(Linaria Linaria; L. vulgaris of Gray) Figwort family

Flowers - Light canary yellow and orange, 1 in. long or over,

irregular, borne in terminal, leafy-bracted spikes. Corolla

spurred at the base, 2-lipped, the upper lip erect, 2-lobed; the

lower lip spreading, 3-lobed, its base an orange-colored palate

closing the throat; 4 stamens in pairs within; 1 pistil. Stem: 1

to 3 ft. tall, slender, leafy. Leaves: Pale, grass-like.

Preferred Habitat - Wasteland, roadsides, banks, fields.

Flowering Season - June-October.

Distribution - Nebraska and Manitoba, eastward to Virginia and

Nova Scotia. Europe and Asia.

An immigrant from Europe, this plebeian perennial, meekly content

with waste places, is rapidly inheriting the earth. Its beautiful

spikes of butter-colored cornucopias, apparently holding the yolk

of a diminutive Spanish egg, emit a cheesy odor, suggesting a

close dairy. Perhaps half the charm of the plant consists in the

pale bluish-green grass-like leaves with a bloom on the surface,

which are put forth so abundantly from the sterile shoots. (See

blue toad-flax.)

Guided by the orange palate pathfinder to where the curious,

puzzling flower opens, the big velvety bumblebee alights, his

weight depressing the lower lip until a comfortable entrance

through the gaping mouth is offered him. In he goes, and his long

tongue readily reaches the nectar in the deep spur, while his

back brushes off pollen from the stamens in his way overhead.

Then he backs out, and the gaping mouth springs shut after him -

for the linaria is akin to the snapdragon in the garden. As its

stamens are of two lengths, the flower is able to fertilize

itself in stormy weather, insects failing to transfer its pollen.

To drain ten of these spurs a minute is no difficult task for the

bumblebee. But how slowly, painfully, the little lightweight

hive-bees and leaf-cutters squeeze in between the tight lips. An

occasional butterfly inserts its long, thin tongue, and, without

transferring a grain of pollen for the flower, robs it of sweets

clearly intended for the bumblebee alone. Even when ants - the

worst pilferers extant - succeed in entering, they cannot reach

the nectar, owing to the hairy stockade bordering the groove

where it runs. Beetles, out for pollen, also occasionally steal

an entrance, if nothing more. Grazing cattle let the plant alone

to ripen seed in peace, for it secretes disagreeable juices in

its cells - juices that were once mixed with milk by farmers'

wives to poison flies.