(Limodorum tuberosum; Calopogon pulchellus of Gray) Orchid


Flowers - Purplish pink, 1 in. long, 3 to 15 around a long, loose

spike. Sepals and petals similar, oval, acute; the lip on upper

side of flower is broad at the summit, tapering into a claw,

flexible as if hinged, densely bearded on its face with white,

yellow, and magenta hairs (Calopogon = beautiful beard). Column

below lip (ovary not twisted in this exceptional case); sticky

stigma at summit of column, and just below it a 2-celled anther,

each cell containing 2 pollen masses, the grain lightly connected

by threads. Scape: 1 to 1 1/2 ft. high, slender, naked. Leaf:

Solitary, long, grass-like, from a round bulb arising from bulb

of previous year.

Preferred Habitat - Swamps, cranberry bogs, and low meadows.

Flowering Season - June-July.

Distribution - Newfoundland to Florida, and westward to the


Fortunately this lovely orchid, one of the most interesting of

its highly organized family, is far from rare, and where we find

the rose pogonia and other bog-loving relatives growing, the

calopogon usually outnumbers them all. Limodorum translated reads

meadow-gift; but we find the flower less frequently in grassy

places than those who have waded into its favorite haunts could


Owing to the crested lip being oddly situated on the upper part

of the flower, which appears to be growing upside down in

consequence, one might suppose a visiting insect would not choose

to alight on it. The pretty club-shaped, vari-colored hairs,

which he may mistake for stamens, and which keep his feet from

slipping, irresistibly invite him there, however, when, presto!

down drops the fringed lip with startling suddenness. Of course,

the bee strikes his back against the column when he falls. Now,

there are two slightly upturned little wings on either side of

the column, which keep his body from slipping off at either side

and necessitate its exit from the end where the stigma smears it

with viscid matter. The pressure of the insect on this part

starts the pollen masses from their pocket just below; and as the

bee slides off the end of the column, the exposed, cobwebby

threads to which the pollen grains are attached cling to his

sticky body. The sticky substance instantly hardening, the pollen

masses, which are drawn out from their pocket as he escapes, are

cemented to his abdomen in the precise spot where they must

strike against the stigma of the next calopogon he tumbles in;

hence cross-fertilization results. What recompense does the bee

get for such rough handling? None at all, so far as is known. The

flower, which secretes no nectar, is doubtless one of those gay

deceivers that Sprengel named "Scheinsaftblumen," only it leads

its visitors to look for pollen instead of nectar, on the

supposition that the club-shaped hairs on the crests are stamens.

The wonder is that the intelligent little bees (a species of

Andrenidae), which chiefly are its Victims, have not yet learned

to boycott it.

"Calopogon," says Professor Robertson, who knows more about the

fertilization of American wild flowers by insects than most

writers, "is one of a few flowers which move the insect toward

the stigma.... There is no expenditure in keeping up a supply of

nectar, and the flower, although requiring a smooth insect of a

certain size and weight, suffers nothing from the visits of those

it cannot utilize. Then, there is no delay caused by the insect

waiting to suck; but as soon as it alights it is thrown down

against the stigma. This occurs so quickly that, while standing

net in hand, I have seen insects effect pollination and escape

before I could catch them. So many orchids fasten their pollinia

upon the faces and tongues of insects that it is interesting to

find one which applies them regularly to the first abdominal

segment. Mr. Darwin has observed that absence of hair on the

tongues of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and on the faces

of Hymenoptera (bees; wasps, etc.) has led to the more usual

adaptations, and sparseness of hair has its influence in this

case. Species of Augochlora are the only insects on which I found

pollinia. These bees are very smooth, depending for ornament on

the metallic sheen of their bodies. An Halictus repeatedly pulled

down the labella (lips) of flowers from which pollinia had not

been removed; and the only reason I can assign for its failure to

extract pollinia is that it is more hairy than the Augochlora.


