stem: 2 to 5 ft. tall, stout, smooth, branching, grooved, from a
long, conic, fleshy, strong-scented
root. Leaves: Compounded
(pinnately), of several pairs of oval, lobed, or cut, sharply
toothed leaflets; the petioled lower leaves often 1 1/2 ft. long.
Preferred Habitat - Waste places, roadsides, fields.
Flowering Season - June-September.
Distribution - Common throughout nearly all parts of the United
States and Canada. Europe.
Men are not the only creatures who feed upon such of the
umbel-bearing plants as are innocent - parsnips, celery, parsley,
carrots, caraway, and fennel, among others; and even those which
contain properties that are poisonous to highly organized men and
beasts, afford harmless food for insects. Pliny says that
parsnips, which were cultivated beyond the Rhine in the days of
Tiberius, were brought to Rome annually to please the emperor's
exacting palate; yet this same plant, which has overrun two
continents, in its wild state (when its leaves are a paler
yellowish green than under cultivation) often proves poisonous. A
strongly acrid juice in the very tough stem causes intelligent
cattle to let it alone - precisely the object desired. But
caterpillars of certain swallow-tail butterflies, particularly of
the common eastern swallow-tail (Papilio asterias), may be taken
on it - the same greenish, black-banded, and yellow-dotted fat
"worm" found on parsnips, fennel, and parsley in the kitchen
garden. Insects understood plant relationships ages before
Linnaeus defined them. When we see this dark, velvety butterfly,
marked with yellow, hovering above the wild parsnip, we may know
she is there only to lay eggs that her larvae may eat their way
to maturity on this favorite food store. After the flat, oval,
shining seeds with their conspicuous oil tubes are set in the
spreading umbels, the strong, vigorous plant loses nothing of its
>From April to June the lower-growing EARLY or GOLDEN MEADOW
PARSNIP (Zizia aurea) spreads its clearer yellow umbels above
moist fields, meadows, and swamps from New Brunswick and Dakota
to the Gulf of Mexico. Its leaves are twice or thrice compounded
of oblong, pointed, saw-edged, but not lobed leaflets.
The HAIRY-JOINTED MEADOW PARSNIP (Thaspium barbinode), another
early bloomer, with pale-yellow flowers, most common in the
Mississippi basin, may always be distinguished by the little
tufts of hair at the joints of the stem, the compound leaves, and
often on the rays of the umbels.
A yellow variety of the PURPLE MEADOW PARSNIP, which is popularly
known as GOLDEN ALEXANDERS (T. trifoliatum var. aureum), confines
itself chiefly to woodlands. The leaves are compounded of three
leaflets, longer and more lance-shaped in outline than those of
other yellow species.
FOUR-LEAVED or WHORLED LOOSESTRIFE; CROSSWORT
(Lysimachia quadrifolia) Primrose family
Flowers - Yellow, streaked with dark red, 1/2 in. across or less;
each on a thread-like, spreading footstem from a leaf axil.
Calyx, 5 to 7 parted; corolla of 5 to 7 spreading lobes, and as
many stamens inserted on the throat; 1 pistil. Stem: Slender,
erect, to 3 ft. tall, leafy. Leaves: In whorls of 4 (rarely in
3's to 7's), lance-shaped or oblong, entire, black dotted.
Preferred Habitat - Open woodland, thickets, roadsides, moist,
Flowering Season - June-August.
Distribution - Georgia and Illinois, north to New Brunswick.
Medieval herbalists usually recorded anything that "Plinie
saieth" with profoundest respect; not always so, quaint old
Parkinson. Speaking of the common (vulgaris), wild loosestrife of
Europe, a rather stout, downy species with terminal clusters of
good-sized, yellow flowers, that was once cultivated in our
Eastern States, and has sparingly escaped from gardens, he thus
refers to the reputation given it by the Roman naturalist: "It is
believed to take away strife, or debate between ye beasts, not
onely those that are yoked together, but even those that are wild
also, by making them tame and quiet...if it be either put about
their yokes or their necks," significantly adding, "which how
true, I leave to them shall try and find it soe." Our slender,
symmetrical, common loosestrife, with its whorls of leaves and
little star-shaped blossoms on thread-like pedicels at regular
intervals up the stem, is not even distantly related to the
wonderful purple loosestrife (q.v.).
Another common, lower-growing species, the BULB-BEARING
LOOSESTRIFE (L. terrestris; L. stricta of Gray) - blooming from
July to September, lifts a terminal, elongated raceme of even
smaller, slender-pedicelled, yellow flowers streaked or dotted
with reddish; and in the axils of its abundant, opposite,
lance-shaped, black-dotted leaves, long bulblets, that are in
reality suppressed branches, are usually borne after the
flowering season. Occasionally no flowers are produced, only
these strange bulblets. In this state Linnaeus mistook the plant
for a terrestrial mistletoe. This species shows a decided
preference for swamps, moist thickets, and ditches throughout a
range which extends from Manitoba and Arkansas to the Atlantic
MONEYWORT, or CREEPING LOOSESTRIFE (L. Nummularia), a native of
Great Britain, which has long been a favorite vine in American
hanging baskets and urns, when kept in moist soil, suspended from
a veranda, will produce prolific shoots two or three feet in
length, hanging down on all sides. Pairs of yellow, dark-spotted,
five-lobed flowers grow from the axils of the opposite leaves
from June to August. One often finds it running wild in moist
soil beyond the pale of old gardens from Pennsylvania and Indiana
northward into Canada. Slight encouragement in starting runaways
would easily induce the hardy little evergreen to be as common
here as it is in England.
The LANCE-LEAVED LOOSESTRIFE (Steironema lanceolatum), most
common in the West and South, although it is by no means rare in
the northeastern States, produces either single blossoms or
few-flowered, spreading, axillary clusters on slender peduncles,
each unspotted, yellow corolla half an inch across or over; the
petal edges as if gnawed by the finest of teeth; the pointed
calyx segments showing between them. Sterile stamens in addition
to the fertile ones characterize this clan. In moist soil it
blooms from June to August. It is a strange fact that female bees
of the genus Macropis have never been taken on plants outside the
loosestrife connection. Here there appears to be the closest
interdependence between flower and insect. Even in Germany,
Muller found them by far the most abundant visitors, "diligently
sweeping the flowers (L. vulgaris) and piling large masses of
moistened pollen on their hind legs." He inclined to believe that
such blossoms in this group as have spots or streaks on their
petals - pathfinders for insect visitors - are largely dependent
on them, and cannot easily fertilize themselves; whereas the
unmarked blossoms, growing in such situations as are less
favorable to insect visits, are regularly self-fertile.
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