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WILD SPIKENARD FALSE SOLOMON'S SEAL SOLOMON'S ZIGZAG







(Vagnera racemosa; Smilacina racemosa of Gray) Lily-of-the-Valley family Flowers - White or greenish, small, slightly fragrant, in a densely flowered terminal raceme. Perianth of 6 separate, spreading segments; 6 stamens; 1 pistil. Stem: Simple, somewhat angled, 1 to 3 ft. high, scaly below, leafy, and sometimes finely hairy above. Leaves: Alternate and seated along stem, oblong, lance-shaped, 3 to 6 in. long, finely hairy beneath. Rootstock: Thick, fleshy. Fruit: A cluster of aromatic, round, pale red speckled berries. Preferred Habitat - Moist woods, thickets, hillsides. Flowering Season - May-July. Distribution - Nova Scotia to Georgia; westward to Arizona and British Columbia. As if to offer opportunities for comparison to the confused novice, the true Solomon's seal and the so-called false species - quite as honest a plant - usually grow near each other. Grace of line, rather than beauty of blossom, gives them both their chief charm. But the feathery plume of greenish-white blossoms that crowns the false Solomon's seal's somewhat zig-zagged stem is very different from the small, greenish, bell-shaped flowers, usually nodding in pairs along the stem, under the leaves, from the axils of the true Solomon's seal. Later in summer, when hungry birds wander through the woods with increased families, the wild spikenard offers them branching clusters of pale red speckled berries, whereas the latter plant feasts them with blue-black fruit, in the hope that they will drop the seeds miles away. By clustering its small, slightly fragrant flowers at the end of its stem, the wild spikenard offers a more taking advertisement to its insect friends than its cousin can show. A few flies and beetles visit them; but apparently the less specialized bees, chiefly those of the Halictus tribe, which predominate in May, are the principal guests. These alight in the center of the widely expanded blossoms set on the upper side of the branching raceme so as to make their nectar and pollen easily accessible; and as the newly opened flower has its stigma already receptive to pollen brought to it while its own anthers are closed, it follows the plant is dependent upon the bees' help, as well as the birds', to perpetuate itself. The STAR-FLOWERED SOLOMON'S SEAL (V. stellata), found from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Newfoundland as far south as Kansas, has larger, but fewer, flowers than the wild spikenard, at the end of its erect, low-growing stem. Where the two species grow together - and they often do - it will be noticed that the star-flowered one frequently forms colonies on rich, moist banks, its leaves partly clasp the stem, and its berries, which may be entirely black, are more frequently green, with six black stripes. The TWO-LEAVED SOLOMON'S SEAL, or FALSE LILY-OF-THE-VALLEY (Unifolium Canadense), very common in moist woods and thickets North and West, is a curious little plant, sometimes with only a solitary, long-petioled leaf; but where many of these sterile plants grow together, forming shining beds. Other individuals lift a white-flowered raceme six inches above the ground; and on the slender, often zig-zagged flowering stem there may be one to three, but usually two, ovate leaves, pointed at the apex, heart-shaped at the base, either seated on it, one above the other, or standing out from it on distinct but short petioles. This flower has only four segments and four stamens. Like the wild spikenard, the little plant bears clusters of pale red speckled berries in autumn. HAIRY or TRUE or TWIN-FLOWERED SOLOMON'S SEAL (Polygonatum biftorum) Lily-of-the-Valley family Flowers - Whitish or yellowish green, tubular, bell-shaped, 1 to 4, but usually 2, drooping on slender peduncles from leaf axils. Perianth 6-lobed at entrance, but not spreading; 6 stamens, the filaments roughened; 1 pistil. Stem: Simple, slender, arching, leafy, 8 in. to 3 ft. long. Leaves: Oval, pointed, or lance-shaped, alternate, 2 to 4 in. long, seated on stem, pale beneath and softly hairy along veins. Rootstock: Thick, horizontal, jointed, scarred. (Polygonatum = many joints). Fruit: A blue-black berry. Preferred Habitat - Woods, thickets, shady banks. Flowering Season - April-June. Distribution - New Brunswick to Florida, westward to Michigan. >From a many-jointed, thick rootstock a single graceful curved stem arises each spring, withers after fruiting, and leaves a round scar, whose outlines suggested to the fanciful man who named the genus the seal of Israel's wise king. Thus one may know the age of a root by its seals, as one tells that of a tree by the rings in its trunk. The dingy little cylindric flowers, hidden beneath the leaves, may be either self-pollenized or cross-pollenized by the bumblebees to which they are adapted. "We may suppose," says Professor Robertson, "that the pendulous position of the flowers owes its origin to the fact that it renders them less convenient to other insects, but equally convenient to the higher bees which are the most efficient pollinators; and that the resulting protection to pollen and nectar is merely an incidental effect." Certain Lepidoptera, and small insects which crawl into the cylinder, visit all the Solomon's seals. The SMOOTH SOLOMON'S SEAL (P. commutatum; P.giganteum of Gray), with much the same