(Polygonum Pennsylvanicum) Buckwheat family

Flowers - Very small, pink, collected in terminal, dense, narrow,

obtuse spikes, 1 to 2 in. long. Calyx pink or greenish, 5-parted,

like petals; no corolla; stamens 8 or less; style 2-parted. Stem:

1 to 3 ft. high, simple or branched, often partly red, the joints

swollen and sheathed; the branches above, and peduncles

glandular. Leaves: Oblong, lance-shaped, entire edged, 2 to 11

in. long, with stout midrib, sharply tapering at tip, rounded

into short petioles below.

Preferred Habitat - Waste places, roadsides, moist soil.

Flowering Season - July-October.

Distribution - Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico; westward to

Texas and Minnesota.

Everywhere we meet this commonest of plants or some of its

similar kin, the erect pink spikes brightening roadsides, rubbish

heaps, fields, and waste places, from midsummer to frost. The

little flowers, which open without method anywhere on the spike

they choose, attract many insects, the smaller bees (Andrena)

conspicuous among the host. As the spreading divisions of the

perianth make nectar-stealing all too easy for ants and other

crawlers that would not come in contact with anthers and stigma

where they enter a flower near its base, most buckwheat plants

whose blossoms secrete sweets protect themselves from theft by

coating the upper stems with glandular hairs that effectually

discourage the pilferers. Shortly after fertilization, the little

rounded, flat-sided fruit begins to form inside the persistent

pink calyx. At any time the spike-like racemes contain more

bright pink buds and shining seeds than flowers. Familiarity

alone breeds contempt for this plant, that certainly possesses

much beauty.

The LADY'S THUMB (P. Persicaria), often a troublesome weed, roams

over the whole of North America, except at the extreme north -

another illustration of the riotous profusion of European floral

immigrants rejoicing in the easier struggle for existence here.

Its pink spikes are shorter and less slender than those of the

preceding taller, but similar species, and its leaves, which are

nearly seated on the stem, have dark triangular or lunar marks

near the center in the majority of cases.

An insignificant little plant, found all over our continent,

Europe, and Asia, is the familiar KNOT-GRASS or DOORWEED (P.

aviculare), often trailing its leafy, jointed stems over the

ground, but at times weakly erect, to display its tiny greenish

or white pink-edged flowers, clustered in the axils of oblong,

bluish-green leaves that are considerably less than an inch long.

Although in bloom from June to October, insects seldom visit it,

for it secretes very little, if any, nectar. As might be expected

in such a case, its stem is smooth.

When the amphibious WATER PERSICARIA (P. amphibium) lifts its

short, dense, rose-colored ovoid or oblong club of bloom above

ponds and lakes, it is sufficiently protected from crawling

pilferers, of course, by the water in which it grows. But suppose

the pond dries up and the plant is left on dry ground, what then?

Now, a remarkable thing happens: protective glandular, sticky

hairs appear on the epidermis of the leaves and stems, which were

perfectly smooth when the flowers grew in water. Such small

wingless insects as might pilfer nectar without bringing to their

hostess any pollen from other blossoms are held as fast as on

bird-lime. The stem, which sometimes floats, sometimes is

immersed, may attain a length of twenty feet; the rounded,

elliptic, petioled leaves may be four inches long or only half

that size. From Quebec to New Jersey, and westward to the

Pacific, the solitary, showy inflorescence, which does well to

attain a height of an inch, may be found during July and August.

Throughout the summer, narrow, terminal, erect, spike-like

racemes of small, pale pink, flesh-colored, or greenish flowers

are sent upward by the MILD WATER PEPPER (P. hydropiperoides). It

is like a slender, pale variety of the common pink persicaria.

One finds its inconspicuous, but very common, flowers from June

to September. The plant, which grows in shallow water, swamps,

and moist places throughout the Union and considerably north and

south of it, rises three feet or less. The cylindric sheaths

around the swollen joints of the stem are fringed with long

bristles - a clue to identification. Another similar WATER PEPPER

or SMARTWEED (P. hydropiper) is so called because of its acrid,

biting juice.

The CLIMBING FALSE BUCKWHEAT (P. scandens) straggles over bushes

in woods, thickets, and by the waysides throughout a very wide

range; yet its small, dull, greenish-yellow and pinkish flowers,

loosely clustered in long pedicelled racemes, are so

inconspicuous during August and September, when the showy

composites are in their glory, that we give them scarcely a

glance. The alternate leaves, which are heart-shaped at the base

and pointed at the lip, suggesting those of the morning glory,

are on petioles arising from sheaths over the enlarged joints

which, in this family, are always a most prominent characteristic

- (Poly = many, gonum = a knee). The three outer sepals, keeled

when in flower, are irregularly winged when the three-angled,

smooth achene hangs from the matured blossom in autumn, the

season at which the vine assumes its greatest attractiveness.

The ARROW-LEAVED TEAR THUMB (P. sagittatum), found in ditches and

swampy wet soil, weakly leans on other plants, or climbs over

them with the help of the many sharp, recurved prickles which arm

its four-angled stem. Even the petioles and underside of the

leaf's midrib are set with prickles. The light green leaves, that

combine the lance and the arrow shapes, take on a beautiful

russet-red tint in autumn. The little, five-parted rose-colored

or greenish-white flowers grow in small, close terminal heads

from July to September from Nova Scotia to the Gulf and far


SEASIDE or COAST JOINTWEED or KNOT-GRASS (Polygonella articulata;

Polygonum articulatum of Gray) a low, slender, wiry, diffusely

spreading little plant, with thread-like leaves seated on its

much-jointed stem, rises cleanly from out the sand of the coast

from Maine to Florida, and the shores of the Great Lakes. Very

slender racemes of tiny, nodding, rose-tinted white flowers, with

a dark midrib to each of the five calyx segments, are

insignificant of themselves; but when seen in masses, from July

to October, they tinge the upper beaches and sandy meadows with a

pink blush that not a few artists have transferred to the

foreground of their marine pictures.


(Agrostemma Githago; Lychnis Githago of Gray) Pink family

Flowers - Magenta or bright purplish crimson, to 3 in. broad,

solitary at end of long, stout footstem; 5 lobes of calyx

leaf-like, very long and narrow, exceeding petals. Corolla of 5

broad, rounded petals; 10 stamens; 5 styles alternating with

calyx lobes, opposite petals. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, erect, with

few or no branches, leafy, the plant covered with fine white

hairs. Leaves: Opposite, seated on stem, long, narrow, pointed,

erect. Fruit: a 1-celled, many-seeded capsule.

Preferred Habitat - Wheat and other grain fields; dry, waste


Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - United States at large; most common in Central and

Western States. Also in Europe and Asia.

"Allons! allons! sow'd cockle, reap'd no corn," exclaims Biron in

"Love's Labor Lost." Evidently the farmers even in Shakespeare's

day counted this brilliant blossom the pest it has become in many

of our own grain fields just as it was in ancient times, when

Job, after solemnly protesting his righteousness, called on his

own land to bear record against him if his words were false. "Let

thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley," he

cried, according to James the First's translators; but the

"noisome weeds" of the original text seem to indicate that these

good men were more anxious to give the English people an adequate

conception of Job's willingness to suffer for his honor's sake

than to translate literally. Possibly the cockle grew in Southern

Asia in Job's time : today its range is north.

Like many another immigrant to our hospitable shores, this

vigorous invader shows a tendency to outstrip native blossoms in

life's race. Having won in the struggle for survival in the old

country, where the contest has been most fiercely waged for

centuries, it finds life here easy, enjoyable. What are its

methods for insuring an abundance of fertile seed? We see that

the tube of the flower is so nearly closed by the stamens and

five-styled pistil as to be adapted only to the long, slender

tongues of moths and butterflies, for which benefactors it became

narrow and deep to reserve the nectar. "A certain night-flying

moth (one of the Dianthaecia) fertilizes flowers of this genus

exclusively, and its larvae feed on their unripe seeds as a

staple. Bees and some long-tongued flies seen about the corn

cockle doubtless get pollen only; but there are few flowers so

deep that the longest-tongued bees cannot sip them. Butterflies,

attracted by the bright color of the flower - and to them color

is the most catchy of advertisements - are guided by a few dark

lines on the petals to the nectary.