range as its smaller relative, grows in moist woods and along shaded streams. It is a variable, capricious plant, with a stout or slender stem, perhaps only one foot high, or again towering above the tallest man's head; the oval leaves also vary greatly in breadth and length; and a solitary flower may droop from an axil, or perhaps eight dingy greenish cylinders may hang in a cluster. But the plant is always smooth throughout. Even the incurved filaments which obstruct the entrance to this flower are smooth where those of the preceding species are rough-hairy. The style is so short that it may never come in contact with the anthers, although the winged visitors must often leave pollen of the same flower on the stigma. EARLY or DWARF WAKE-ROBIN (Trillium nivale) Lily-of-the-Valley family Flowers - Solitary, pure white, about 1 in. long, on an erect or curved peduncle, from a whorl of 3 leaves at summit of stem. Three spreading, green, narrowly oblong sepals; 3 oval or oblong petals; 6 stamens, the anthers about as long as filaments; 3 slender styles stigmatic along inner side. Stem: 2 to 6 in. high, from a short, tuber-like rootstock. Leaves: 3 in a whorl below the flower, 1 to 2 in. long, broadly oval, rounded at end, on short petioles. Fruit: A 3-lobed reddish berry, about 1/2 in. in diameter, the sepals adhering. Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods and thickets. Flowering Season - March-May. Distribution - Pennsylvania, westward to Minnesota and Iowa, south to Kentucky. Only this delicate little flower, as white as the snow it sometimes must push through to reach the sunshine melting the last drifts in the leafless woods, can be said to wake the robins into song; a full chorus of feathered love-makers greets the appearance of the more widely distributed, and therefore better known, species. By the rule of three all the trilliums, as their name implies, regulate their affairs. Three sepals, three petals, twice three stamens, three styles, a three-celled ovary, the flower growing out from a whorl of three leaves, make the naming of wake-robins a simple matter to the novice. Rarely do the parts divide into fours, or the petals and sepals revert to primitive green leaves. With the exception of the painted trillium which sometimes grows in bogs, all the clan live in rich, moist woods. It is said the roots are poisonous. In them the next year's leaves lie curled through the winter, as in the iris and Solomon's seal, among others. One of the most chastely beautiful of our native wild flowers - so lovely that many shady nooks in English rock-gardens and ferneries contain imported clumps of the vigorous plant - is the LARGE-FLOWERED WAKE-ROBIN, or WHITE WOOD LILY (T. grandiflorum). Under favorable conditions the waxy, thin, white, or occasionally pink, strongly veined petals may exceed two inches; and in Michigan a monstrous form has been found. The broadly rhombic leaves, tapering to a point, and lacking petioles, are seated in the usual whorl of three, at the summit of the stem, which may attain a foot and a half in height; from the center the decorative flower arises on a long peduncle. At first the entrance to the blossom is closed by the long anthers which much exceed the filaments; and hive-bees, among other insects, in collecting pollen, transfer it to older and now expanded flowers, in which the low stigmas appear between the tall separated stamens. Nectar stored in septal glands at the base invites the visitor laden with pollen from young flowers to come in contact with the three late maturing stigmas. The berry is black. From Quebec to Florida and far westward we find this tardy wake-robin in May or June. Certainly the commonest trillium in the East, although it thrives as far westward as Ontario and Missouri, and south to Georgia, is the NODDING WAKE-ROBIN (T. cernuum), whose white or pinkish flower droops from its peduncle until it is all but hidden under the whorl of broadly rhombic, tapering leaves. The wavy margined petals, about as long as the sepals - that is to say, half an inch long or over - curve backward at maturity. According to Miss Carter, who studied the flower in the Botanical Garden at South Hadley, Mass., it is slightly proterandrous, maturing its anthers first, but with a chance of spontaneous self-pollination by the stigmas recurving to meet the shorter stamens. She saw bumblebees visiting it for nectar. In late summer an egg-shaped, pendulous red-purple berry swings from the summit. One finds the plant in bloom from April to June, according to the climate of its long range, Perhaps the most strikingly beautiful member of the tribe is the PAINTED TRILLIUM (T. undulatum; T. erythrocarpum of Gray). At the summit of the slender stem, rising perhaps only eight inches, or maybe twice as high, this charming flower spreads its long, wavy-edged, waxy-white petals veined and striped with deep pink or wine color. The large ovate leaves, long-tapering to a point, are rounded at the base into short petioles. The rounded, three-angled, bright red, shining berry is seated in the persistent calyx. With the same range as the nodding trillium's, the painted wake-robin comes into bloom nearly a month later - in May and June - when all the birds are not only wide awake, but have finished courting, and are busily engaged in the most serious business of life.





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