Soon after the blossom opens, five of the stamens emerge from the

tube and shed their pollen on the early visitor. Later, the five

other stamens empty the contents of their anthers on more tardy

comers. Finally, when all danger of self-fertilization is past,

the styles stretch upward, and the butterfly, whose head is

dusted with pollen brought from earlier flowers, necessarily

leaves some on their sticky surfaces as he takes the leavings in

the nectary.

So much cross-fertilized seed as the plant now produces and

scatters through the grain fields may well fill the farmer's

prosaic mind with despair. To him there is no glory in the

scarlet of the poppy comparable with the glitter of a silver

dollar; no charm in the heavenly blue of the corn-flower, that

likewise preys upon the fertility of his soil; the vivid flecks

of color with which the cockle lights up his fields mean only

loss of productiveness in the earth that would yield him greater

profit without them. Moreover, seeds of this so-called weed not

only darken his wheat when they are threshed out together, but

are positively injurious if swallowed in any quantity. Emerson

said every plant is called a weed until its usefulness is

discovered. Linnaeus called this flower Agrostemma = the

crown-of-the-field. Agriculturalists never realize that beauty is

in itself a sufficient plea for respected existence. Not a few of

the cockle's relatives adorn men's gardens.


(Silene Caroliniana; S. Pennsylvanica of Gray) Pink family

Flowers - Rose pink, deep or very pale; about inch broad, on

slender footstalks, in terminal clusters. Calyx tubular,

5-toothed, much enlarged in fruit, sticky; 5 petals with claws

enclosed in calyx, wedged-shaped above, slightly notched. Stamens

10; pistil with 3 styles. Stem: 4 to 10 in. high, hairy, sticky

above, growing in tufts. Leaves: Basal ones spatulate; 2 or 3

pairs of lance-shaped, smaller leaves seated on stem.

Preferred Habitat - Dry, gravelly, sandy, or rocky soil.

Flowering Season - April-June.

Distribution - New England, south to Georgia, westward to


Fresh, dainty, and innocent-looking as Spring herself are these

bright flowers. Alas, for the tiny creatures that try to climb up

the rosy tufts to pilfer nectar, they and their relatives are not

so innocent as they appear! While the little crawlers are almost

within reach of the cup of sweets, their feet are gummed to the

viscid matter that coats it, and here their struggles end as

flies' do on sticky fly-paper, or birds' on limed twigs. A

naturalist counted sixty-two little corpses on the sticky stem of

a single pink. All this tragedy to protect a little nectar for

the butterflies which, in sipping it, transfer the pollen from

one flower to another, and so help them to produce the most

beautiful and robust offspring.

The pink, which has two sets of stamens of five each, elevates

first one set, then the other, for economy's sake and to run less

risk of failure to get its pollen transferred in case of rain

when its friends are not flying. After all the golden dust has

been shed, however, up come the three recurved styles from the

depth of the tube to receive pollen brought by butterflies from

younger flowers. There are few cups so deep that the largest

bumblebees cannot suck them. Flies which feed on the pink's

pollen only, sometimes come by mistake to older blossoms in the

stigmatic stage, and doubtless cross-fertilize them once in a


In waste places and woods farther southward and westward, and

throughout the range of the Wild Pink as well, clusters of the

SLEEPY CATCHFLY (S. antirrhina) open their tiny pink flowers for

a short time only in the sunshine. At any stage they are mostly

calyx, but in fruit this part is much expanded. Swollen, sticky

joints are the plant's means of defense from crawlers. Season:


When moths begin their rounds at dusk, the NIGHT-FLOWERING

CATCHFLY (S. noctiflora) opens its pinkish or white flowers to

emit a fragrance that guides them to a feast prepared for them

alone. Day-blooming catchflies have no perfume, nor do they need

it; their color and markings are a sufficient guide to the

butterflies. Sticky hairs along the stems of this plant

ruthlessly destroy, not flies, but ants chiefly, that would

pilfer nectar without being able to render the flower any

service. Yet the calyx is beautifully veined, as if to tantalize

the crawlers by indicating the path to a banquet hail they may

never reach. Only a very few flowers, an inch across or less, are

clustered at the top of the plant, which blooms from July to

September in waste places east of the Mississippi and in Canada.

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